The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Department of Health and Human Services are leading the effort to respond to an outbreak of respiratory disease caused by a novel (new) coronavirus that was first detected in China. The CDC reports that the virus has now been detected in more than 100 locations, including the United States. The disease the virus causes is called coronavirus disease 2019 or COVID-19.
Because the virus is new, the CDC and other organizations are still researching how the virus spreads and the symptoms associated with the illness.
There have been reports of the virus spreading before people show symptoms and the CDC states that it may be possible to get the virus though contact with contaminated surfaces. However, the CDC states that the virus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person and mostly from people who are symptomatic (showing symptoms).
Symptoms of COVID-19 range in severity and can include fever, cough and shortness of breath, similar to other respiratory illnesses. The CDC states that most COVID-19 illness is mild but older people and people of all ages who have a severe underlying health condition seem to be at a higher risk of developing a serious COVID-19 illness.
In the United States, the CDC states that the immediate risk of being exposed to the virus is currently low but that the situation is rapidly evolving and the risk assessment will continue to be updated as need.
The Department of Defense and the Department of the Army are working with the CDC to combat the spread of COVID-19, including implementing travel guidance to stop the movement of personnel and delay travel of Soldiers stationed in Italy and South Korea.
Locally, the Combined Arms Center and Fort Leavenworth officials are currently working with the surrounding communities to track the spread of the virus as well as continue to communicate preventive measures to the public.
Currently, the CDC is still stating that the guidelines on preventing the spread of COVID-19 are the same as those to prevent other respiratory viruses like the flu. Prevention guidelines include:
a. Avoid close contact with people who are sick/stay at home if you are sick. Coordinate with your commander/supervisor for sick leave.
b. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
c. Cover your cough or sneeze and throw tissue in trash when done.
d. Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds each time, especially after going to the bathroom, before and after eating, and after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing.
e. Clean and disinfect frequently touched items or surfaces using household spray or wipes.
Individuals who are sick are encouraged to wear a facemask when around other people but the CDC does not recommend that people who are well wear facemarks to protect themselves from respiratory illnesses like the flu and COVID-19. Facemasks should only be worn by individuals with symptoms or those caring for someone who is sick.
According to the CDC, individuals with a respiratory illness should not assume it is COVID-19. Those who have traveled from China or another affected area or those who have been in close contact with someone with COVID-19 should contact their healthcare provider with symptoms and information about the possible exposure.
For more information on COVID-19, visit the CDC website at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/. For more information on the DoD's response to COVID-19 visit https://www.defense.gov/Explore/Spotlight/Coronavirus/.