By Staff Reports, 18th Wing Public Affairs
/ Published February 04, 2020
Practicing good preventive measures will help limit your exposure to Novel Coronavirus and keep you and your family healthy and mission ready.
The 18th Wing Public Affairs sat down with the 18th Medical Group’s Public Health Flight Commander, Maj. Benjamin Cruz, and asked him what Team Kadena members need to know about Novel Coronavirus. Here’s what he had to say.
18 WG/PA: What is novel coronavirus (nCoV)?
Major Cruz: Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that can cause the common cold or Sudden Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). Since this is a new strain of coronavirus, there is no current name so it is called novel (new) coronavirus.
18 WG/PA: Where does it come from?
Major Cruz: Coronaviruses circulate in animals (i.e bats, camels, cattle) and in rare cases the virus spreads to humans. Two recent examples are 1) SARS and 2) Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS CoV). Although the source of nCoV is unknown at this time, scientists are working to identify the source.
18 WG/PA: How is nCoV spread?
Major Cruz: Spread of the disease was originally thought to be primarily through persons that visited a specific animal and seafood marketplace in Wuhan, China (animal-to-person). However, a growing number of people who tested positive for nCoV did not have exposure to animal markets, which now suggests person-to-person spread of the virus. Researchers are still trying to identify the specific way nCoV is spread, but due to its similarities with SARS and MERS, it is thought to spread via respiratory droplets from an infected person coughing or sneezing, similar to the flu virus.
18 WG/PA: How is the virus transmitted?
Major Cruz: It’s important to note how a virus spreads from person-to-person can vary. Some viruses are highly contagious, like measles, while other viruses are less so.
According to the CDC, at this time, it’s unclear how easily or sustainably this virus is spreading between people. Chinese officials report that sustained person-to-person spread in the community is occurring in China. When person-to-person spread has occurred in the past, it is thought to have happened mainly via respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes, similar to how influenza and other respiratory pathogens spread.
18 WG/PA: What are the symptoms of nCoV?
Major Cruz: Symptoms include:
*If you have been to China in the past two weeks and develop these symptoms, contact the 18th Medical Group to receive instructions on where to report for care.
18 WG/PA: Are there medications or immunizations we can get to prevent it?
Major Cruz: Currently, there are no medications or immunizations that will prevent you from getting nCoV and those who are infected should receive treatment that will help to alleviate the symptoms and help allow the person to recover.
18 WG/PA: How can we prevent ourselves from getting nCoV?
Major Cruz: The best way to help keep you and your family safe is to ensure everyone is practicing good hand hygiene by washing your hands with soap and water as often as possible. Also, using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer will help when not near a sink. Avoid touching your face and cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze. Also, try to stay away from people who are sick and seek medical care when you start to feel sick.
18 WG/PA: Can wearing a face mask prevent someone from getting nCoV?
Major Cruz: No. The CDC does not recommend wearing a face mask but instead encourages people to wash their hands with soap and water as often as possible.
18 WG/PA: I have made plans to travel to a country that has had positive cases of nCoV. What should I do?
Major Cruz: First, ensure the countries you are visiting are not currently under travel restriction or have travel advisories. If you are cleared to travel, then ensure you are washing your hands often while transiting through airports and using local transportation. If you can’t wash your hands, ensure you are using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Also, keep a safe distance between yourself and visibly sick individuals. For more information, visit the links below.
18 WG/PA: What if I traveled to countries that had confirmed patients (i.e. Thailand, Vietnam, mainland Japan, US, Taiwan, Cambodia, etc.) in the past few weeks and now I have a fever and respiratory issues. Should I get tested?
Major Cruz: If you are exhibiting the symptoms described above and have traveled to Hubei Province, China, or were in close contact with a confirmed case, contact the 18th Medical Group. Healthcare professionals will evaluate your symptoms and determine if additional testing is needed.
18 WG/PA: There are people who have died from nCoV. Should I be concerned for myself and my family? Friends, coworkers and fellow Airmen?
Major Cruz: While the CDC considers this a very serious public health threat, based on current information the immediate health risk from nCoV to the general American public is considered low at this time. The risk to residents of Okinawa can be low by practicing good preventive measures I described previously, like frequent hand washing, as well as abiding by all travel restrictions and recommendations. This is what will help keep you and your family healthy and mission ready.
18 WG/PA: What is the local government doing to respond to nCoV?
Major Cruz: The local government is implementing policies and procedures to help identify potential cases coming into Okinawa and reducing potential exposure of the virus to the population. Also, the Kadena Medical Group is working with Okinawa Prefectural Government representatives to ensure constant information and communication flow continues to help keep everyone safe.
For more information on the coronavirus and subsequent travel-related information, please visit the following sites:
Contact 18th Wing Public Health at DSN 630-1994 for any further questions.