Be cautious, don’t panic when it comes to coronavirus, state health experts say

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OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – The first coronavirus case in Oklahoma was confirmed last week, but state health experts say you should not panic.

“Most of those infected to date have shown only mild symptoms,” said Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation President Stephen Prescott, M.D. “In many cases, it appears to be virtually indistinguishable from the seasonal flu.”

According to the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation, the virus causes an upper respiratory infection, resulting in symptoms like a dry cough, shortness of breath, fatigue, and fever. Patients may also exhibit gastrointestinal distress or diarrhea.

Currently, there is no known effective treatment for the virus.

“So, that means treating symptoms by resting, staying hydrated and using over-the-counter medications and pain relievers as needed,” said Prescott, a physician and medical researcher.

In mild cases, treatment won’t require hospitalization or, for some, even a trip to the doctor.

“Unless they’re tested, some people will get infected and won’t even realize it,” Prescott said. “They’ll just come down with what seems like a mild case of the flu, recover, and go on with their lives.”

Health experts say the virus can cause pneumonia and acute respiratory distress.

“Those most at risk for severe symptoms appear to be the elderly and people already facing other health challenges,” said Judith James, M.D., Ph.D., an immunologist and OMRF’s Vice President of Clinical Affairs. “Those with underlying heart or lung disease also seem prone.”

These cases often require hospitalization, with oxygen therapy to help with breathing.

“In the most serious cases, doctors will place patients on ventilators. Experimental therapies as part of clinical trials are also becoming available in the U.S.,” James said.

If you experience symptoms, you should stay home and avoid contact with other people. If you have reason to believe those symptoms are from being exposed to someone else carrying the virus, seek medical care.

“Be sure to call your healthcare provider before you go,” said James. “That will help them prepare for your visit and prevent others from being infected.”

If you go to the doctor’s office, be sure to cover your mouth. You may be given a face mask or be isolated in a special room in hopes of droplets in saliva or mucus do not infect others.

While experts still study the virus, it appears to spread relatively easily and survive for some time on surfaces. But disinfectant or bleach seems to destroy it.

“The best things we can do are very common-sensical,” said James. “Wash our hands with soap and water often, and keep surfaces clean and disinfected.”

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