In December 2019, a series of unexplained pneumonia cases were reported in Wuhan, China. On 12 January 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) temporarily named this new virus the 2019 novel coronavirus.
The severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infection causes coronavirus disease or COVID-19. The COVID-19 epidemic is spreading all over the world. A traveler who lived in Washington and who had recently returned from Wuhan, China, became the first confirmed case of COVID-19 in the United States on 21 January 2020.
Sources for health information
- Centers for Disease Control
- Harvard Health
- Seattle-King County Public Health (links to PDFs)
- World Health Organization
What follows is a summary of information form sources such as the above. This is for information only and is not considered medical advice.
Symptoms of COVID-19
On 06 March 2020, the Seattle Times published an overview of the virus: how it affects your body as well as symptoms. This infographic is from that story.
Should you feel sick
If you or a family member have flu-like symptoms, remember that seasonal flu is still hanging around. Spring allergies are beginning for many of us.
When your symptoms feel different than normal:
- Stay home when sick. Stay home as much as possible, period. Avoid crowded places.
- Contact a doctor by phone. If you or a family member have symptoms such as a cough, fever, or other respiratory problems, contact your regular doctor by phone for triage. If you do not have a doctor and are concerned that you might have COVID-19, contact your local board of health for advice.
- Do not go to the emergency rooms unless essential. Emergency rooms need to be able to serve those with the most critical needs. Also, you may not be sick enough to be tested; triage is essential when resources are limited.
- Cough into your elbow or tissue. Use a tissue when you sneeze. Deposit immediately into the trash and wash your hands.
Prevention + flatten the curve (mitigation)
The SARS-2-CoV virus is in the wild around the globe. Estimates vary, but over the next 12-18 months, up to 70 percent of the global population may be infected. At that level, we will approach herd immunity and will hopefully also have a vaccine.
The immediate goal in the US and countries where the outbreak is new is to manage the pressure on the health care system. This is calling flattening the curve.
- Practice excellent personal hygiene habits, including hand washing, coughing into tissue or elbow, and avoiding touching eyes, nose, or mouth. Soap dissolves the fatty outer layer of the virus, which is why hand washing is so effective.
- Fill a bowl with a mixture of bleach and water and leave it in the kitchen sink. Wipe down frequently touched surfaces regularly with a cloth.
- Consider wearing gloves when you’re preparing food for others.
- Stay away from people who are ill, especially if you are 60 and older or have underlying health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, lung disease, or a weakened immune system.
- Don’t stockpile personal protective equipment (PPE) such as face masks as they are needed by health care staff. When is a mask is needed? When we are unwell and have to go out.