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Texas officials promote safe practices against coronavirus infection

Texas officials promote safe practices against coronavirus infection - The Mesquite Online News - Texas A&M University-San Antonio

A man wears protective mask to aid in avoiding the coronavirus. Chris Van Deusen, spokesperson for the Texas Department of State Health Services, explained what individuals can do to prevent catching the virus. Courtesy photo from Shutterstock

As the coronavirus threat continues to spread in the United States, Texas officials are starting to advise the general public on safety practices and educate them on the nature of the disease. 

According to Chris Van Deusen, spokesperson for the Texas Department of State Health Services, there are several strains of the coronavirus such as SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) and MERS (Middle East respiratory syndrome-related coronavirus). The strain that has health officials concerned right now is a new novel coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). 

“It’s a respiratory virus,” Van Deusen said in a phone interview Feb. 20. “Coronavirus is actually a group of viruses. There are several of them that are known to infect people. This particular one is what we call a novel coronavirus, just means it’s a new kind of virus, but there are other coronaviruses that infect people, including some that cause things like the common cold every year and there are others that have caused more serious illnesses like SARS and MERS in the past. This new virus is related to those.”  

This particular novel coronavirus was first identified in Wuhan City, China in December 2019 by doctors and researchers. Wuhan City is about 650 miles south of Beijing with a population of more than 11 million people. The majority of the world’s coronavirus outbreak is in mainland China. 

As of March 1, China currently has an estimated 80,000 coronavirus cases, according to www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/#countries. Approximately 42,000 of the cases are people that have recovered from the coronavirus, while there is an estimated 2800 deaths. 

The symptoms of the coronavirus are respiratory such as coughing, fever and shortness of breath, Van Deusen said. 

“We’re asking that anyone that has been in China in the last 14 days to stay at home once they get back to the United States for that 14 day period and monitor themselves for symptoms,” Van Deusen said. “If they experience any of those symptoms, contact their doctor or healthcare provider and let them know. They should be tested for coronavirus to see if they are in fact infected.” 

Currently, the risk for the coronavirus in Texas is low compared to the flu. Every flu season has been an epidemic. Van Deusen explained the widespread activity of the flu throughout Texas. 

“Flu is another respiratory virus that spreads through coughing and sneezing every year in Texas,” Van Deusen said. “That is our major concern right now. We are seeing lots of cases including many deaths related to the flu.” 

Getting a flu shot is strongly encouraged. Sanitary steps to fight respiratory diseases such as the flu and coronavirus are:

  • Cover coughs and sneezes with forearm and not hands.
  • Wash hands frequently for 20 seconds.
  • Disinfect surfaces.
  • Do not touch eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands
  • Stay home if you are sick. 

Following those steps will go a long way in preventing the spread of the coronavirus and flu, Van Deusen said. 

“Those kinds of really simple public health measures have a big impact.” Van Deusen said. 

There is a 14-day incubation period for the coronavirus from exposure to coming down with symptoms. This explains the 14-day quarantine period. If someone clears this 14-day period, then they do not have coronavirus and can continue with their normal life. 

Once confirmed, the coronavirus is treated by supportive care. Health care professionals make sure the patient  stays hydrated. Ventilator support is available for those that have more serious symptoms. There can be secondary infections such as bacterial infections in the lungs. 

“There is not a specific antiviral drug that treats the underlying infection. It really is just providing care for that person while the body’s immune system does its job and clears the virus.” Van Deusen said. 

Right now, medical experts can only treat the coronavirus by symptoms and not the virus itself.

“Scientists are looking for a possible antiviral drug that may be effective against it and that should be ongoing, but as of right now it’s that kind of supportive care treatment: symptoms,” Van Deusen said.

The coronavirus is not airborne but is spread through droplets such as saliva, coughing or sneezing. Van Deusen emphasizes the importance of washing hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds as well as wiping down surfaces with disinfectants such as Lysol frequently. This is especially important for people around someone who is sick; this way it does not spread to other people. 

Van Deusen advises people to keep an eye on the CDC website at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html for precautions.

About the Author

Dana Michea Marquez
Dana Michea Marquez is a senior communication major at Texas A&M University-San Antonio. Marquez is a nontraditional student with a zest for learning. She received associate degrees in business and economics from St. Philip’s College in 2015. She was recently selected for the National 2020-2021 Newman Civic Fellowship for her advocacy in human trafficking. In her free time, you can find Marquez spending time with her husband and two teenage boys when she is not involved in ministry or studying. Marquez plans to start her own magazine to help victims of trafficking.

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