ANCHORAGE (KTUU) – As the novel coronavirus, COVID-19 continues to spread, state health officials are encouraging Alaskans not to panic, but to have a plan for what to do if the virus makes its way to Alaska.
“There is a lot Alaskans can do right now to be prepared,” said State of Alaska Chief Medical Officer Dr. Anne Zink. “And a lot of that is thinking about, say you had to telecommute, say that you couldn’t do your job, or say that your kid couldn’t go to school, what would that look like and what other options do you have?”
Zink said part of the preparation should be to have between two weeks and a month of food on hand, so that in the event you need to stay home, you and your family are well-prepared.
“There could be major disruptions in the food chain, schools might be closed, or people might be asked to stay home from work, she said.”
She also continued to advise the basic hygiene and health practices recommended by the Centers for Disease Control.
“That includes hand washing, social distancing, staying home from work, and it’s still ok to get your flu shot,” she said. “The flu shot is a pretty good match this year, and we still have plenty of vaccines available.”
The flu has very similar symptoms to COVID-19, so preventing yourself from getting the flu can free up medical resources that would be spent testing for the coronavirus.
All of these preparations will help to slow down the spread of the virus, Zink said, giving medical professionals more time to fight it.
“By slowing the virus down as much as we possibly can, it buys us a lot of time to make sure that our health care systems are together,” she said. “It buys us time to see if antiviral medications work, it buys us time to see if we can develop a vaccine.”
The virus is currently estimated to have a 2% mortality rate, meaning 2 out of every 100 people that contract the virus are expected to die from it, but Zink cautioned that number may be inaccurate.
“Usually in an epidemic, the numbers look worse than they end up being in the long run,” she said.
For reference, SARS had roughly 9% mortality, MERS had 35%, and Ebola 65%. Meanwhile, the mortality rate of influenza is around 0.1%.
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