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How to prepare for coronavirus in Illinois (you don't need that N95 mask yet, experts say)

Area hospital officials say they’re receiving regular updates about the spread of the COVID-19 virus from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.

That data about the coronavirus, which originated in Wuhan, China, includes the number of current cases (more than 82,000 worldwide, with about 2,800 deaths) and what hospitals can do to help stop its spread.

However, the public also should take measures to minimize their own exposure to the coronavirus and other illnesses, said Dr. Bob Manam, medical director of infection prevention at Northwestern Medicine Kishwaukee Hospital.

Those methods do not include the N95 respiratory mask, a fast-selling mask designed to achieve a close facial fit and efficient filtration of the airborne particles that can spread diseases such as coronaviruses and influenza.

“At this time we are not recommending anybody purchase [the] N95 mask, based on what I’m hearing through communications we’re receiving from the CDC and [Illinois Department of Public Health],” Manam said.

The CDC currently is not recommending that people who are well should wear a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory diseases.

However, CDC officials warned of the spread of the coronavirus in the U.S. this week. Symptoms of the virus include fever, cough and shortness of breath, similar to the common cold. The latest information from the World Health Organization has the total of confirmed U.S. cases at 60. None have died.

“It’s not so much of a question of if this will happen anymore but rather more of a question of exactly when this will happen,” said Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, while at a news briefing.

According to the IDPH website, 70 people statewide have been tested for the virus, with two confirmed cases, two with results pending and 66 who tested negative.

Manam said Northwestern Medicine Kishwaukee Hospital has been through several coronavirus drills to ensure communication goes well.

“We’ll isolate a person of interest,” he said, meaning someone who might have been exposed to the virus. “We try to limit their exposure to our staff and to the public.”

Manam said the hospital is educating members of the public when they come to the hospital with questions.

“We’re making sure everyone is on the same page and the lines of communication are open,” he said.

Manam said the risk of contracting the virus in northern Illinois is low, and he doesn’t want people to panic. He advises that people pay attention to updates about the virus from local, state and federal officials.

Beth Squires, coordinator of the Public Health Program at NIU’s College of Health and Human Sciences, said most people who contract the coronavirus will only have a mild illness.

“It’s going to attack anyone,” Squires said. “Sometimes we’re seeing more complicated symptoms in people who could normally fight it off.”

Compared with the flu, coronavirus has not been as prevalent, Squires said, but that could change. Now that the virus is in the population, it could become as large a problem as the flu. The CDC estimates there have been 16,000 to 41,000 deaths nationwide from the flu this season.

“Coronavirus is a concern because it is brand new,” she said.

Most people will be able to recover. She said numbers from Johns Hopkins University show more people are recovering from the disease than are dying. She also said to get information from trusted sources, such as the CDC and WHO.

The DeKalb County Health Department has provided steps for all who wish to avoid exposure to coronavirus.

The department’s page warns people to avoid close contact with people who are sick, to not touch their eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands, and to wash their hands often with warm soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, people should use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

The department recommends that people who are sick stay home, cover their coughing or sneezing with a tissue and throw it away, and to clean and disinfect things they’ve touched.

Source: The Daily Chronicle

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