It’s easy to become wrapped up in fear.
However, each day Sanford Health learns more about COVID-19, the impact it’s having on communities globally and locally, and how to respond to the virus.
Dr. Allison Suttle, chief medical officer at Sanford Health, shared that knowledge Sunday by answering live questions from Facebook users about the novel virus.
How COVID-19 started
Some members of the audience asked where the disease came from. COVID-19 originated in animals and gradually moved to humans. This happened in late November and early December, according to Dr. Suttle. When the virus came to humans, no one had previously been exposed.
Watch video: Facebook Live Q&A with Sanford Health
“When there’s a novel virus like that, and you’ve got a group of individuals that have no immunity to it, that virus has to work its course through that group of individuals, she said. “Looking at the data in China, Italy and Europe, the more we find out about it, the more we can use those facts to make rational and logical decisions.”
Social distancing defined
The virus has to run through the population for our immune systems to form a tolerance. This makes social distancing crucial.
A few audience members asked for examples.
Dr. Suttle explained common forms of social distancing include maintaining six feet of distance between you and another person, practicing good hand hygiene techniques, and avoiding crowds. Sunday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control updated its recommendations to cancel or postpone gatherings of 50 people or more for eight weeks.
Recommendations vary by the local situation, however. In South Dakota, North Dakota and Minnesota, states where Sanford Health is based, there is currently little to no community spread of the virus, Dr. Suttle said.
“Social distancing is not putting your life on hold. You can still go out and do things,” she said.
Knowing if you’re ‘high risk’
Others asked what to do if someone in their household is immune-compromised or has a chronic illness. A virus spreading through communities can be especially dangerous if you’re a “high risk” individual.
If you, or a loved one, falls into the high risk category and is diagnosed with the virus, Dr. Suttle said it’s important to have a plan in place.
Anyone who is sick should be isolated.
“What we would do is try not to use the same bathroom. There would be one designated bathroom to use,” she said. “Also, don’t use the same bedroom. That keeps the droplets, because this is spread by droplets, contained to a few rooms in the house.”
When to get tested
On lots of people’s minds was what to do if you get sick. Dr. Suttle said if you’re experiencing symptoms, call your doctor because a medical diagnosis is crucial.
“It just helps with that social distancing, and knowing where the virus is going,” she said. “It also gives us more information as we begin tracking this, since it is a new disease. We learn more as we test more people.”
The health system currently sends tests to state health departments for results. Dr. Suttle said Sanford Health hopes to make more tests available by partnering with a commercial tester and developing its own coronavirus test in the near future.
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