In recent weeks, we have seen many headlines using terms like “pandemic”, “global crisis” and “state of emergency”, and images of people in Hazmat suits pushing gurneys. These messages and images surrounding the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis are scary and understandably cause fear and anxiety.

We have the opportunity to use this experience to educate and empower instead of provoking confusion and fear. To learn more about the virus and best practices for taking control of our health, we connected with one of SAY’s contributors, Cynthia Carr, an epidemiologist and principal consultant with EPI Research Inc.

What is the Coronavirus?

There are seven strains of the coronavirus. The newest is COVID-19. All seven viruses cause respiratory symptoms in different degrees. (In fact, four cause the ‘common cold’ every year). With no vaccine or anti-viral treatment for the coronavirus, falling ill can be particularly harmful for frail and elderly residents, as well as anyone living with other chronic diseases that impact the immune system.

We are learning new things about the virus every day; with better testing capacity available around the third week of March, we saw an increase in reported cases. Remember though, this also shows the health system is doing its job, finding those carrying the virus more quickly. This will help ensure they do not spread it. Whenever you see numbers of new cases, remember it doesn’t always mean people are getting sicker. In fact, with these new cases, we have seen the rate of hospitalizations cut in half—and hope this keeps up! Right now, most who are diagnosed are mildly ill, but we still need to avoid spreading it, especially to our most vulnerable community members.

What Can We Do?

Our immune systems have the best chance of successfully fighting all viruses if we treat our bodies right. We can support our communities and health systems by decreasing our chances of contracting the illness, avoiding overcrowding emergency departments and in-patient care.

Remember, if you are feeling quite ill (short of breath and feverish in particular), seek medical help. Although it feels scary right now, this will pass, and it will pass more quickly if we all do our part to support the health system by keeping as healthy as possible.