Information about the 2019 novel coronavirus is now headline news. This new strain of viral respiratory illness was first identified in Wuhan, China, but has since spread to other areas of the world, including the United States. Scientists are working to better understand the virus and answer questions about its severity and duration and how easily it can be transmitted between people.
New form of a common virus
“Coronavirus is the name of a family of viruses that we’ve known about for a long time. In fact, a form of it causes about 30% of cases of the common cold. But this strain is new and there is still much to learn about it,” explained John Piatkowski, M.D., Medica’s Senior Medical Director.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) are monitoring the new virus outbreak closely. As of March 2, there have been tens of thousands of confirmed cases and more than 2,000 deaths worldwide from the new virus strain including an estimated 100 diagnosed cases and six deaths in the United States. In comparison, there have been an estimated 26 million diagnosed cases and 14,000 deaths from influenza in the United States in the current flu season.
The health and well-being of our members is a priority for us and we will continue to monitor the status of the coronavirus. As with any other viral illness, Medica will cover diagnostic testing and care that is supported by the member’s health plan benefits.
How to protect yourself
“The best defense against any type of viral illness is to avoid being exposed to it. The infectious disease experts who are tracking coronavirus recommend the same everyday precautions you already use to avoid catching a cold or the flu,” said Dr. Piatkowski.
Wash your hands thoroughly – and often – with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
Stay at home when you are sick.