GREENVILLE, Pitt County — The Pitt County Public Health Director says his department is watching to coronavirus outbreak closely and Dr. John Silvernail is answering questions many have about the illness.
“This situation can be frightening because our experience with infections like this is limited,” Silvernail said.
It’s considered a novel Infection, which he describes as infections that are new to humankind. These infections often erupt suddenly and spread rapidly. Silvernail says these infections are also called emerging infections, and this one emerged in China.
Novel or emerging infections provide several challenges, he says, and some of those challenges include:
He says two important things that people can do is to remain calm and also take steps to stay healthy.
“When you panic, you lose control,” Silvernail said, “When you lose control you cannot help yourself or your family.”
While many health experts have mentioned frequent hand washing as a way to guard against the coronavirus, he says there are other important steps to take.
“If you smoke or vape stop. Smoking or vaping doesn’t make you a bad person, but it is bad for you. Furthermore, smoking and vaping irritate your respiratory system, potentially making it easier for infections to invade your body,” Silvernail explained.
The health director also says people in eastern North Carolina should postpone travel to areas where this infection is known to be.
He said, “This includes parts of the US and many places around the world.”
He does add that proper hygiene like handwashing, covering coughs and sneezes and avoiding other people when ill remain important.
Public health does have some tools to help reduce the spread of infections should the illness come to ENC and Silvernail says those known or suspected of having COVID-19 should be isolated from others.
He says anyone exposed to a known case or who have traveled to certain locations should be quarantined for 14 days after the exposure ends.
Another tool, Silvernail said, is social distancing.
“Social distancing means trying to increase the physical separation of people. In some instances, the closure of public spaces and cancellation of gatherings may be employed to help decrease the transmission of an infection. If this were to happen, the decision would be made jointly with other local leaders,” he explained.
Testing for COVID-19 is currently limited to people meeting certain established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and not by local healthcare providers; however, Silvernail says as the testing becomes more widely available, these testing guidelines may change.
“While COVID-19 has been garnering the media’s attention and rightfully so, influenza has been very busy in our community and across the nation,” he added, “This flu season, we have had in excess of 18,000 influenza related deaths in the United States alone.”
He says that is nearly six times the current number of deaths from COVID-19 worldwide.