“U.S. Coronavirus Death Toll Reaches 9!” is the headline that greets us on a rainy morning in East Texas*.
At Bosworth and Associates Insurance in Tyler, we have received quite a few calls from concerned customers about the Coronavirus. Although the situation is changing by the hour, we wanted to pass along some of the latest information as of this writing, but also a few precautions to take to help keep you and your family healthy.
As in past days, the Coronavirus is the top news story of the day. As of this writing, there are more than 90,000 cases in at least 70 countries, and over 3,100 deaths have been reported around the world. The latest information from the World Health Organization puts the current global fatality rate at 3.4%, which is up from the previously estimated global mortality rate of around 2 percent. By comparison, the death rate for seasonal influenza is far less than one percent.
Travel bans and travel advisories abound forcing many to cancel or reschedule plans, and the world economy is taking big hits in industries across the board. Major planned happenings are feeling the impact with possible delays or cancellations being discussed for events as widespread as the March Madness Basketball competition, Austin’s South by Southwest Music Festival and the upcoming 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, Japan.
So just what should you do? Are there steps you can take now to protect yourself, your loved ones, and your co-workers or your business in the face of this rapidly increasing threat? The short answer is yes!
What You Need to Know About the Coronavirus
Coronavirus, or COVID-19, is a respiratory illness caused by a new virus, and so unlike seasonal flu strains, no one has built up any immunity. This means that most people are likely susceptible to infection, and some will suffer from a severe form of the disease. But the good news is that it appears that COVID-19 doesn't spread as easily as does the flu. Symptoms of the disease are fever, cough, and shortness of breath, with symptoms first appearing from 2 to 14 days after initial exposure. Currently, there is no vaccine for the disease, and virologists are still learning about the ways the disease is transmitted and which individuals are most susceptible.
There are preventive measures that individuals and families can follow every day to reduce their risk of exposure and infection:
- Wash hands frequently using soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
- Cover all coughs and sneezes with a tissue, and then dispose of it immediately.
- Avoid touching areas of your face, especially with unwashed hands.
- Routinely disinfect all frequently touched objects and surfaces.
- Avoid close contact with other individuals who are sick.
- Remain at home if ill with any respiratory disease symptoms.
- Take advantage of ‘virtual’ doctor visits if offered by your health care provider.
Virtual doctor visits are becoming increasingly available and are highly recommended since a doctor’s waiting room can be a prime source of exposure, not only to the coronavirus, but also to a wide variety of other infectious diseases. And handwashing is most important after using the restroom, before eating, and after coughing, sneezing, or nose blowing. A hand sanitizer with a 60% to 95% alcohol content can be used when soap and water are unavailable.
Coronavirus Prevention in the Workplace
Preventative steps suggested for the workplace include all of those recommended for individuals, plus:
- Employers should require all sick employees to stay home.
- Any employees becoming sick during the day should be sent home immediately.
- Employers should enforce respiratory etiquette and hand washing rules.
- Organizations should routinely disinfect the working environment.
- Even well employees who can work from home should be encouraged to do so,
And if your workplace allows sick employees into the office, go home yourself!
Coronavirus Prevention Outside of the Home or Workplace
Many experts expect the number of coronavirus cases to peak and then decline at some point, but until that occurs, it might be wise to limit activity outside of the home as much as possible. Consider postponing any planned vacations or excursions, avoid restaurants, movie theaters, and other entertainment venues, even religious services if possible, any place where large numbers of people might congregate, at least until the danger of contraction has passed.
While we should all take precautions, preventative measures are even more important for those individuals with a weakened immune system, for anyone with a history of respiratory issues, and for all those over 70 years of age. And while no specific antiviral treatment is available for COVID-19, when it is identified early, the survival rate for the coronavirus is actually very high. It is imperative that if you think you may have been exposed, you contact your healthcare provider immediately. For those infected, supportive care is available to help relieve symptoms, and in severe cases, treatment will include care to support vital organ functions. Above all else, remain calm, stay informed, and be prepared. Hopefully, as is so often quoted, ‘this too shall pass’.
*In the time spent writing the above, the reported U.S. death toll from the coronavirus reached 10, and then 11.