Wash your hands

Terri Lynn Oldham House

With cold and flu season and the outbreak of 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCOV), it is imperative to be diligent and take the steps necessary to protect yourself.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) reminds us to do what our mothers have been telling us to do for years:

• “Clean hands with soap and water or alcohol-based hand rub.

• “Cover nose and mouth when coughing and sneezing.

• “Avoid close contact with anyone with cold or flu-like symptoms.

• “Getting a flu shot if you haven’t gotten one this year.”

Another warning is to avoid consumption of raw or undercooked animal products. You should handle raw meat, milk or animal organs with care to avoid cross-contamination with uncooked foods, as per good food safety practices.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is closely monitoring the outbreak, which was first identified in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China. Cases have been identified in a growing number of other international locations, including the United States. 

As of Wednesday, nearly 500 people in China had reportedly died from the coronavirus and the number of confirmed cases of infection rose to more than 24,000. Outside of China, there have been an additional 159 confirmed cases of the virus and 1 death. 

The good news is that, also as of Wednesday, 2019-nCoV is not spreading in any community in the United States. Closer to home, three cases have been investigated in Colorado, with all of those confirmed negative for novel coronavirus.

“While we understand that new viruses like this can be worrisome, the risk of novel coronavirus for Coloradans is currently low,” reads the “Official Talking Points” released by the CDPHE regarding the 2019 novel coronavirus last week.

Those talking points also remind that there are many kinds of coronaviruses that are currently circulating in the state that cause respiratory illness: 

• “Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses, some causing illness in people and others circulating among animals including camels, cats and bats.

• “Some coronaviruses are common and regularly cause Illness in the U.S. in the fall and winter. These viruses spread through coughing or sneezing, much like the flu. Symptoms may include: fever, cough, and/or shortness of breath.

• “Rarely, animal coronaviruses can evolve and infect people and then spread between people, such as has been seen with Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). These viruses have caused outbreaks internationally and have been known to cause severe illness.

• “It is too soon to know how severe 2019-novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) is compared to other coronaviruses or how easily it can spread easily between humans.”

Though the current risk to most of us is low, the CDPHE is prepared to respond. 

“We spent significant time preparing for Ebola cases during the large outbreak in West Africa in 2014-2016, even though risk to Coloradans was low and Colorado never had a case,” reads the CDPHE report. “We are working closely with CDC and organizations across the state to ensure our response is proactive, strong, and collaborative.”

Stay up to date by visiting the CDC’s website at cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov.

In the meanwhile, stay vigilant, and do what your mother says.

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This story was posted on February 6, 2020.