We now have thirty-two confirmed cases of the new coronavirus infection in Alabama. We have all seen how this new virus has spread around the world from its beginning in China just a few months ago. The World Health Organization has now classified this as a pandemic. However, please remember that compared to the flu, the number of cases in Alabama, in this country and worldwide are still quite small. I am hopeful that folks will not panic and let common sense dictate their response to this situation. Our state and federal governments, the Alabama Department of Public Health, the Medical Association and others are all working to implement reasonable responses to this evolving situation. Everyone’s health and safety is our primary concern.
Some important things to remember:
- Over 90% of the cases of COVID-19 have been mild and resemble the common cold.
- Half of the people worldwide that have contracted this disease have now completely recovered.
- Folks most at risk for this disease include the elderly and especially those with underlying medical conditions such as COPD, diabetes, heart disease or cancer.
- Not everyone needs to be tested for the coronavirus, those needing to be tested need to meet certain criteria that suggest they may be at risk for this disease.
How can you best protect yourself and avoid becoming ill from the coronavirus:
- If you are sick, stay home. If you have a cough and fever, stay home.
- If you are sick, call your family physician or primary care provider and let them help you determine if you need to be tested or seen.
- During any kind of pandemic, you should avoid going to the Emergency Room or the Doctors’ Office for routine things that could be handled after the pandemic passes. Remember: that is where the sick folks are and that is who you need to avoid.
- Wash your hands frequently with soap and water. Hand sanitizers should only be used when soap and water are not available.
- Cover your cough, cough into your elbow.
- Keep your hands away from your face.
- Avoid large crowds and crowded spaces. Social distancing, which means staying at least 6 feet from the nearest person, is the best way to avoid coming in contact with this and other infectious diseases.
We need to all work together to meet the challenge of this new coronavirus disease. Avoiding panic and using good common sense measures can help us all stay safe and healthy.
John S. Meigs, MD, FAAFP
President, Medical Association of the State of Alabama