This post was originally published on February 28. Last updated March 2. For the latest information on COVID-19, please visit the CDC.
A note from Dr. Robin Berzin and the medical team at Parsley Health
By now you’re aware of the respiratory illness, COVID-19, or coronavirus that has spread to more than 50 countries since it first broke out in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China, in December. Soon after the initial cases of a novel form of coronavirus infection were reported, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the outbreak “a public health emergency of international concern,” on January 30, 2020.
On Friday, February 28, the WHO raised its assessment of the global coronavirus risk to “very high,” the highest marker on their alert scale. Read on to find out what you should know about the coronavirus.
What is COVID-19
COVID-19 is a new variant of the coronavirus family. Coronaviruses are not new; they are a family of viruses that have infected animals and humans leading to a wide range of respiratory conditions from simple cold-like illnesses to more severe respiratory infections. In 2003, another coronavirus caused the SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) outbreak.
Coronavirus in the US
As of writing, there have been 96 cases in the U.S. and six deaths. Several cases were in individuals with no predicted risk/exposure and it represents the first instances of community transmission of the virus. That means the people had not recently traveled abroad or been in close contact with someone who had, suggesting that there may be undetected cases in the community.
We will be watching the situation closely and sharing our perspective. For updates from the doctors at Parsley Health, you can sign up for our email newsletter.
What are the symptoms of coronavirus?
Coronavirus symptoms are similar to a cold or flu. Symptoms may appear as soon as 2 days or as long as 14 days after exposure, according to the CDC. Symptoms which have been seen in confirmed cases include:
- Shortness of breath
How does coronavirus spread?
The virus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person via respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. These droplets can land in the mouths, noses, or eyes of people who are nearby. They can also be inhaled into the lungs. Because of this, it’s spread easiest between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet.) However, due to the 14-day incubation period, the spread may occur before people show symptoms.
Who is at risk?
The elderly and anyone with a compromised immune system are most at risk for the coronavirus illness, experts say. The death rate from coronavirus also increases as the age of the patient does. Those with autoimmune disease, cancer and HIV, or those with pre-existing lung diseases are at a higher risk for respiratory infections. There is no information right now that children are at a higher risk, according to the CDC. And a study released recently by the government of China reinforced that no children below the age of 10 have died in the country from the disease.
How to boost your immunity
Having a strong, healthy immune system that can fight infections is one of the best ways to avoid getting sick. Indeed, practicing good health habits is one of the top 6 recommendations shared by the Department of Homeland Security on their pandemic preparedness website.
To boost your immune system, Parsley Health doctors recommend a whole foods diet rich in foods with vitamin C, like dark, leafy greens, Omega-3 Fatty Acids, like salmon, flaxseed, walnuts, and chia, and vitamin E, like almonds, beets, asparagus, and avocado. Avoid things like alcohol and processed sugars which can weaken your immune system.
Research shows stress makes your body more susceptible to getting sick, so practicing stress-relieving activities like meditation and exercise are also important. Remember to drink plenty of water and get 7-8 hours of sleep a night to support a strong immune response. Parsley Health members can always reach out to their health coach for tips on implementing these practices into their life.
Follow safe prevention measures
Prevention measures for coronavirus are very similar to the common cold and flu, so luckily, you’re probably already practicing them. As a reminder, these are the CDC’s recommendations on how to protect yourself:
- Wash your hands often with soap and hot water for at least 20 seconds, and if soap and water aren’t available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- Avoid touching your face, eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Cover your mouth and nose by coughing or sneezing into your elbow or a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash; use trash receptacles that don’t require you to lift the lid.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces with sanitizer.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick (e.g., stay more than 6 feet away.)
- If you’re sick:
- Contact your local or state health departments immediately if you think you have coronavirus.
- Stay home and avoid going to any public place like supermarkets, or using public transportation.
- Ask a family member or friend to get supplies for you and leave on landing or porch for you.
- Separate yourself from other people and animals in your home. As much as possible stay in a specific room, away from others in your home and whenever possible use a separate bathroom.
- Wear a face mask (N95 is the type of mask recommended) particularly when you are around other people, sharing a room or vehicle. Wear a mask before entering a public place, public transportation, or entering a medical facility.
- Contact your medical provider/facility before arriving to the facility if directed to be seen
Coronavirus has not been declared a pandemic by the WHO, but in the chance it does, the Department of Homeland Security has recommendations that can help you prepare.
- Stock up on enough food and water for two weeks for you, your family, and pets.
We recommend non-perishable things like rice, dried or canned beans, nut butters, and canned soups and vegetables. Protein powder and shelf-stable broths and nut milks are also a good option.
- Check your regular prescription drugs to ensure a continuous supply in your home.
If you’re a Parsley Health member our physicians are able to prescribe you a refill on request. We recommend having a 90-day supply of chronic medications on-hand in case there are supply chain concerns.
- Have needed nonprescription drugs and other health supplies on hand, including pain relievers, stomach remedies, cough and cold medicines, fluids with electrolytes, and vitamins.
- Get copies and maintain electronic versions of health records from doctors, hospitals, pharmacies, and other sources and store them, for personal reference.
- Talk with family members and loved ones about how they would be cared for if they got sick, or what will be needed to care for them in your home.
We also recommend having a backup plan should school and work be canceled. If you have children, arrange backup childcare in case schools close. Talk to your employer about a work from home plan if you’re unable to go into the office.
Should I cancel my future travel plans?
For the most up to date information on travel restrictions and recommendations, you can view travel advisories by country from the U.S. Department of State (DOS). The CDC is also providing up to date travel information on their website. While the CDC’s travel advisories only take disease-related concerns into consideration, the DOS’s travel advisories also weigh other concerns.
At the time of writing, the CDC is urging travelers to avoid all non-essential travel to China, Iran, South Korea, and Italy. They are also advising older adults and those with chronic medical conditions consider postponing nonessential travel to Japan.
Because the situation is evolving, we recommend checking the DOS and CDC websites in advance of travel to any affected regions to ensure you have the latest information and guidance.
What to do if you think you have coronavirus
If you are concerned that you or someone you know may have had contact with the COVID-19 coronavirus, the CDC recommends immediately contacting your local or state health departments to be evaluated virtually.
The CDC has developed testing for COVID19 but to date the test kits have only been made available to the local health departments across the country. Currently, only 12 labs outside of the CDC—located in California, Illinois, Nebraska, Nevada, and Tennessee—have the capability to test for the virus.