Coronavirus: Fact & Figures, Questions & Answers
As the new coronavirus, called COVID-19, continues to spread around the world, Augusta Health's team of infectious disease, clinical, emergency management and communication specialists are diligently monitoring the latest information and directives to keep their preparations current for possible diagnosis and treatment of any patients in the area.
According to the CDC website, there are 61 COVID-19 confirmed cases in the United States, including the 43 people who were aboard the Diamond Princess Cruise Ship and 3 repatriated from Wuhan, China. Fifteen have tested positive in the United States. (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/cases-in-us.html at noon on February 28, 2020).
"As experienced healthcare professionals, we need to prepare for the event that we may need to care for a patient with COVID-19," says Allison Baroco, MD, one of Infectious Disease specialists at Augusta Health. "We also, though, need to keep those in our community informed on the facts of the disease, its prevalence and its spread, so they do not live in fear fueled by rumors or the hype fed by hypothetical situations."
"The facts include knowing that there are, to date, no confirmed cases in Virginia or the Shenandoah Valley, and that the risk of getting COVID-19 in the United States is currently low," continues Dr. Baroco.
Dr. Baroco and Joe Tulga, Augusta Health's Director of Emergency Management and Safety, recently answered some frequently-asked questions about the new coronavirus, COVID-19.
Q: Coronavirus is in the news daily. What is the chance it will come to the Shenandoah Valley?
A: We currently live in a lower risk area for Coronavirus activity; however, if there is a consistent spread in the United States, the entire country will have some risk of the virus spreading. This is because as viruses spread, the pattern can be unpredictable and can change rapidly. Currently, the Shenandoah Valley has been experiencing a really tough flu season, and it is much more likely that you will be exposed to the flu at present.
Q: What happens if there is a COVID-19 case identified at Augusta Health?
A: Augusta Health prepares for respiratory viruses each season, in particular influenza. We have plans in place to respond to any infectious disease incident or emerging pathogen such as Coronavirus. Augusta Health also has a long-standing working relationship with the Virginia Department of Health, and would collaborate closely with the Department of Health should there be an occurrence of COVID-19 at our facility. In collaboration with the Department of Health, information and updated will be shared regularly with the community.
Q: Is Augusta Health prepared to receive and treat patients with coronavirus?
A: Yes! Augusta Health has been working with state, regional, and local healthcare coalition partners to prepare to care for patients suspected or known to have the coronavirus. This planning assists the partners with communication, coordination, monitoring of the current state, and the sharing of resources and best practices. Augusta Health has a response plan in place to care for patients suspected to have the coronavirus. This plan includes a number of procedures for: assessment of patients arriving at the emergency department or ambulatory locations, patient isolation, team member safety and health, investigation and testing, and the cleaning and disinfecting of the physical environment. With the combination of healthcare coalition partnerships and an up-to-date response plan Augusta Health is ready to care for suspected coronavirus patients while protecting our team members and community.
Q: Is coronavirus more deadly than the flu?
A: Currently, the average flu mortality rate for the past several years is 0.1%, compared to Coronavirus which is currently rated at 2%. The highest risk patients for complications related to Coronavirus are similar to those patients that are at higher risk for influenza complications. This higher risk population includes the elderly as well as patients with weakened immune systems. For patients with Coronavirus, the mainstay treatment is "supportive care", meaning patients are supported with supplemental oxygen or whatever means are necessary to stabilize during their illness, as well as appropriate treatments for the symptoms such as fever.
Q: What can I do to reduce my risk of infection by coronavirus?
A: With the threat of any communicable disease, washing your hands is the single most important preventive measure for reducing spread of the disease. Additionally, please remember to disinfect surfaces and avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands. Avoid close contact with those who are ill. Stay at home if you are sick, unless you need to receive medical care.
To keep the community updated on the latest COVID-19 information, Augusta Health has created a webpage with FAQs, links to resources, and a Web Form where people can submit questions about COVID-19 to be answered by the experts. It is located on the Augusta Health website homepage, https://www.augustahealth.com, or can be directly accessed at https://www.augustahealth.com/coronavirus.
Augusta Health is an independent, community-owned, not-for-profit hospital whose mission is to promote the health and well-being of its community through access to excellent care. Over the years, Augusta Health has been recognized by many external rating organizations: 100 Top Hospitals in America, HealthGrades' America's 50 Best Hospitals, and most recently by US News and World Report as a Best Regional Hospital, 2019-2020. For more information about Augusta Health, its programs or its services, please visit the website, https://www.augustahealth.com.