Although deemed a common virus, part of the ribonucleic acid (RNA) group causing a variety of diseases in humans and other animals, the coronavirus has triggered a worldwide emergency, putting U.S. and international health officials on high alert.
A newly detected strain of the virus – 2019-nCoV – reportedly causing a high number of deaths in the city of Wuhan, China, prompted the World Health Organization to declare a global emergency, as the outbreak continues to spread in China and other countries.
On Feb. 2, the U.S. Department of State issued a Level 4 (do not travel) advisory, warning U.S. citizens to avoid traveling to China due to the virus.
On Jan. 30, the World Health Organization determined the rapidly spreading outbreak constitutes a public health emergency of international concern.
“Travelers should be prepared for the possibility of travel restrictions with little or no advance notice. Most commercial air carriers have reduced or suspended routes to and from China,” the advisory states.
Even though no cases have been reported in Del Rio, some imported cases are being treated in Texas. Lackland Air Force Base, in San Antonio, is one of the military installations authorized by the Pentagon to house coronavirus patients quarantined, as announced by Defense Secretary Mark Esper.
Locally, medical experts are recommending to take extreme precautions by increasing preventive measures, and to consult a physician as soon as the first symptoms of any respiratory disease are present.
United Medical Centers General Practice Dr. Stephanie Eyestone, said the cold season is peak season for respiratory diseases, and shared some preventive measures everyone should observe to prevent not only the coronavirus, but any kind of respiratory illnesses.
The cold season is the time of the year when people spend more time indoors, which leads to more chances of catching or spreading respiratory illnesses, Eyestone said.
“Also, during the winter, we tend to use heating, which can dry out the lining of the nose and create tiny tears that can make it easier for viruses and bacteria to invade your body,” she said.
Those at both extremes of the life cycle, infants and elderly, are most at risk of catching and having more complications from a respiratory illness, Eyestone said.
“Also, anyone with an immune lowering condition or taking immune system lowering medications or treatments,” she said.
Most respiratory illnesses have symptoms that include coughing, congestion of the nose and or sinuses, throat pain, ear pain, runny nose, sneezing and fatigue, Eyestone said.
Del Rioans who are sick are advised to stay home and avoid crowded places. “Cover your cough with a tissue or even your sleeve, but do not cough into your hands. Wash hands often with soap or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth,” Eyestone said.
As the current situation with the coronavirus continues, Eyestone said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is constantly updating safety or risks of travel.
The latest warning from the center was on Feb. 4, advising travelers to avoid non-essential travel to China.
“For the 2019-nCoV virus, the main symptoms are a fever, cough and shortness of breath,” she said.
Eyestone said those who have travelled to China recently or who have had contact with someone who travelled to China in the past 14 days, should be especially aware.
For more guidance, Eyestone recommended Del Rioans to visit cdc.gov where further updates on the virus are posted by federal health officials.
There is currently no vaccine to prevent 2019-nCoV infection.
The CDC always recommends to wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty.
Avoid touching eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
Avoid close contact with people who are sick. Stay home when you are sick.
Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.