Though we’re far from experts, we are in the business of getting information, especially from reliable sources, out to our communities, so I’m hoping to have a brief, well-sourced discussion about SARS-CoV-2, a virus that causes COVID-19, a respiratory disease. Unless the distinction between the two is important, I’ll be using coronavirus as a shorthand throughout this post. During the last few days, it was revealed that Italy has instituted nationwide quarantine measures designed to enforce social distance, an effective measure to prevent the spread of viruses, and the World Health Organization has declared the current crisis a pandemic; these often occur when a novel virus emerges, as most of the world’s population will not be immune to it. Though scary, we’ve seen pandemics before: SARS from 2002-04 and H1NI from 2009-10. We should of course, remain vigilant, as success in the past under similar circumstances does not guarantee positive outcomes in the future; further, though the vast majority of those infected will be fine, we must consider those vulnerable in our populations, and the overall wellness of our healthcare system.
In Canada, as of March 10th, 2020, we have 93 confirmed cases of coronavirus (Government of Canada, 2020), but this number will surely increase as the virus spreads and we continue to aggressively test for it; though we might be perceive this large jump as an exponential increase, it might be best to interpret this as a more accurate snapshot of the existing problem rather than a sign of acceleration to fuel extrapolations. We’ve had one death associated with it: an elderly man in British Columbia. Additionally, as we discover more infected individuals, the mortality rate should decrease; it seems particularly bad in the United States right now due to insufficient testing.
According to the World Health Organization (2020), SARS-CoV-2 "can spread from person to person through small droplets from the nose or mouth which are spread when a person with COVID-19 coughs or exhales” (“How does COVID-19 spread?”, para. 1); given the real possibility of airborne transmission (Van Beusekom, 2020), social distancing--avoiding contact with other people, especially crowds--may be the best approach to prevent infection. The most common symptoms are fever, tiredness, and dry cough, and some may experience aches and pains, nasal congestion, runny nose, sore throat or diarrhea (World Health Organization, 2020). Unfortunately, those with the coronavirus will often experience mild symptoms, so they might continue with their lives as before, despite being contagious; therefore, if you have any of the aforementioned symptoms, especially respiratory ones, please contact 811 to arrange testing, as this will limit exposure for others in medical facilities, and practice self-isolation; the recommended amount of time is 14 days at present (Van Beusekom, 2020).
The World Health Organization (2020) recommends preventing the spread of coronavirus, and some other nastiness as a bonus, by performing many basic tasks we've been asked to do since childhood: frequently wash your hands with soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitizers, sneeze or cough into the crook of your arm or a tissue, and--certainly the hardest one for me, especially when you're thinking about it--avoid touching your face. Social distancing is likely the surest, though most severe, preventative approach. If you have symptoms, or are obliged to have close contact with those who do, please wear a mask in the fashion described in this video; otherwise, please leave the masks and other personal protection equipment for those who need them most: the sick or those caring for them.
What is the Medicine Hat Public Library’s response?
You may have seen #flattenthecurve on social media, which exhorts all of us to make reasonable efforts to prevent an unmanageable influx of hospitalizations. At the library, we care deeply about this, and the wellness of our community as a whole, so we are monitoring the situation, instituting extra cleaning, and discussing the cancellation of programs. We shouldn’t be blind to the dangers poised by coronavirus, but when we panic, we often make poor decisions--bulk buying toilet paper for a respiratory illness, for instance--so we should strive to remain rational, especially during difficult times.
What should you do?
- Please, if you feel sick, stay home. Use our online resources instead!
- Wash your hands often and wash them well (if you need some inspiration, visit washyourlyrics.com for a printable hand washing guide themed to your favourite song).
- Avoid touching your face.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- It might be wise to make sure you have food, prescriptions, and necessary supplies to last you approximately 14 days if you do need to self-quarantine.
Where should I look for the latest coronavirus updates?
The following are all trusted sources that you can look to for information and updates:
- The World Health Organization
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- Government of Alberta
- Government of Canada
Government of Canada. (2020, March 10). Coronavirus disease (COVID-19): Outbreak update. Retrieved from https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/2019-novel-coronavirus-infection.html
Van Beusekom, M. (2020). Study highlights ease of spread of COVID-19 viruses. CIDRAP News. Retrieved from http://www.cidrap.umn.edu/news-perspective/2020/03/study-highlights-ease-spread-covid-19-viruses
World Health Organization. (2020, March 9). Q&A on coronaviruses (COVID-19). Retrieved from https://www.who.int/news-room/q-a-detail/q-a-coronaviruses