How to prepare for novel coronavirus
While state officials say West Virginians remain at a low risk for catching the novel (new) coronavirus, which causes the COVID-19 disease, they also say it's best to prepare and know ways to prevent the disease, just to be safe.
"We don't have a case here in West Virginia, but we got to be ready," Gov. Jim Justice said. "We got to be ready and make sure that every stone is turned and we're together and we're ready."
"We know right now that it's low risk for the novel coronavirus disease in West Virginia," state health officer Dr. Cathy Slemp told WSAZ. "Currently, we have not identified any community-based spread."
But she says it's best to still stay prepared, because the possibility of coronavirus coming to West Virginia is not out of question.
"We would not at all be surprised," Slemp said. "In fact, we anticipate that we will see a first case sometime. We expect there will be some community transmission, we don't know how widespread that will be. We think it's important enough to make sure people think about it and prepare wisely."
Officials say the most important thing to do is wash your hands with soap for at least 20 seconds and avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth.
"When you cough and sneeze, you project little respiratory droplets and those only go about three to six feet in front of you. It's not across the room and it has to fall on eyes, nose or mouth, those mucus membranes."
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it's best to have a plan to prepare and prevent not only you but your entire household from the virus.
Here are some ways they say will be effective in doing that:
- Discuss with household, family and community members, such as neighbors, what to do if a coronavirus outbreak happens in your town and what the needs of each person will be.
- The CDC says though risk factors for severe illness are unclear at this time, older patients and those with medical conditions may be at a higher risk.
- They say most reported cases have happened in adults averaging the age of 59.
- One-third to one-half of reported patients have underlying medical comorbidities such as diabetes, hypertension and cardio vascular disease.
- Create a list of local organizations that you can contact if you need further information about the virus or resources.
- Create an emergency contact list.
Dr. Slemp also recommends going to the store and stocking up on items to last for roughly two weeks such as food and medicine if you were to catch a cold.
"Just like you'd do for a storm for a few days, if you couldn't get out ot the store," Slemp said. "Part of that planning is about if you were to need to stay home for a couple of weeks because someone in your family or you have developed the disease and trying to not expose other people."
Bill Crouch, cabin secretary of DHHR, said on Wednesday that it may be best to avoid shaking hands for the time being.
"If you get this virus it's usually on your hands, so a mask can be beneficial in some cases but really handwashing," Crouch said. "We've stopped shaking hands for the most part in the Capitol."
Crouch says the State is planning to set up an informational hotline within the next week or two so anyone can call and get information regarding COVID-19.
Officials also say an easy way to prevent a potential spread is covering your mouth or nose when you sneeze or cough with a tissue and disposing of it afterward. Justice says while it's important to be on alert, the public should not stop living their lives.
"We've got everybody, all the horsepower that's on top of this to the very best of our abilities," Justice said. "We don't know if a meteorite is going to hit us tomorrow, we have to live our lives."
If you or someone you know feels they may have come into contact with the virus, Kanawha-Charleston Health Department asks that you give them a call.