April 2, 2020 | Dr. William Spangler, AIG Travel’s Global Medical Director and a practicing ER physician, discussed the latest updates about COVID-19 testing, longevity of the virus and measures to take when symptoms arise.
The common Human Coronaviruses mainly present as mild to moderate upper respiratory tract illnesses similar to the common cold. Symptoms may include runny nose, cough, fever, sore throat, headache and may progress to pneumonia or bronchitis with shortness of breath and easy fatigability.
Those at high risk of developing complications include those with underlying chronic conditions, such as respiratory and cardiac diseases, immunocompromised individuals, as well as those in extreme age groups (e.g. infants or the elderly). In addition, pregnant women are also at higher risk if infected by COVID-19.
Diagnostic tests are normally performed only when a person is having more severe symptoms. This would include serum PCR assay, nasal swab, broncho-alveolar lavage, sputum and sometimes stool samples.
There is no specific treatment or vaccination for Coronaviruses and most mild cases are treated based on symptoms. Symptom relief may be achieved by taking pain and fever medication, using a room humidifier, drinking plenty of liquids and staying indoors as well as getting as much rest as possible.
If symptoms are more severe, please seek treatment from your healthcare provider.
On 10 January 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) published an interim guideline for all countries to prepare for this new virus outbreak. However standard recommendations need to be followed for prevention of the spread of infection. These include:
The above measures are effective against all infectious agents, including Influenza A and B (“the flu”), which sickens millions of individual worldwide and kills thousands each year.
On 11 February 2020, WHO published considerations for repatriation and quarantine of travelers and the Center for Disease Control (CDC) issued a travel health notice for travelers from China arriving in the U.S. These include taking the following steps to reduce exposure and limit transmission:
At present, no travel ban has been imposed by WHO. However, WHO advised that if any traveler has symptoms suggestive of acute respiratory illness during their travel period or after returning, they should seek medical attention and highlight their recent travel to the medical personnel. Several countries have imposed increased screening (and at least one outright ban) on travelers coming from the affected region in China. On 2 February 2020, the U.S. Department of State issued a Level 4 Travel Advisory, which advises against all travel to China.
WHO has advised all worldwide healthcare personnel and airport security personnel to be extra vigilant and enact enhancement of surveillance at airports for early detection and prevention of spread of the disease.
Please visit the WHO website for further information.