The world is on edge after the news of the coronavirus (2019 Novel Coronavirus or 2019-nCoV) has now spread internationally from Wuhan, Hubei Province, China, impacting several countries, including the United States. Originally, many of the patients in the outbreak in Wuhan, China reportedly had some link to a large seafood and animal market, suggesting animal-to-person spread. Unfortunately, a growing number of patients have not had exposure to animal markets, which now indicates a person-to-person spread is occurring, according to the CDC. The coronavirus is still new, and at this time the CDC is still unsure about how easily or sustainably this virus is spreading between people. The coronavirus is still progressing and is being investigated thoroughly by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Here’s what we know so far.
What is the Coronavirus, and How Does it Spread?
At the moment there is more unknown than known about how the coronavirus spreads. According to the CDC, coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that are more common in animals such as camels, cattle, cats, and bats. Most of what is known about the 2019 Novel Coronavirus is based largely on other similar coronaviruses.
Similarly to how the influenza and other respiratory pathogens spread, person-to-person infection occurs mainly via the respiratory droplets produced when somebody infected coughs or sneezes. The droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people nearby and potentially be inhaled into the lungs. The CDC explains that it’s currently unclear if a person can get the coronavirus by touching an object or surface that has the virus on it and then touching their mouth, nose or eyes.
Although most respiratory viruses are most contagious when the person infected is clearly ill, there have been reports of spread from an infected person with no apparent symptoms.
What Your Community Should Do
With the coronavirus trending on every news outlet, individuals may begin to panic with the worry that they may be impacted next. As a leader in your state or local government, keeping your community calm is paramount.
Communication is Key
Communicating with your community and keeping residents informed is extremely important. By proactively leveraging mass communication technology, public health and safety officials can disseminate relevant information as the CDC learns more about the coronavirus. As there is currently limited information about the virus itself, clearly and concisely explaining what preventative measures people can take to avoid contracting the virus is at least as important. By sharing this information, governments can analyze how the community responds and what else should be done to ease people’s minds.
Internal communication is also key. Your employees likely also have concerns of their own, may be responsible for caring for relatives who are ill, or may even fear leaving their home, so keeping them top-of-mind as well as the community you’re all serving can only help. By receiving continuous updates on the coronavirus, employees will better understand the current situation, will be able to communicate the same accurate information with others in the community, and, ultimately, will help limit the spread of disease should it arrive in your community.
Currently there are no vaccines to prevent coronavirus. The best way to prevent infection is to avoid being exposed to the virus. Consider promoting the following preventative measures listed by the CDC internally and with your community:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
- If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Stay home when you are sick.
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
Communities can also share what symptoms to be on the lookout for. The reported population of those who have been infected have ranged from people with little to no symptoms to people being severely ill and in some cases dying. Below is an infographic from the CDC outlining symptoms to look out for, which would be another great resource to share with your employees and community:
Maximize the Impact of Your Resources: Don’t Let Them Go to Waste
Many state and local governments have resources that the community doesn’t know about or hasn’t taken advantage of. As personal safety tends to be top-of-mind when there is an active issue, such as the coronavirus, it’s important that residents and community members understand what actions they can take to ensure they stay in the know and ultimately stay safe.
Mass Notifications: In order to keep a population informed, residents must sign up for their community’s mass notification or mass alert system. Typically, it’s as easy as simply texting a keyword to a short code to enroll. From there, people can adjust their settings and sign up for relevant alerts they’d like to see. Share information about your mass notification system widely and with every media release or appearance, so that your residents know that it is their trusted source of information about the community, the coronavirus, and other emergency or non-emergency situations in the area.
Smart911 Safety Profiles:If available in your community, Smart911 is a wonderful way to encourage residents to create their own personal safety profiles, as well as family member profiles, which include important household information, address and location information, medical conditions, and even details about your vehicles, pets, and service animals. When a person with a Smart911 profile calls 9-1-1, all relevant information from their profile will be displayed to the dispatcher, who then has all helpful information about yourself and your household.
Vulnerable Needs Registry: If your community has an online vulnerable needs registry, public health and emergency management officials can better plan for the resources needed for residents who may be at higher risk for the coronavirus, influenza or other pathogenic diseases. From there, users can reach these individuals and better focus on outreach, prevention and response efforts. Although not much is known about the coronavirus and those who have unfortunately passed away due to it, being overly prepared is important as new information about this virus is coming out periodically from the CDC.
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