For many of us we are learning about this new virus COVID-19. COVID-19 is a respiratory disease caused by a coronavirus called SARS-CoV-2. SARS-CoV-2 is a new strain of coronavirus that scientists first identified in December 2019. COVID-19 is part of the family of coronaviruses, ranging from the common cold to more serious diseases, such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-COV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-COV).
Because it is a new disease, humans have not built immunity to it, and scientists are still learning how to treat it and refining ways to diagnose it. Coronaviruses are common in humans and many animal species. For example, the common cold is caused by a coronavirus, so undue panic is not fully warranted right now.
COVID-19 is not the same as the flu. Seasonal flu is caused by a different virus, called Influenza A. The seasonal flu vaccine is effective in preventing many flu illnesses, but it does not protect against COVID-19. Similarly, prescription medications to treat flu are not used to treat COVID-19.
SARS-CoV-2 is spread from person to person through respiratory droplets, which is the same way that seasonal flu is spread. The virus resides in the respiratory fluids that coat the respiratory tract, which includes nose, mouth, throat, and lungs, and may reside in other mucous membranes (such as the eyes). Droplets of this fluid are produced through coughing and sneezing. When a person with COVID-19 coughs or sneezes, droplets containing the virus are sprayed into the surrounding air.
Infection occurs when a droplet carrying the virus enters another person’s mucous membranes. Mucous membranes include the respiratory tract (nose, mouth, throat, and lungs) but also eyes. The droplet could be transmitted in this way through the air or could be shared through touching, such as if an infected person coughs into his hand and then touches or shakes hands with someone who subsequently touches his eyes, nose, or mouth. Because droplets are affected by gravity, they eventually fall to the ground, usually within a few feet of the person who coughed or sneezed.
Although this is not thought to be a significant source of COVID-19, there is some possibility that the virus can exist on surfaces and spread that way. Example: If an infected person sneezes and touches a doorknob or countertop, and then another person touches that surface and then subsequently touches their mouth, nose, or eyes. Scientists are still learning about how COVID-19 spreads since it is a new disease, so all precautions are necessary to help from spreading this virus.
We all have a responsibility to help prevent and slow the spread of COVID-19 (and the flu). Prevention of COVID-19 relies on preventing respiratory droplets of an infected person from entering the mucous membranes of others. If every person follows all recommendations to prevent COVID-19 spread, the epidemic will come to an end more quickly.
On March 11, 2020 the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the outbreak to be the first pandemic caused by coronavirus. The pandemic label is more about how widespread a disease has become. A WHO website defines a pandemic as “the worldwide spread of a new disease.” An endemic disease is one that occurs at a low level in a certain geographic area. By comparison, epidemic disease breaks out in explosive proportions within a population, and pandemic diseases occur worldwide.
- Disinfect surfaces and objects that are frequently touched
- A list of EPA-approved products that are expected to be effective against COVID-19 is available at: https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2020-03/documents/sars-cov-2-list_03-03-2020.pdf
- Diluted, unexpired household bleach is also effective against coronaviruses on appropriate surfaces.
- The ratio for your diluted bleach should be 1:10.
- Fill a container 90% with water and then fill the remaining 10% with bleach
- Or, mix ¼ cup bleach with 2 ¼ cups of water
Policies and Strategies that might be recommended in locations where there is community spread of the disease.
Social distancing: Creating ways to voluntarily increase distance between people in settings where people commonly come into close contact with one another. Specific priority settings include schools, workplaces, events, meetings, and other places where people gather.
Closures: Temporarily closing child-care centers, schools, places of worship, sporting events, concerts, festivals, conferences, and other settings where people gather.
Note: Local health departments in conjunction with Texas DSHS will notify the public for the need of social distancing or closures (if any). in the case of a declared pandemic, public health officials may recommend additional actions so due make sure you are following Texas Department of State Health Services website https://dshs.texas.gov/coronavirus/
CDC Coronavirus Disease 2019 Preventing COVID-19 Spread in the Communities. Resources for K-12 Schools and Childcare Programs https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/schools-childcare/index.html there is great information about what decisions need to be made by Administrators as local health authorities make decisions about closures of events.
WHAT IS COMMUNITY SPREAD?
Community spread means people have been infected with the virus in an area through contact with others in their community, including some who are not sure how or where they became infected.
This is different from travel-related disease, which is when a person becomes infected before returning from travel where they learn they are infected.
DOES CDC RECOMMEND THE USE OF FACEMASK TO PREVENT COVID-19?
The use of facemasks is crucial for health workers and other people who are taking care of someone infected with COVID-19 in close settings (at home or in a healthcare facility). CDC does not recommend that people who are well wear a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory illnesses, including COVID-19.
You should only wear a mask if a healthcare professional recommends it. A facemask should only be used by people who have COVID-19 and are showing symptoms once it is recommended by their healthcare professional. This is to protect others from the risk of getting infected.
The state of COVID-19 evolves daily.
Make informed decisions based on facts, not fear.
To see the most up-to-date information and to monitor travel advisories, visit Texas EDEN, DSHS, and CDC websites.
Subscribe to email updates from the CDC Health Alert Network.
I would like to that the Texas Extension Disaster Education Network (EDEN) which is a collaborative educational network dedicated to educating citizens about disaster mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery. Texas EDEN is a part of the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service and is affiliated with National Extension Disaster Education Network. They have been working on this topic non-stop and provided the information contained in this newsletter.