We at Blue Shield of California are keeping a close watch on the Coronavirus outbreak that started in China and has made its way to the United States. Here are a few questions and answers for our plan members who are concerned about this health issue.
“There is a lot to learn about Coronavirus," says Dr. Malaika Stoll, Senior Medical Director at Blue Shield of California. "But to stay healthy, its really about remembering the basics---hand-washing, avoiding close contact with people who are sick, and getting recommended vaccinations.”
What is Coronavirus?
Coronavirus refers to a family of viruses. Under microscopes, these viruses appear round like the sun, with a surrounding bright ring, just like the sun’s outer layer which is called the “corona” -- hence the name. Some coronaviruses are mild, for example the virus that causes the common cold. Other Coronaviruses -- such as the one that has caused the recent outbreak in Wuhan, China -- can be very dangerous, and even deadly.
What are symptoms of Coronavirus?
Symptoms include cough, sore throat, high temperature, feeling tired and achy. These symptoms are similar to those of the flu, which is caused by influenza virus. People with underlying health issues are more likely to experience serious symptoms from the flu and from this Coronavirus.
How many people have been affected?
Reports suggest the infection is growing daily. With people traveling to and from this region, we are seeing the virus spread to other places around the world, including several reported cases in the United States, including two in Southern California.
How can I protect myself from Coronavirus?
Frequent handwashing and avoiding close contact with people suffering from respiratory infections, are important to prevent this and other viruses from spreading. There is not yet a vaccine for this newly identified virus. However, staying up to date on vaccinations that are available, including the flu shot, will help support your overall health.
Is there a treatment for Coronavirus?
Because this is a viral outbreak, antibiotics won’t help. Treatment is supportive, such as helping patients breathe and stay hydrated. Although severe and fatal illness has been reported in some patients, many more have milder symptoms and have recovered fully without hospitalization.
What is being done by the U.S and other countries?
Wuhan and other Chinese cities have travel restrictions to keep the virus from spreading. In the U.S., the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has called for testing of passengers from China entering certain airports including Los Angeles International and San Francisco International. Doctors may also test patients who have a history of travel to certain areas. The CDC has recommended that all non-essential travel to China be avoided at this time. Get more State Department travel information here.
Where can I get more information?
For more information about the coronavirus, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention site.
Malaika Stoll, M.D., is senior medical director for Blue Shield of California. She leads the nonprofit health plan’s team of regional medical directors who work with local providers to ensure Blue Shield members have access to quality, affordable care.