Protecting Your Health During Coronavirus Outbreak
As the coronavirus continues to spread across the world, we should take precautions to stay healthy. Coronaviruses are a family of many different viruses. The strain of the coronavirus that we’re currently concerned about is officially named SARS-CoV-2, and the disease it causes is called COVID-19. As of March 5, South Dakota has no confirmed cases of COVID-19. However, it is still important to be prepared. The administration is taking steps to make sure our country is ready to handle a greater number of COVID-19 cases. Additionally, the South Dakota Department of Health has taken steps to make certain our state is prepared to respond if needed. Their webpage, doh.sd.gov, includes a number of resources to help keep South Dakotans informed.
While the risk of contracting the disease right now is low, it could increase at any time. The president has appointed Vice President Mike Pence to lead the administration’s coronavirus response. Vice President Pence is working with top health officials to make sure the government is ready to combat the spread of the virus.
In the United States, we are fortunate to have some of the best therapeutic treatments to help those affected by COVID-19. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), potential symptoms include fever, coughing and shortness of breath. Symptoms may show up in as few as two days, or up to 14 days. In the Senate briefings on COVID-19 that I’ve attended, we have been told by administration officials that the virus is similar to the flu but also impacts the lungs and respiratory system, so the symptoms may be similar to what you’d experience with pneumonia. Because of its impact on the respiratory system, those with breathing issues, compromised immune systems, the very young and the elderly should take extra precautions against contracting the virus. Healthy adults are less at risk of experiencing serious symptoms.
There is currently no vaccine to prevent against getting the virus, although scientists are working to develop one. We’ve been told that it could take anywhere from 18-24 months for a coronavirus vaccine to become widely available to the public. However, President Trump has been calling for an expedited timeline, and we recently learned that clinical testing for a vaccine could happen in five months. Advanced therapeutic drugs will become available much sooner, possibly in a matter of months. These drugs would treat the symptoms of COVID-19 while work continues on an approved vaccine to combat the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
The CDC recommends that we take the following actions to keep ourselves healthy: avoid close contact with people who are sick, avoid touching your face, stay at home if you feel ill, use tissues to cover your cough or sneeze, clean and disinfect frequently touched items and wash your hands frequently. If you don’t have access to soap and water, an alcohol-based hand sanitizer like Purell should be used. If you think you may be experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, call ahead before going to your doctor’s office so they can be prepared for your arrival. This is especially important if you’ve traveled to China recently or been in close contact with someone who has traveled from China recently.
The White House has requested funds to help deal with COVID-19. In Congress, we recently passed supplemental funding legislation to provide additional money to the administration for emergency preparedness. The additional funding will provide the resources needed for experts to combat this crisis, allowing them to move quickly and craft a thorough, comprehensive response.
We will continue to share updates on COVID-19 as necessary. In the meantime, I encourage you to follow the CDC guidelines for staying healthy.