CORONAVIRUS: Serious Health Threat

By Beverly Gadson-Birch

The Coronavirus (COVID-19) is the talk of the nation and becoming the most feared and complex virus since the HIV epidemic in the late 70’s and 80’s. Hypotheses center around the source of the virus. Where did it begin and how did it start? Since China seems to have been the birthplace, perhaps that answers the question where. However, questions remain as to how it started and how to stop the virus from spreading. Thousands died before HIV was properly identified and brought under control. Let’s pray, this will not be the case with the Coronavirus (COVID-19).

Monday, Rep. Wendell Gaillard convened a panel of health care professionals at North Charleston City Hall to begin public discussions on the virus and how the public can identify symptoms and limit their exposure. The turn-out was not what I expected which led me to believe that locals are not taking the advent of the virus seriously. Although there are no known cases of the virus in South Carolina doesn’t mean all is well. As more testing is completed, more cases are being identified. Monday, just before leaving for the meeting, I was aware of how the Washington cases were multiplying. Shortly after returning home on the news, more cases in the US were reported. Attention is being focused on a nursing home near Seattle Washington where four elderly persons died from the virus. As I pen this column, new cases of the virus are being identified in New Hampshire and Georgia.

According to representatives from Roper/St. Francis Infectious Disease Department, symptoms of the Coronavirus are similar to the flu virus. And, since we are dead smack into the flu season, it’s going to be difficult determining whether it’s the flu or the virus without further testing. It is recommended that you get the flu shot if you haven’t already.  It would help eliminate persons from testing and assign resources to more serious flu cases and on preventative measures.    

According to the World Health Organization’s (WHO) chief, “we are in uncharted territory as the number of coronavirus cases worldwide passes 90,000.  The virus has spread across 73 countries and territories as of Monday evening, with the exception of Antarctica, since it was identified in December last year. About 172 deaths have been reported outside the mainland of China and globally the death toll is roughly 3,115 persons. WHO has so far not classified the incident as a global pandemic.”   Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director General of the global health watchdog said, “We have never before seen a respiratory pathogen that is capable of community transmission, but which can also be contained with the right measures.” So, what are the right measures?

Folks are rushing out buying masks. Stores have sold out of masks and are notifying customers that they are on back-order. However, they have no idea when they will be available. Health officials are advising against a rush on masks.  For those using masks, make sure they are adequate and fit snug. Folks are asking questions about Lysol since the virus is mentioned on the can. The Coronavirus (COVID19) is a different strain. However, if using Lysol, make sure you follow the directions explicitly. I am a firm believer in Lysol and bleach. They may not eliminate the virus but will certainly help keep down bacteria. I am not in panic mode yet but Saturday I bought every can of Lysol West Ashley Lowe’s had on its shelf.

LiveScience identified symptoms of the virus as “patients complaining of a fever, dry cough, exhaustion and fatigue. In more serious cases, patients experience pneumonia, which means their lungs begin to fill with pockets of pus or fluid which leads to intense shortness of breath and painful coughing.”

The elderly is more susceptible to the virus.  This is almost always the case with persons with a history of hypertension, diabetes, heart and lung diseases.

According to health officials, things you can do to minimize exposure is wash your hands regularly and thoroughly with soap and water or sanitizer with a high percent of alcohol, use your sleeve to cough into and not your hands, avoid shaking hands and touching your face, avoid large crowds and you might want to avoid kissing, and avoid touching door knobs. Watch out for those nasty restrooms.  As for me and my house, we are using Lysol.

Be sure to take the threat of exposure very seriously. Historically, the poor are always the last to know. Local efforts have begun to share information. Be proactive! If you attend churches with large congregations or have children in school, find out what measures are being taken to minimize risks. Church folks do a lot of kissing and hand-shaking. If you have plans to travel outside of the country or attend large events during spring break, you may want to cancel your travels and rebook for a later date when we find out more about this virus. It is better to lose money than to lose your life. DHEC and the World Health Organization are good sources of information.

Be safe! Black Health Matters!!

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