Thoughts on Health Alert: COVID-19 Coronavirus Global Outbreak

March 2020 – Since I started writing this blog, I rarely put the date first. But at this moment, I want to keep this date as a reminder of what a big impact this health situation has caused all around the world. In March of the year 2020, the coronavirus has turned into a global threat as its outbreak is affecting the lives of so many people in so many countries all over the world.

Image of the COVID-19/Coronavirus
from Center for Disease Control

Now, I’m no expert or professional on health related topics. For those of you who don’t know me, I do have a Bachelor’s Degree of Science in Psychology and a Master’s Degree of Education in School Counseling. I’ve worked in a healthcare/hospital system in Florida for 13 years. This still doesn’t make me an expert, but I wanted to do this research and share my thoughts and findings.

I wrote this post in an effort to gather information about the topic, and explore what can we do as individuals to stay safe and prevent seemingly non-ending spread of this life-threatening virus. I used information available on the Internet. Please visit the websites for the Center for Disease Control https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html, and the World Health Organization https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019 to stay informed.

The first known case was reported in China in November of 2019. The virus is believed to have been transmitted from an animal, but at the moment, is only transmitted person to person. Authorities have not been able to identify effectively the source of the virus. On January 2020, China reported the first death associated with the virus, and their reported cases had increased to 238. At that time, 3 other countries reported their first cases: Thailand (2), Japan (1), and Korea (1). Travel restrictions to China were imposed and the World Health Organization declared the situation a public health emergency of international concerns.

In February, cases outside of Asia started surfacing: France, then Iran, and then Italy. Italy had a major outbreak, when cases reported went from 5 to 150 and authorities had to start putting towns in lock-down, closing schools and canceling events. At this moment, Italy is confronting a major crisis, trying to deal with the high volume of sick people and also the high volume of those who have died.

Image from World Health Organization

By the end of February, the first case in America was reported in Brazil, then in the United States. Other regions of Europe started reporting cases of people affected by the virus: Ireland and Wales, Germany, England, Switzerland, Estonia and Lithuania.

At this moment, in March 2020, only a few countries have not reported cases. In the United States, there are cases reported in each of the 50 states. As the number of cases increase, so those the number of deaths related to coronavirus.

Why is this virus such a big concern? Because it’s spreading faster and further than what authorities and health professionals expected. Since it’s a new virus, there is no vaccine or medication specific to fight it. Symptoms delay to show up, so you can be in contact to a person with the virus who has no symptoms yet and is not aware that they’re spreading the virus.

The coronavirus is spreading from person to person. Since the symptoms are taking time to show up, people who don’t know are carrying the virus keep passing it to the next person. Something I’ve learned while working for a healthcare system: viruses spread in 3 ways.

  • Airborne – a person carrying a virus sneezes, or coughs, and the virus stays in the air;
  • Droplets – a person carrying a virus sneezes, coughs, shares a drink or a bite of food. Saliva carrying the virus would spread to the other person;
  • Contact – a person carrying the virus touches ANYTHING, another person touches it, and you know what happens. Virus is spread that easily. And, depending on what kind of material it is, is the time that the virus stays ready to go to the next person.

The authorities in the United States, as well as in other countries, had tried banning travel, closing schools, asking people to stay home, and setting curfews. Still, the cases keep increasing. On the most recent World Health Organization status report (https://www.who.int/docs/default-source/coronaviruse/situation-reports/20200318-sitrep-58-covid-19.pdf?sfvrsn=20876712_2), this is the situation in numbers:

Total cases (as of March 18), which keep increasing daily:

  • Globally: 191,127 confirmed; 7807 deaths
  • Western Pacific Region: 91,845 confirmed; 3357 deaths
  • European Region: 74,760 confirmed; 3352 deaths
  • South-East Asia Region: 538 confirmed; 9 deaths
  • Eastern Mediterranean Region: 18,060 confirmed; 1010 deaths
  • Regions of the Americas: 4,979 confirmed; 68 deaths
  • African Region: 233 confirmed; 4 deaths

The situation has come now to authorities recommending (and in some areas imposing) to stay isolated, to avoid social gatherings or places where there are crowds. If you have tested positive, or have symptoms, please do stay away from others. If you’ve seen, some professional sports actors and athletes are being tested and share their prognosis of having a positive test. Sports organizations have decided to suspend the playing seasons until the situation is safer for everyone. They are also insisting we all do a self-quarantine and isolate from others to avoid spreading the virus even more.

My sister Hilda, who lives in Mostoles, Madrid, Spain, informed our family that they are in what has been called “full lock-down”. They are expected to stay inside their houses and restrict their outings. They’re allowed to go out to the pharmacy, the grocery store or the doctor’s office. But there are rules they have to abide by. In the pharmacy, they only allow one person at a time to go in and only to pick up medications. The physicians are asking people to call first, assessing the graveness of the symptoms and some are doing home visits, to avoid having people coming to hospitals where they might get exposed to the virus.

My sister in law is an Infectologist doctor who recently moved to Shreveport, Louisiana. She is already dealing with cases that have come into the hospital she works at, and there are only two doctors there that are Infectiologists. She informed us that they have to wear in full with Protective Personal Equipment (PPE): mask, full body suit cover, gloves, even shoe covers. Patients are isolated, tested and treated as they see best, since there is no vaccine or specific medication to treat the virus.

Image of person with personal protective equipment

What can we do? First, don’t panic. I’m a person who lives with anxiety. I try to not panic because I have kids. I don’t want my kids to live worrying. But I do have to talk to them and tell them what’s going on and what we need to do to stay safe. I now know that my days of repeating “DON’T TOUCH THAT”, “PUT THAT IN THE TRASH”, “WASH YOUR HANDS” have finally come to give me reason. This also makes me think of my late mother, when she used to say “You eat this, because this is what I made and all there is for dinner.” We grew up in a rural area and there were no fast food restaurants close by.

What else can we do? Be cautious. Stay safe. There are already some myths spreading that need to be clarified. Example: coronavirus cannot spread in warm or cold weather. Not true. The virus has spread through countries known for warm weather, the same as cold weather all around the world. See some of the myths here https://nypost.com/2020/03/18/every-coronavirus-myth-and-fact-you-need-to-pay-attention-to-right-now/ and also here https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/advice-for-public/myth-busters.

Symptoms are sore throat, trouble breathing, fever, tiredness. Hopefully soon, there will be testing centers set up available around everywhere. If you have any of the symptoms described or have tested positive to having the virus, the recommendation is to stay quarantined. If you know someone who have tested positive, contact the health authorities in your area to be tested.

The important thing, in my opinion, is that we need to take care of ourselves first to be able to take care of or help others. If you have the option to stay home, then please stay home. I was stressing out, because I was required to show up to work. I’ve been recently given the okay to work from home. If you’re still required to go to your workplace, be cautious. Use sanitizer, wash your hands, avoid crowds.

There are many people that still have to show up to their workplace. Please be cautious. Follow the general guidelines to stay safe. Google is promoting the World Health Organization’s “DO THE FIVE” guidelines to stop the spread of coronavirus:

  • 1 HANDS: Wash them often,
  • 2 ELBOW: Cough or sneeze into it,
  • 3 FACE: Don’t touch it,
  • 4 SPACE: Keep safe distance from others,
  • 5 HOME: Stay if you can.

If constant news feed about what’s going on turns out to be stressful, then take a break from the news. Find a distraction to calm your mind. I listen to music, read a book or watch a movie. If you live in an area that you can still go spend time outside, then go for a walk. If you feel that you need to prepare or plan, then do it. But use caution if you need to go out and get provisions.

Grocery stores here in Florida have been wonderful in setting hours to clean and sanitize, also setting limits on items that are necessities. The only downfall has been that here in Florida people are used to prepare for hurricane season, and people are taking this preparation to isolate to extremes. There is no shortage of food or items, just buy with moderation.

Until this situation is under control, until we all are safe and secure, please take care, stay safe, don’t panic, but take precautions. As I tell my kids often, these are the times we got to live in, this is the world we get to see, let’s make the best of it.

As I write this, I am getting ready to start a new adventure: I’ve finally been given the okay to work from home. I’ve been allowed to take my work computer, which has had a remote connection to our work system installed.

I now have to prepare to be at home all day with the kids, since school has been closed. I’ve already seen some moms sharing some funny stories of homeschooling and working from home. I might share some of those, and some of mine later. I’m sure my kids will make this time memorable. I will need that walk and for sure I will need that tacita de café. Salud! Please, take care and stay safe!

Para versión en Español, vea https://fullofcoffee.blog/2020/03/22/reflexiones-sobre-la-alerta-de-salud:-brote-global-de-coronavirus-covid-19/

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