Health leaders say common-sense precautions remain the best advice as the nation watches the progress of the ongoing outbreak of Coronavirus Disease 2019, also known as COVID-19.
Baptist Memorial Health Care has been preparing for the virus for months, and its facilities, including Baptist Memorial Hospital Booneville, are ready to respond to the disease and care for those affected. The Mississippi Department of Health has not confirmed any cases of COVID-19 in Mississippi, and officials have confirmed one case in Shelby County, Tennessee, where doctors at Baptist Memorial Hospital-Memphis are caring for the patient.
Dr. Steve Threlkeld, Baptist Memorial Hospital Memphis’s infection prevention department, said while this strain of the virus is new, coronaviruses themselves are very common and typically responsible for problems like the common cold and other respiratory infections.
Much like the flu and similar infections, COVID-19 causes symptoms including cough, fever, muscle and body aches, and difficulty breathing. Threlkeld said the virus typically causes only minor symptoms that don’t progress any further. Like the flu, the elderly and those who already have underlying heart or lung problems can be susceptible to more severe problems from the disease, and there have been deaths associated with the virus in these populations.
He noted the flu causes thousands of deaths each year in these types of susceptible individuals, and the basic protection steps to protect against it will also protect against COVID-19.
“Doing these things will save lives,” he said.
Threlkeld said the age-old advice about hygiene remains the best way for individuals to protect themselves.
“Hand hygiene is the key,” he said.
The virus is spread through close contact with an infected person or through the air when an infected person coughs on other people or surfaces.
The infectious disease expert said everyone should wash their hands often with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds.
Other preventative measures include covering a cough with a sleeve or tissue and avoiding touching the face, nose, mouth, or eyes.
Those who are experiencing symptoms of a respiratory virus should call their doctor first before going in. If the doctor decides they need to be seen, the office can be prepared to keep them isolated to avoid spreading the infection any further.
Threlkeld said Baptist Healthcare facilities are ready to respond. They are ramping up their ability to identify the virus, isolate patients who have it, and provide them with the highest quality treatment. The Baptist system has strong critical care capabilities and is able to provide the care the community will need if the virus does become a problem locally.