Know when to seek medical attention

Published 7:00 am Wednesday, March 18, 2020

With cases of the new version of coronavirus, officially known as COVID-2019, on the rise in Mississippi, residents will need to know when to seek medical attention.
According to the CDC, the symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, cough and shortness of breath and might appear two to 14 days after someone is exposed to the virus.
When someone is experiencing mild symptoms or believes they have been exposed to COVID-19, they should call their healthcare provider before visiting the doctor’s office or showing up at the ER. Their doctor can decide whether they should be tested for COVID-19.
If someone develops symptoms that are considered emergency warning signs, including shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, persistent pain or pressure in the chest, new confusion or an inability to arouse or bluish lips or face, they should seek medical attention immediately.
Since COVID-19 is a new disease, there is currently no vaccine to prevent it. According to the CDC, the best prevention is to avoid exposure to the virus.
To prevent the spread of COVID-19, people should wash their hands often for at least 20 seconds with soap and water. Hand washing is especially important after a visit a public place, or after coughing or sneezing. When soap and water are not available, the CDC recommends using a hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol. For hand sanitizer to be effective, people should rub their hands together until they feel dry, and ensure they cover their whole hands, including the back of the hand and in between fingers.
People with underlying chronic medical conditions like diabetes, or heart or lung disease and older adults appear to have a higher risk for serious complications from COVID-19. The CDC recommends that people in those categories call their health care provider to discuss additional steps they can take to protect themselves.
People should also avoid touching their eyes, nose or mouth, and sneeze or cough into a tissue or the inside of their elbow.
The virus is believed to be spread primarily through close contact with other people, so staying six feet away from other people can help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
The CDC also recommends disinfecting frequently touched surfaces. The CDC website states that current evidence suggests COVID-19 might be viable for hours to days on surfaces, which means cleaning and disinfecting visibly dirty surfaces is a best practice for preventing the spread of the disease.
People should routinely clean and disinfect surfaces in their homes that are frequently touched, like tables, doorknobs, light switches, handles, desks, toilets, faucets and sinks.
Protecting the Community
As of Tuesday, there are 21 presumptive or positive COVID-19 cases in Mississippi, two of which are in Pearl River County. The state has completed 389 COVID-19 tests. The first presumptive positive case in Mississippi was identified on March 11.
The Mississippi State Department of Health recommends avoiding social gatherings with 10 or more people in close contact. Avoiding social gatherings can prevent people from being exposed to the virus and it can prevent people who do not realize they are carrying the virus from exposing others in their community.
The health department recommends that people who are more vulnerable to COVID-19, which includes people 65 and older and people with chronic medical conditions, avoid all social gatherings.
Anyone who feels sick should stay home. People who believe they are sick with COVID-19 should stay home, except to get medical care. They should not visit public areas. Sick people should avoid sharing household or personal items like dishes, drinking glasses, cups, eating utensils, towels or bedding with other people in their home.
The CDC states that employers should allow employees who have the resources and can effectively do so to work from home.
Healthcare providers make the decision of who to test for COVID-19 based on symptoms and testing guidance. Testing consists of oral and nasal swabs. The Mississippi State Department of Health has a turnaround time of approximately 24 hours for test results when samples are sent to the state lab. The CDC website offers additional guidance on preparing for coronavirus and on navigating a COVID-19 outbreak on their website, including information for people with sick family members, guidance for community and faith based organizations, and recommendations for workplaces.
The Mississippi State Department of Health has a Mississippi Coronavirus Hotline, 877-978-6453, which operates Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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