Public Service Announcement:
Dr. Scott Frede
Switzerland County Health Department
March 17, 2020 ...
Federal, State and Local officials continue to respond to the potential implications and evolving nature of the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, COVID-19. It is expected that the positive cases throughout the local region will grow. Please keep in mind that just because the state reports no confirmed Switzerland County case (as of this writing on Tuesday 3/17/2020), it would be foolish to assume it is not in our community already. As expected, the spread is shifting to communities and we are encouraging the community to be sensible in responding to these risks.
New directives from the Indiana State Department of Health and Governor Holcomb specifically take measures to help ensure social distancing. The directives from the Governor include, but are not limited to, requiring that bars and restaurants close dine-in options but may provide take-out, and delivery services through the end of March. This past week, Belterra ceased in-person gambling and dining activities. All 276 school districts are closed to in-person learning. Vacation travel is strongly discouraged. Any non essential gathering for business, leisure, or sport should be canceled. Travel advisories are readily available on the CDC website. The implications of travel, especially to areas or situations with a high concentration of people should not be taken lightly, and is strongly discouraged.
Infection with COVID-19 has been shown to have the potential to cause serious illness and even death, however the range of symptoms has varied from extremely mild to severe, with the vast majority being mild requiring no special treatment. Children and young adults generally have been shown to have mild illness, however, they can easily spread the virus to friends and family. Those over 65, especially if they have other chronic conditions appear to be particularly vulnerable to serious illness, and it is imperative that those individuals stay at home and avoid exposures to other people. Symptoms are thought to appear 2-14 days after exposure and typically involve fever, cough and shortness or breath, very similar to the flu or even the common cold. These symptoms, combined with a close personal contact with a person known to have COVID-19, should prompt a phone call to your healthcare provider, or Local Health Department. Keep in mind that there is no specific treatment for mild to moderate illness. Please keep in mind that testing is not widely available. Please use the EMS/ambulance service and the Emergency Room only for emergencies. The ER is not a place to walk in and get tested for Covid-19. In fact, you may be putting yourself and others at more risk if you use the ER inappropriately. Similarly, if you use the EMS service for non emergencies they may not be available should you need them for a motor vehicle accident or other true emergency.
The best way to prevent infection with this virus as well as the influenza virus and common cold is to avoid exposure. Social distancing and handwashing works. Avoid contact with people who are ill. Wash your hands as often as possible for at least 20 seconds especially after using the bathroom, blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing and always wash your hands before eating. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth. Be conscious about ‘high touch surfaces’ like table tops, door knobs, faucet handles and handrails, washing hands often after contact. Cover your coughs and sneezes. And, most of all, stay home if you are sick. Stay informed, as knowledge about COVID-19 changes on a daily basis.
Remember, currently there is no special treatment for uncomplicated infection with this virus. If you are mildly ill, stay home. If you feel like you need to consult with your healthcare provider, do so by phone. Do not “walk in” for an appointment. Healthcare offices are often occupied by elderly people with significant long term illnesses. Walking into your healthcare provider’s office unannounced to a waiting room that is not prepared to receive you has the potential to put individuals who are most vulnerable to this infection at significant risk. All of us in our community have a responsibility to limit exposure to COVID-19, especially to our most vulnerable family, friends, and neighbors. This is done best through social distancing and handwashing. Again, if you are elderly, especially if you have chronic medical conditions like COPD/emphysema, diabetes, heart disease or cancer, it is imperative that you stay home except for emergencies.
Scott M Frede, MD
Switzerland County Health Department