Tuesday morning on GMA Dr. Tina Stefanski regional medical director for the Office of Public Health answered our viewers questions on the novel coronavirus.
Stefanski, A member of Louisiana's COVID-19 task force, was in studio throughout the morning helping the public understand the virus, who is most susceptible, how to stay healthy, and what you should know going forward.
Questions were answered LIVE following GMA on Facebook
On Monday, the first presumptive positive case of the novel coronavirus in Louisiana was announced. Officials say a Jefferson Parish resident is hospitalized right now in Orleans Parish. At this time, there is only one known case of the illness in the state.
Questions and answers will be recorded here.
Understanding The Virus
Q. What does it mean to have a presumptive case?
A. Louisiana's Office of Public Health acts as if the case is positive, however it will go to the CDC for confirmation. Right now all presumptive cases nationally have been proven to be positive.
Q. Is the coronavirus new?
A. It's a new type of Coronavirus. There are four known types that circulate and give people cold symptoms. This is a new strain essentially.
Q. Are there different variants of the virus? Did it split?
A. We have only had the virus identified for about two months starting in December in Wuhan China. The new virus was identified in January. There is no consensus on if the virus has changed but it is not uncommon for viruses to do so.
Q. Why COVID-19? How did they pick the number?
A. Covid stands for Coronavirus, 19 is the year (2019) when it was discovered.
Q. Is COVID-19 airborne? Can its incubation period be longer than 14 days?
A. The virus is most likely spread through droplets. The range is 2-14 days before you develop symptoms. Most people develop symptoms within 5 days of exposure. There are some cases that might not show for 21 days, but that's uncommon.
Q. How long to wash hands and should I use soap or something else?
A. Soap should be used when washing your hands. Lather your hands for 20 seconds and scrub all surfaces during that time. You should then rinse and towel dry. Just washing with water is not effective.
Q. Hand sanitizer?
A. 60 percent alcohol is very effective to germs on hands. Apply to dry hands and then let that sanitizer dry.
Q. Should I avoid touching my face?
A. While it is very difficult to monitor how much we touch our faces, but it is something we should be conscious about. It is recommended to carry tissues and use those if you need to touch your face and cover your mouth.
Q. How to disinfect work areas, etc?
A. You want to clean to disinfect. If you need to clean the area, wipe the area down with disinfectant wipes or spray such as Clorox and Lysol. Follow directions on the packaging. After cleaning and disinfecting, let the area sit and dry for a few minutes before touching.
A demonstration and explanation on disinfecting is below:
Q. How long does the virus last on surfaces?
A. We don't exactly how long yet, however it could be between a couple hours and a few days.
Q. Can I take common cold/flu medications to prevent getting the virus?
A. The medicine may help to relieve the symptoms, but it will not kill the virus.
Q. Is there a shot we can take to protect against the virus?
A There’s no vaccine. It's still about 1.5 years away.
Q. Should I wear a mask?
A. Masks are not recommended for the general public. Masks are for sick people to wear to keep droplets from being spread.
When To Get Help
Q. If you self-quarantine at home, what meds should you take and when to know if you need to go to the emergency room? People 60+
A. If the coronavirus is circulating in the area, you may be asked to self-quarantine if you are 60+ or have any severe illnesses. If you are self-quarantined, daily and over the counter medications will be beneficial to those people affected. Anything else you need such as food, hygiene items, are also recommended as quarantines can last several days.
Q. How do you know when it is best to go to the hospital?
A. Three or five days into the illness for those who are severely ill. Having symptoms of fever, shortness of breath, chest pains, and difficulty breathing would require medical attention.
Q. What are the risks to pregnant women and unborn children?
A. There is no evidence now that pregnant women are more susceptible to coronavirus. Pregnant women and the unborn are not in the high risk group at this time, but those who are pregnant should consider monitoring the situation and be aware of any illnesses going around. Immune systems are compromised during pregnancy and could potentially be at risk for other viruses such as the flu.
Q. How likely is it for someone to recover from it?
A. Most people who are infected, 80%, have a pretty mild illness.
Q. I was in New Orleans for Mardi Gras. Am I now at risk because of the presumptive case?
A. No. There was no known patient at Mardi Gras in New Orleans this year.
Q. Should I stop traveling?
A. You should probably rethink flying and cruises right now if you're above the age of 60.
Q. How do we clean a hotel of nasty germs?
A. Focus on commonly touched surfaces. Bring disinfectant wipes with you and use disposable gloves. Clean door knobs, faucets, the remote and wipe down hard surfaces before you touch them.
Q. Why is all of Italy under quarantine if the virus is so mild?
A. It's mild for most people, but not for older people or those with health problems. It can be crippling to the health industry so the goal is to contain the spread until we understand the virus better. Italy has an aging population so the country's leaders made the decision to try to contain the virus.
Q. Should it be gone when summer approaches?
A. We don't know. We do see the flu decrease in the summer, but with the Coronavirus it's still too early to tell.
Q. Is the common flu more deadly?
A. No. The mortality rate for the flu is about 0.1%, the coronavirus rate known right now is 2-3%, but it could be lowered as it continues to be monitored.
Q. What is the best way to talk to children about the coronavirus?
A. Be reassuring and ask them what they know or have heard. As a parent, help clarify or explain what is happening and what they may be seeing.
Children are less susceptible to the virus than other individuals but parents should reassure them that they are being protected from illness. Teach them good hygiene habits which they can carry on to stay safe from all types of illness such as the flu or common cold.
Q. Should I send my child to daycare or get a sitter?
A. Changes to care for children is not necessary. Parents should monitor what their daycares are saying about any and all illnesses. Daycare workers are trained in hygiene and facilities are often inspected by the office of public health.
Q. How many cases do we really have considering we waited several weeks to start testing?
A. We don't know. We should learn over the next few weeks as more people are tested.
Q. What should people know about testing?
A. Physicians will be able to test through commercial labs. As a result, more people in the community will have the ability to be tested without meeting CDC criteria. Doctors are asking that the test only be done for those who are showing symptoms and may be at risk.
The virus is currently not known to be circulating in the Acadiana area but that could change as tests are completed.
Q. What does the testing involve?
A. A swab will be taken and sent off. Those tests will either go to the Office of Public Health lab in Baton Rouge or to private testing labs in the area. As more testing happens, we will better understand how the virus is affecting the Acadiana area.
Q. What is the takeaway from COVID-19 in Acadiana?
A. Don't panic. Most people infected by the virus have mild symptoms but older people are more severely affected. As more testing is done, we will understand the burden that the community sees. As more transmission is seen in the community, the public should then take precaution and understand what they need to do to stay healthy.