BY JANE HINSON
Our country is at war. We are fighting an enemy that you can’t see. It is invisible to the naked eye and waits on door handles, shopping carts, EBT and gas pump keypads to attack. This enemy is not the victims who have already fallen prey to its attack. These people care enough about their health and yours to self-isolate until they are no longer contagious. The real enemy is the virus that causes COVID-19 infection. This illness can be very mild for some but quite severe for others.
On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic. This virus is dangerous because it is new. None of us has immunity to it. There are many factors that can put you at higher risk for severe illness. You are at higher risk if you are aged 65 and older, living in a nursing home or long-term care facility, have an underlying health condition, compromised immune system or are severely obese.
Anyone who continues to work with even mild symptoms can put the lives of others at risk. This is why we are seeing such an increase in cases in North Carolina and Iredell County. This virus can be spread between people if you are within six feet and cough or sneeze near others. Respiratory droplets are produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. These droplets land in the mouths or noses of people nearby or can also be inhaled into their lungs.
The best way to prevent COVID-19 illness is to avoid being exposed. If possible, social distance yourself from others (six feet or greater). Follow the Gov. Cooper’s new “Stay at Home Order” unless you are working in an essential business or are an essential provider. If you are at higher risk for severe illness, ask a neighbor, friend or loved one to grocery shop for you. Below are some other preventive tactics that you can use to fight this invisible enemy:
• Clean your hands often: Wash Your Hands often for 20 seconds with soap and water. Especially after you have been in a public place, or after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing. If soap and water aren’t available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol. Cover all surfaces of your hands and rub them together until they feel dry. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
• Avoid close contact: Put distance between yourself and other people because we know this virus is spreading in our community. Avoid close contact with anyone sick.
• Stay home if you are sick and isolate yourself: Call your doctor or 911 right away if you have shortness of breath, chest pain or pressure, blue lips, difficulty breathing or confusion. Most people do not need to be tested. Leaving home to get tested could expose high risk individuals and health care workers to the virus. For people with mild symptoms, getting tested will not change the actions you or your doctor take.
• Cover coughs and sneezes: Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze or use the inside of your elbow. Throw used tissues in the trash. Immediately wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds.
• Clean and disinfect: Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily. This includes tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, faucets and sinks.
• Returning to work after being sick: You can return to work if it has been at least 7 days since you first had symptoms and you have been without fever for 3 days (72 hours) without any medicine for fever and your symptoms have improved.
I’ve given you the armor that you need to protect yourself. The rest is up to you. If we don’t come together as a community to fight this enemy, we will lose parents, siblings, children, spouses, friends and co-workers. We may even lose our own life.
I beg each of you to make a commitment to protect your health and the health of others. Your actions can make a huge difference in slowing down the spread of this virus.
There are many organizations, providers, hospitals, elected officials and government leaders fighting this battle with you. Go forth Iredell County soldiers and march on in good health!
Jane Hinson is the Iredell County Health Director.