By Katarina Lindley, DO, FACOFP
Incoming Chair, ACOFP Federal & State Legislation Committee; President, Texas ACOFP

As we are all aware by now, we are dealing with global outbreak of respiratory illness caused by a new strain of coronavirus. The virus has been named “SARS-CoV-2” and it causes the disease named COVID-19. Most COVID-19 cases outside of China have been associated with travel to or from China but community spread is being detected in a growing number of countries. Countries with widespread disease are China, Iran, Italy, Japan and South Korea; but Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam, are also of concern.

While potential public health threat posed by COVID-19 is high globally, the individual risk is dependent on exposure. For Americans, the immediate health risk at this time is low. Under certain circumstances, health care workers who are exposed to the virus while caring for the patients are at increased risk and universal precaution measures are of vital importance.

To date there are 42 countries that are dealing with COVID-19, most recently Algeria, Austria, Brazil, Croatia and Switzerland. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued LEVEL 3 Travel Health Notices (avoid nonessential travel) to China and South Korea, LEVEL 2 (practice enhanced precautions) for Iran, Italy and Japan, LEVEL 1 (practice usual precautions) for Hong Kong. The CDC also recommends that all travelers reconsider cruise ship voyages in Asia.

The CDC is reporting confirmed COVID-19 cases in the United States based on two categories; cases detected through our domestic public health systems and cases among people repatriated from Wuhan and from the Diamond Princess cruise ship (Japan). Fifteen cases have been detected through the US public health system and two of those cases occurred through person-to-person spread. Forty-five cases have been detected among the 1,100+ people from Wuhan and Diamond Princess cruise ship. Almost all the people form Wuhan flights have finished their 14-day quarantine period. The passengers on the Diamond Princess are considered at high risk of infection because of the close setting where there is a significant risk of spread of COVID-19 and the CDC expects to see additional confirmed cases among those passengers.

We are still in the middle of flu season and universal precautions are essential. The CDC recommends getting the flu vaccine and taking antivirals if prescribed. If you are a health care professional, be on the lookout for people with recent travel from China, fever and respiratory symptoms. Please take care of yourself and follow recommended infection control procedures.

For people who have had close contact with someone with COVID-19 and who develop symptoms, encourage them to contact their physician and ask them about the symptoms and exposure to a COVID-19 patient.

Currently, testing is done with kits provided by the CDC and the FDA. The CDC can do approximately 400 tests a day. Commercial labs are working on developing their own tests that hopefully will be available soon.

The CDC is aggressively responding to the global outbreak of COVID-19 and preparing for the potential of community spread in US by preparing first responders, health care providers and health systems. They are also working closely with the states in preparing local readiness to implement community mitigation measures like home containment, including housing and transportation needs.

At this time there is no vaccine to protect against COVID-19 disease and no medications approved to treat it. For now, non-pharmaceutical interventions are essential and the most important response strategy that will simultaneously help contain the spread of disease and reduce the impact of it.

So, let’s get back to basics. Wash hands, cover while coughing and sneezing then throw away tissue in the trash, wash hands again, avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth, clean and disinfect door knobs and other surfaces and stay home when you are sick.

See the CDC website for the latest information on COVID-19.


  1. Thank you for the concise updated information regarding c o v i d – 19. I am reading this three days out, and already a lot has happened, including a new case and Cherokee County Georgia where I live.

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