As the U.S. gears up for more expected cases of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19*, we talked with Dr. David H. Priest, Novant Health senior vice president and chief safety and quality officer to get answers to everyday questions.
1. There have been conflicting reports that the virus will go away on its own once spring temperatures arrive. Is that true?
In general, coronaviruses tend to be seasonal viruses that are more commonly found in the population during winter months. For this particular coronavirus, we do not know what will happen but we suspect that it will be circulating around the United States going forward. Whether it's a seasonal event that is less common in the spring and summer or is a year-round issue remains to be seen. We are probably 12-24 months from a vaccine.
2. What are some easy ways to reduce our risk of coming in contact with germs that spread the virus?
All of these make a lot of sense during flu season, but apply to the coronavirus as well.
A. Carry you own pen instead of using ones that stores and restaurnants provide at check-out. Pens never get washed and they pass through countless hands all day long.
B. Carry travel-size hand sanitizer when you don't have easy access to hand-washing facilities.
C. Skip the handshake. A smile and a nod work just fine as a friendly greeting.
D. Wipe-down your cell phone regularly. There are commerical wipes available.
3. Most of us don’t seek care when we get a cold because we know they run their course and there’s not much that can be done. But with the coronavirus symptoms being so similar to a cold, should we seek medical attention sooner now?
At this point, I don't think so. The good thing is the vast majority of individuals who acquire the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 survive, The group of people who need to consider calling their doctor are those who are older and have other chronic medical problems. Otherwise, healthy people with a mild cold or upper respiratory infection symptoms should manage those conditions by staying home and washing their hands frequently.
As this virus becomes more widespread in the United States, it would actually be a disservice for people to overreact to those kind of symptoms and immediately flock to emergency rooms. I think our national strategy around dealing with a widespread virus will be for patients to stay home with self-quarantine until enough time goes by that they can move back out into the public. I think one of the important strategies for controlling this ultimately is going to be what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is calling “aggressive home containment.” So I don't think we want to encourage people to seek medical care for mild respiratory symptoms.
Novant Health has multiple options that let you connect with a doctor and get a diagnosis without leaving your home.