by Emerald Staff

(Compiled from Seattle & King County Public Health and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control)

While nearly everyone coming down the SeaTac Airport concourse from a China flight over the weekend wore a surgical mask over their faces, with the same scene playing out at the waiting room at the ID/Chinatown International Community Health Services (ICHS), health officials assure us: don’t panic over contracting the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV).

As the novel coronavirus continues to grow in China and isolated cases are appearing in other countries, there are reports of a global surgical mask shortage. Harborview Medical Center CEO, Paul Hayes, reminds us that surgical masks have a useful life of 2-3 hours to protect us from spreading or receiving germs or viruses. After that, the moisture build-up renders the mask useless. No need to stockpile surgical masks.

At the same time, the federal government has now declared the novel coronavirus a Public Health Emergency. In the U.S., there are eleven (11) positive cases, 167 negative cases, and 82 more cases being reviewed.

So, what to do? According to Dr. Jeff Duchin, health officer for Seattle & King County Public Health, the risk of the novel coronavirus is low. Transmission of the virus is linked to having close person-to-person contact with respiratory droplets from an infected person who sneezes or coughs. Shaking hands or touching an object with the virus on it also transmits the virus. Here’s a summary of what should and should not be a novel coronavirus concern for the local public, according to SKC Public Health.

You should contact your healthcare provider IF:

You are sick with fever, coughing or have difficulty breathing, AND you have traveled from China in the 14 days before your illness started.

You are not considered at risk of novel coronavirus and do not need to seek medical evaluation, IF:

  1. You have not recently traveled from China.
  2. You have not been identified as in recent close contact with a person who has confirmed novel coronavirus, or had recent close contact with someone being evaluated for the virus.
  3. You are not ill, even if you have traveled to an areas where there is an outbreak of the virus.

What we can do about the novel coronavirus (and other contagious conditions from the common cold and other airborne illnesses):

  1. Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use alcohol-based hand sanitizer when hand washing is not available.
  2. Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands.
  3. Avoid contact with people who are sick.
  4. Stay home when you are sick and avoid close contacts with others.
  5. When you cough or sneeze, cover your mouth with a tissue; throw the tissue in the trash and wash your hands.
  6. Avoid all nonessential travel to China.

The situation is constantly changing; check with the following sources for the most recent updates.

Local novel coronavirus health updates:

Information available in Chinese and Spanish as well as English

National updates: Centers for Disease Control & Prevention: