When you register for a medical appointment or plan international travel, you probably will be asked more questions these days.
Additional safety measures are in place to reduce the risk of coronavirus, which has spread to countries around the world, especially in Asia.
To date, however, no cases of the specific strain of coronavirus (COVID-19) have been reported in North Dakota. Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses found in humans and animals.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and World Health Organization continue to monitor the disease linked to COVID-19, which originated in China.
COVID-19 causes symptoms such as fever, cough and shortness of breath, which are similar to the flu. The symptoms range from mild to severe. It has an incubation period ranging from two to 14 days.
“For most of us, the coronavirus poses little risk,” says Charlie Stoltenow, a veterinarian and North Dakota State University Extension assistant director. “However, people with underlying medical conditions would need to take extra precautions.
“As best as we know, this strain of coronavirus does not appear to be a zoonotic disease,” he notes. “In other words, it is not transmissible between humans and animals.”
If the coronavirus were to spread to animals, people with pets are cautioned to take some steps. According to the CDC, people who are infected with COVID-19 should limit contact with their pets. They should have another household member care for any pets. If no one is around, pet owners should wash their hands before and after interacting with pets and wear a facemask.
Health experts advise that the best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed. The virus is spread most commonly from person to person in close contact or through droplets when a person coughs or sneezes. The virus also may spread when people touch objects.
“Proper handwashing is a key step to preventing the spread of colds, flu and other illnesses,” says Julie Garden-Robinson, NDSU Extension food and nutrition specialist. “Be sure to wash your hands any time they may become contaminated. For the common flu, be sure to have your flu shot.
“Keep your immune system strong by staying well nourished and hydrated,” she adds.
Garden-Robinson and Stoltenow recommend people take action to slow the spread of viruses that can cause illnesses such as the flu with these tips from the CDC:
- Stay home if you are sick, especially if you have a fever. Try to keep a distance of 6 or more feet from others.
- Cover your coughs and sneezes. Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue or sneeze into your elbow or sleeve. Throw away used tissues.
- Don’t touch your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands.
- Wash your hands often. Use soap and water and scrub for at least 20 seconds, which is about the amount of time to sing the “Happy Birthday” song twice.
- If you do not have access to soap and water to wash your hands, substitute a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
- Clean surfaces and objects that are touched frequently, including doorknobs and hand rails. Use soap and water, bleach and water or another product that says “EPA approved.”
- See https://www.ag.ndsu.edu/food for more information.