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What to know about Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Since early January, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has been actively engaged in the international response to the rapidly escalating outbreak of respiratory infections linked to the 2019 novel coronavirus. The new coronavirus emerged in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China. Cases of the disease, now known as COVID-19, have since been reported across China and in many other countries around the globe including the United States.

At present, this new strain of coronavirus infection is only being found in people who have recently visited Wuhan, China or who have had close contact with someone who developed the disease from exposure to it there. Government travel restrictions, mass quarantines, and airline flight suspensions have now all but halted travel between China and the United States.

The rapid spread of the coronavirus suggests it is transmitted person-to-person, like the way other influenzas spread: An infected person coughs out moist droplets containing the virus and another person breathes them in. Coronaviruses typically cause mild symptoms like those associated with the common cold. However, this new strain of coronavirus has caused some people to develop much more serious illness, including pneumonia.

What are the symptoms?

The new coronavirus infection symptoms are similar to the flu – fever, aching and cough, with shortness of breath in more severe cases. At this time, a history of recent travel to Wuhan or close contact with someone who became sick after traveling there is an important risk factor.

How can people protect themselves?

• Wash your hands! Wash them often with soap and water or hand sanitizer.
• Cover your cough. If you cough, cover it and avoid allowing others to cough on you.
• If you haven’t already had a flu shot, get one now—there is still time. Getting the influenza vaccine will minimize your risk of getting the flu. Flu symptoms may appear similar to a coronavirus infection and in turn cause unnecessary concern.

What should I do if I think I might have coronavirus?

• Don’t panic. The flu or another respiratory virus is still the most likely cause.
• Contact your local public health department or your doctor for advice.
• If you feel sick enough to go to an emergency department, call ahead to alert the staff that you are coming and tell them that you are concerned you might have the new coronavirus. If you decide to go to the emergency department, request a mask be brought out to you before you enter the hospital, to reduce the risk of exposing others.

How is SEARHC protecting patients and caregivers?

At SEARHC, our number one priority is the safety of our patients, our staff and our clinicians. We are working with local public health departments to coordinate efforts to properly identify and evaluate patients who may have contracted the coronavirus.

Where can I learn more?
For additional information, please visit the coronavirus-specific webpages offered by the CDC and the Alaska State Infectious Disease Program. 

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