Whether you turn on the television, listen to the radio, pick up a newspaper or go online, COVID-19 is the headline. Questions about this relatively unknown coronavirus are dominating global communication as public health professionals worldwide are working diligently to protect patients, visitors, caregivers, staff and society as a whole.
Everyone shares some responsibility for the success of our combined efforts. While each of us can control only what is within our reach, the cumulative effect of our actions can have far-reaching and dramatic results.
Two crucial questions have overshadowed all others: Who is at risk and what can we do? Public health officials have been consistent in their answer to the first question: Older adults and those with underlying health conditions, such as lung disease, heart disease and diabetes, are at greater risk. Nonetheless, younger, seemingly healthy people can contract the virus, and thus far, for reasons unknown, children ages 0-9 thankfully seem to suffer only mild symptoms or be totally asymptomatic.
It is important to remember that the majority of individuals who do test positive for COVID-19 will only suffer mild to moderate cold or flu-like symptoms and will be able to recover from the comfort of their homes and self-treat with over-the-counter medications to reduce fever and manage other symptoms. For those with existing health issues, particularly individuals who are older, a more serious, severe illness could develop, requiring hospitalization. Broward Health and partnering health systems are prepared to care for these patients.
Regarding what you can do to avoid getting sick, the following precautions are worth repeating:
- If you have cold or flu-like symptoms, stay home.
- Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds numerous times a day. You may also use alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- Refrain from touching your face, especially your eyes, nose and mouth.
- Cough into your bended elbow or into a tissue.
- Avoid close contact with anyone who seems to exhibit cold or flu symptoms.
- Practice social distancing.
- Avoid unnecessary travel.
- Have at least a 30-day supply of prescription medications available.
Leading a healthy lifestyle is always a good idea. There is no time like the present to revisit your New Year’s resolutions about eating healthier, exercising more and controlling stress. By taking these steps, while also regularly taking prescribed medications, getting eight hours of sleep and eliminating smoking, you can boost your immune system, helping you prevent or reduce the effects of the virus.
Each of us is responsible for our own health and that of our community by following the above best practices. If you are suffering from cold or flu symptoms and want further guidance as to whether you should be tested for COVID-19, prior to going to the hospital you should contact your primary care physician or the Florida Department of Health COVID-19 Hotline at 866-779-6121. By calling your doctor or the hotline, you will have your questions answered and also prevent unnecessary exposure at local hospitals. However, if you are having difficulty breathing or need immediate medical attention, call 911 or proceed directly to the Emergency Department.
If your primary care physician wants you to be tested for COVID-19 and has written a prescription, you can call the Broward Health line at 954-320-5730 to schedule an appointment at Broward Health’s mobile testing site. Within minutes of arriving, you can be tested from your car. Test results will be relayed to you in a few days by your prescribing physician or a Broward Health caregiver.
Prevention is the best defense against COVID-19 and is the responsibility of each member of our community. Simple steps will yield significant results. Together, we will come through this healthcare challenge with renewed appreciation for protecting our health.