As the citizens of the United States begin to line up at stores to stockpile items to prepare for possible quarantine, medical professionals are advising people to stop panicking. While the seriousness of the coronavirus or COVID-19 cannot be minimized, a mass panic is unnecessary and causing more harm than good. Air Force Capt. Dr. Phillip Mailloux stationed at Scott Air Force Base went on record to discuss the virus and the military's response to the declared pandemic.
Dr. Mailloux shared that the focus is on force health protection. Although the importance of the mission isn't understated, ultimately, everyone's safety is a top priority. This includes ensuring that everyone has the most up to date information to remain safe and healthy.
"Our job is to keep monitoring the situation as it unfolds. We have plans in place – even before the coronavirus came out. Every installation has a disease containment plan for events just like this that we can stick to. We are in the preparation phase, we have all the measures in place that we need to if the event becomes more impactful to the local area. The steps are already known and ready so that the installation can make an agile response," he shared.
Dr. Mailloux continued by stating that in the case of Scott AFB, they are in close contact with the local health department. Scott AFB is a part of the larger community in the area, like many military installations, so what happens on base or out in the local area impacts everyone. "We don't have a magical barrier to prevent what's going on outside the walls from coming," he said.He advised that everyone continue following the recommendations put out by the Centers for Disease Control. That website will always have the most up to date information and recommendations for coronavirus. This will include precautions and measures the public can take to prevent the spread.
Dr. Mailloux reiterated that those who are the most at risk are the elderly and immunocompromised. He also advised that the public call in if they suspect they have been exposed or are showing symptoms, rather than come into the emergency room or clinic. He explained that Illinois has a 3-5 day testing turn around currently, and sometimes the virus isn't always detectable right away, especially on day one.
Although coronavirus has a five-day incubation period, the reason seclusion is recommended for fourteen days is that they've seen the incubation period exceed five days before people begin showing signs of the illness.
Social media is currently filled with pictures of empty shelves. Should the public be stockpiling on things like face masks? The doctor said no, because it won't do any good. "The standard face masks only keep germs in, not out. For it to be effective in preventing transmission of the virus it would need to have a fit-tested seal," Dr. Mailloux stated. He explained that those that are ill should wear one to prevent spreading their own germs to others, but healthy individuals wearing them does nothing. We are also taking away from those who truly need the masks.
He referenced our first responders and those that will have to continue to show up to serve others. Those sealed and effective masks need to be reserved for them, so they can remain safe.
The CDC has stated that right now, the risk of exposure for most Americans is low. But as the outbreak continues to expand, that risk increases. Currently, the Coronavirus is classified as a community spread illness. Precautions we can take to minimize risk:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least twenty seconds, especially if you have been in a public place. Dr. Mailloux shared that although it is not thought that the virus can last on open services, we don't have enough information to confirm it.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
- Avoid close contact with those that are sick and limit your exposure to the risk if the virus is spreading in your community.
- Stay home if you are sick. Dr. Mailloux said this is the first time he is seeing people actually follow the recommendation of not venturing out if you are ill. This virus has increased awareness and the following of protocol to protect others from illness.
- Clean and disinfect surfaces that are frequently used.
Dr. Mailloux encouraged the public to be smart. Even if you are a healthy individual, if you've traveled or been in a highly-populated area, don't go to nursing homes or other areas with at-risk populations. There are instances of individuals, like children, who can be a carrier of the virus and never show but the most minimal symptoms. They then can pass it on to those who are unable to fight it off.
So, if you are heading to the store to stock up on essentials for a couple of weeks to isolate you and your family members, it is encouraged and applauded. But stockpiling toilet paper or overbuying hand sanitizer and cleaner is creating unnecessary anxiety for those who are high risk.
By being socially responsible, we can reduce panic and mitigate risk.
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