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Coronavirus response outlined by hospital

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“Preparation, prevention, and prudence” are the key words in dealing with the threat of coronavirus, or COVID-19, according to Dr. James Partin, chief medical officer for Hill Country Memorial in Fredericksburg.

“Everyone who has been hearing about the coronavirus has been wondering what they can do to protect their family and what the health care system is doing to help everyone stay safe,” Partin said. “Simply stated, this is a virus, and we know how to protect ourselves against viruses.”

He listed practical, common sense actions that individuals can take to minimize exposure to all viral diseases common in the population. They are:

-Never touch your mouth, nose, or eyes with unwashed hands;

-Wash hands thoroughly with soapy water for at least 20 seconds;

-Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer;

-When traveling, carry bleach wipes and wipe down all surfaces.

“Over 80% of the cases have been very mild,” said Partin. “Once you have contracted it, you are actively immune to this viral strain.”

In an abundance of caution, the hospital has implemented procedures to deal with suspected and actual cases of coronavirus.

The hospital has set up an isolation area for treatment. If someone exhibits the symptoms and has had exposure to the virus, they should come to the EMS entry to the Emergency Room and pick up the red phone outside the door.

This will alert a nurse to don the proper gear and escort the patient to an isolation room for diagnosis and treatment.

As protection for visitors, staff, and patients, anyone entering the ER will be assessed for symptoms and asked about their recent travel history.

To further protect our patients and our staff, we have implemented an access control plan that will restrict access to our facilities to a limited number of entrances.

We remain ready to serve potential and current patients.

Masks will be placed on any patient who meets certain screening criteria, as well as on any visitors accompanying them.

Visitors who have symptoms of illness may be asked not to enter the facility in an effort to prevent the spread of germs and ensure patient safety. They should go home and monitor their illness as they would a cold or flu.

Partin noted that the hospital participates on a weekly statewide conference call for updates on the virus from the Department of State Health Services.

Symptoms for the coronavirus are the same as for other viral conditions - fever, cough, shortness of breath and possibly some gastrointestinal discomfort. Recommended treatments are the same as for any viral illness, including rest, increased fluid intake and oxygen if indicated.

The duration is usually several days of mild illness.

According to preliminary data, this virus does not seem to adversely affect the young. Most caution is directed to older individuals who have other disease states.

If someone is suspected of having contracted the virus, Partin recommends isolation to prevent the spread of infection to others.

“Especially if you are returning from travel to China, South Korea, Japan, Iran, Italy, or any region where the virus has spread, we recommend you self-quarantine, meaning that you or any household members should not leave your house for any reason until you have been back for 14 days without symptoms,” he said.

As the situation continues to develop and more information becomes available, Hill Country Memorial will provide updates to the community.

Jayne Pope is the CEO for Hill Country Memorial Hospital whose comments are part of the hospital’s first community update on the coronavirus outbreak.