The Touro College and University System’s medical school is offering advice on how to confront the spreading Coronavirus.
The Center for Disaster Medicine at New York Medical College convened a conference on the rapidly-spreading virus that poses a limited risk in the United States — but it’s a risk that could quickly grow.
Conference speakers explained the origins and characteristics of the virus, discussed the response of public health officials, and evaluated steps the public can take to stay safe.
“The Center for Disaster Medicine focuses on precision responses to disasters and bioterrorism. Part of our mission is to react quickly to emerging issues as they arise,” said Dr. Alan Kadish, president of the Touro College and University System.
Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that were first detected in the 1960s. This type of virus causes the common cold as well as more severe respiratory viruses such as SARS. Millions of people are affected by Coronaviruses every year, and almost all are not lethal.
“The current risk is low but that could change. Our guidelines will change over time as we learn more. It is important to stay vigilant,” said Dr. Robert Amler, Dean of the School of Health Sciences and Practice at New York Medical College.
The new strain of Coronavirus, first found in Wuhan, China, had not been previously detected. It is believed to have been initially transmitted by bats to humans; however, it has adapted and can now be transmitted from human to human.
According to the World Health Organization, the new Coronavirus is a respiratory virus, which spreads primarily through contact with an infected person through respiratory droplets generated when a person, for example, coughs or sneezes, or through droplets of saliva or discharge from the nose. Symptoms of this Coronavirus include fever coughing and shortness of breath.
“No health crisis has generated more fear than this one. I firmly believe that the risk to New Yorkers is low and our level of preparedness is high,” said New York Councilman Mark Levine, chair of the New York City Committee on Health.
Westchester County Health Commissioner Dr. Sherlita Amler provided several steps for people concerned about this virus, and preventing the spread of illness in general.
•Get a flu shot. “This is a respiratory virus, similar to the flu. If you are protected from the flu, it will help us diagnose and treat you appropriately. It will also help avoid unnecessary testing.
•Wash your hands, and teach children how to wash theirs. “Use soap and scrub your hands for thirty seconds. The friction gets bacteria off of your hands. Hand sanitizers are better than nothing but not as effective as soap and water.”
•If you think you have been infected with this Coronavirus, call ahead before arriving at the doctor’s office or hospital. This will allow the staff to take appropriate precautions.
•Stay home if you are sick.
Dr. Edward Halperin, chancellor and chief executive officer at New York Medical College, offered a broader perspective.
“Infectious disease brings out the best in people and the worst in people. Be calm. Be thoughtful. Rely on what is known,” he said.