By: Dr. Sheree Sharpe, Kaiser Permanente Steele Street Medical Center

The recent coronavirus outbreak has raised fears and questions across the world. Unfamiliar illnesses often create widespread panic, misconceptions and misinformation that can leave us feeling overwhelmed. The coronavirus is something we should take seriously, but there is no need to panic. At Kaiser Permanente Washington, we are committed to ensuring our community and our patients feel informed and confident their care providers are prepared to offer quality care and assurance when needed most.

Here are a few frequently asked questions I’ve received from patients along with helpful information you should know about the virus.

What exactly is coronavirus?

The recent coronavirus is a member of the same family of viruses that causes the common cold. According to the CDC, this strain of coronavirus is linked to cases first found in Wuhan, China, and detected in individuals exposed to an animal and seafood market in the region.

Typical symptoms of the virus include fever, difficulty breathing and possible fluid in one or both lungs. Coronavirus can progress to pneumonia in some cases, and treatment is similar to that for other viral infections. If you’ve visited China in the past 14 days and are experiencing any of these symptoms, you should immediately seek medical attention and avoid contact with others. If you have not traveled to China, your risk for contracting this illness is very low.

Coronavirus
Photo courtesy: Kaiser Permanente

How does coronavirus spread?

While the virus is still under testing, the CDC states the majority of information known about the recent coronavirus spread is based on similar influenza-like illnesses and coronaviruses. Other influenza illnesses are typically spread via respiratory droplets from infected individuals, as well as coming in close contact with infected surfaces. It’s important to note infected individuals are considered most contagious when experiencing symptoms at their highest form.   

Coronavirus Across the U.S. and Washington State

Currently, there have been 14 confirmed cases of the virus in the U.S. The CDC is currently focusing efforts on screening those who may have been exposed to coronavirus in China, and preparing as best as possible for the further spread of the illness.

Coronavirus
Photo courtesy: Kaiser Permanente

If another confirmed illness were to occur in Washington state, our care providers at Kaiser Permanente Washington are confident we have the tools and resources to safely treat infected patients or those with similar symptoms. We advise our patients to not panic as we are carefully monitoring the progress of the illness and are prepared to adjust our practices as needed according to CDC recommendations.

Tips to Stay Healthy

The best way to prevent possible infection is to avoid exposure to the virus. Similar to avoiding the contraction and spread of the common cold and flu, remember to wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Additionally, avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands and refrain from close contact with people who are sick. Regularly disinfecting objects and surfaces is another effective regimen, and remembering to stay home if you develop symptoms can help keep you and your community healthy. Be sure to also closely monitor your symptoms and seek medical care if they persist. Visit websites like KPWA.org or CDC.gov to ensure you receive accurate and up-to-date information on the coronavirus.

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