06 allie smith rQ5Ysu8zo5s unsplashCoronavirus is a common virus that can infect your nose, sinuses or upper throat. It spreads much like cold viruses. Most coronaviruses are not dangerous, but some are. After a December 2019 outbreak in China, the World Health Organization identified a new type of coronavirus, which can be fatal. The outbreak of COVID-19 quickly moved from China around the world. It spreads the same way other coronaviruses do, through person-to-person contact.

The symptoms of coronavirus are similar to other upper respiratory infections, including runny nose, coughing, sore throat, and sometimes a fever. In most cases, you won’t know whether you have a coronavirus or a cold. You could get lab tests, including nose and throat cultures and blood work, to find out whether a coronavirus caused the cold, but there’s no reason to. The test results wouldn’t change how you treat your symptoms, which typically go away in a few days. If coronavirus infection spreads to the lower respiratory tract, it can cause pneumonia, especially in older people, people with heart disease or people with weakened immune systems.

The Cumberland County Department of Public Health is working closely with the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services as well as regional and local partners to prepare for the possibility of COVID-19 infections in the state. There are no confirmed COVID-19 cases in North Carolina.

“We are prepared to quickly identify, monitor and respond to cases if they arise,” said Dr. Jennifer Green, Cumberland County health director. “We are in regular communication with Fort Bragg, Fayetteville Regional Airport, local healthcare providers, local schools and institutions of higher learning to monitor COVID-19 information and briefings,” she said.

Our health department’s senior leadership and epidemiology teams take part in weekly calls with North Carolina’s Department of Health & Human Services about status updates and guidance. Cumberland County is working with other health departments in the region and Fort Bragg to conduct exercises in the event of an outbreak. Health officials recommend that everyone take precautions to protect themselves and others from the spread of respiratory illnesses. They encourage individuals, families, institutions and agencies to take routine precautions:

Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.

Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.

Encourage employees and visitors to get annual flu shots. Use tissues when sneezing, coughing or blowing your nose and discard the tissues after one use.

Clean common surfaces such as doorknobs, light switches and keyboards.

Employees should not return to work until they have been fever-free for 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medicine, even if they feel better.

People experiencing symptoms such as a fever, cough or shortness of breath and have visited China or had close contact with someone who is suspected of having COVID-19 should seek immediate medical attention. Before you go to the doctor’s office or emergency room, call ahead and report your symptoms and recent travel history. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend everyone six or older get flu vaccines each season. The vaccine is available at the Health Department’s Immunization Clinic at 1235 Ramsey St. The North Carolina Division of Public Health has established a call line at 1-866-462-3821 to address general questions.

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