On Jan. 26, 2020, the Washington State Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed the first U.S case of the 2019 Novel Coronavirus in Washington state. Since the announcement, the virus has spread to a number of other counties within the state, throughout the rest of the U.S and around the world. Facilities including schools, events and workplaces have either cancelled events or postponed them until further notice, in an effort to protect the public.
According to the CDC, there are currently more than 1215 total cases in the U.S. that have been reported. The WADOH has reported more than 366 confirmed cases and over 29 deaths in Wash. state alone. Almost 90% of deaths in Wash. state have come from confirmed cases in King County. The 2019 Novel Coronavirus is continuing to spread rapidly, which will likely cause the number of cases and deaths within the U.S and globally to increase.
What is the Coronavirus?
The 2019 Novel Coronavirus, also known as SARS CoV-2, COVID-19 or 2019-nCoV is a respiratory virus. SARS CoV-2, which is the official name of the new coronavirus, first originated in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China. SARS CoV-2 is a betacoronavirus originating from bats. The term “coronavirus” was actually common before the COVID-19 outbreak. There are other variations of the coronavirus that are common amongst humans and aren’t as severe. Coronavirus 229E, NL63, OC43 and HKU1 are the common human coronaviruses and can result in something like the common cold. These are treated differently than those tested positive with COVID-19.
According to the CDC, 2019-nCoV, SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV are the recent coronaviruses that infect animals and can spread, making people sick. Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus is a viral respiratory illness that was first reported in Saudi Arabia in September 2012. Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome-associated Coronavirus is another viral respiratory illness that was first reported in Asia in 2003. SARS-CoV was contained in 2003, and there haven’t been any cases of this virus since 2004.
Spreading and Symptoms
Initially, the CDC suggested COVID-19 (the name of the disease caused by SARS CoV-2) was spread from person-to-animal, after some patients were linked to being located in animal markets in China. Currently, health experts have found that the virus can spread through respiratory droplets from an infected individual (coughing and sneezing) and between people who are within six feet of each other, according to the WADOH. The symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, severe cough and difficulty breathing. Symptoms can appear between 2-14 days after being exposed to virus, according to WADOH. The virus is spreading easily, especially through community spread. Community spread are infected people in an area who may not be aware of how or where they obtained the virus from. The CDC recommends those who currently have or might have been exposed to the virus be isolated or quarantined. The max duration of quarantine is 14 days. After 14 days, the CDC doesn’t consider an individual at risk if they haven’t yet developed any symptoms. For isolation, if an individual has no fever without taking medication, has tested negative for two respiratory specimens within 24 hours and shows no symptoms, they aren’t considered a risk to spreading COVID-19. There is no indication currently of COVID-19 spreading through food, or if it’s more prone in certain weather and temperature conditions. Although, according to the CDC, the spreading of the virus on surfaces could be possible if the person touches their face, the virus generally has a poor survivability and is not considered to be the main way it spreads.
Severity, Risk and Testing
The severity and risk of SARS CoV-2 is still developing. The CDC says the immediate risk of being exposed to the virus for the majority is considered low. However, there are a few instances where certain individuals are at a higher risk of catching the virus than the majority. These include older adults, those with chronic conditions like diabetes, health care providers who care for exposed COVID-19 patients, travelers going to and from the exposed areas, people in close contact with an exposed individual and people in areas where community spread is happening. For those who are at high risk, the CDC recommends for people to take precautionary measures and to stay home as much as possible.
So far, there have been a total of more than 3,403 COVID-19 tests in Washington state. More than 10% of those tests have been positive, according to WADOH. The age of cases range from younger than ten-years-old to 80-years-old and above. Currently, over 57% of cases are female patients and 93% are patients 30-years-old and above, according to WADOH. WADOH also stated some people can recover on their own, but in several cases, people can generate pneumonia and may require hospitalization. Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department (TPCHD) officials have confirmed over 17 positive tested cases in Pierce County. There’s currently no treatment, medication or vaccine for the virus. There are a number of healthcare providers and facilities currently administering hundreds of tests in the state, with the University of Washington Virology Lab testing up to 750 people per day. The State Public Health Lab can test more than 200 samples and Multicare is giving free e-visits to anyone who has symptoms of COVID-19.
How to Protect Yourself and Others
To ensure yourself and others are at a lower risk of being exposed to SARS CoV-2, there are several cautionary measures to take according to the CDC:
First, wash your hands often using soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If not available, use hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol and avoid touching your face with unwashed hands.
Next, avoid close contact with people who are sick and keep your distance from others if the virus is spreading near your community. If you’re sick, stay home. Cover your cough and sneezes as well. Additionally, only wear a face mask if you’re sick and around other people. If you’re not sick, a face mask likely isn’t. Lastly, clean and disinfect surfaces daily. This includes tables, light switches, faucets and electronic devices. It’s important to not stigmatize and associate the virus with someone based on their age, gender, race, religion and/or sexual orientation.
Pierce College’s Plans and Resources
As of March 10, 2020 there have been at least three confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Puyallup. Pierce College officials have been working closely with the Department of Health administration and have decided to keep all campuses open for the remainder of winter quarter 2020, though this is subject to change if necessary. Pierce College students and faculty will continue face-to-face classes, unless already enrolled in an online class or in special circumstances. There have been no cases of COVID-19 at Pierce College announced. For more information on COVID-19, visit https://www.pierce.ctc.edu/coronavirus.
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