By Louise Weadock
It seems like the news and alerts about an illness called the “coronavirus” have been continuous and unstoppable this weekend. As I’m writing this, a fourth U.S. case of the coronavirus has just been announced in Southern California on Sunday. And, this weekend kicked off with the New York State Department of Health’s announcement that there are now three people in New York now in isolation and under investigation for the virus. Their cases are currently being tested at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which also announced that there have been three other confirmed cases in the United States — a man in his 30s was announced on Tuesday in Washington state, a woman in her 60s was announced in Chicago on Friday and the third is a Chinese traveler from Wuhan, China (where the disease is said to have originated), reported in Southern California on Saturday.
Last week, the NY DOH hosted a series of informational webinars about the coronavirus and provided specific guidelines to all health care providers, hospitals and others healthcare facilities. Our entire ACCESS Nursing team is now living and breathing every bit of information and planning about the coronavirus and its outbreak — and we are making sure that all of our nurses and caregivers are up-to-speed on symptoms to watch out for and the proper protocols to follow. We’ve also formalized special and specific plans at ACCESS to ensure that all of our healthcare professional have the proper resources and protections in place, if needed.
While we believe that awareness and knowledge is of the utmost importance, we want to reassure all of our patients, friends and families that the current risk is extremely low here in New York and the Tri-state area. In fact, there is a greater likelihood of catching a cold, the flu and all the usual winter viruses than coming into contact at all with someone who can infect you with coronavirus.
That said, people are reasonably nervous, especially moms who are always on high alert to protect their kids We’ve already received such an abundance of questions in the past few days that I decided to offer some helpful answers and tips that can hopefully put everyone’s minds at ease.
What is the Coronavirus?
Coronavirus, or 2019 novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV), is a respiratory illness with symptoms that include a fever, a cough and difficulty breathing. Experts believe that the virus spreads from person-to-person and also through surfaces, especially if a person touches something with the virus before washing their hands.
Did the virus originate in China?
All of the confirmed cases involved a history of travel from Wuhan City, China. Currently, five United States airports (Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York’s JFK, Chicago O’Hare, and Atlanta) are completing special screenings for travelers coming from Wuhan City before entering the country.
What do parents need to know to protect their children and keep their families safe from this virus?
First, please stay calm and know that the risk is extremely low! There are also some simple steps you can follow to help prevent coronavirus, as well as a host of germs and other illnesses in your home:
Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds after using the bathroom, after coughing or sneezing, or before making food. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
Use tissues to cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze, then throw the tissue in the garbage.
Clean and disinfect surfaces and other objects in your home with antibacterial household cleaners.
Stay home from work or school when you are sick.
For more heath information and tips, contact ACCESS Nursing Services, www.accessnursing.com, or phone 212-286-9200.
Louise Weadock, MPH, RN, founder and CEO of ACCESS Nursing Services