GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - "It's a pretty catchy bug. When you come in contact with it you get it. That's not like most viruses. It transmits very rapidly." That's how Prevea Health President/CEO Dr. Ashok Rai describes the coronavirus, or COVID-19.
Prevea Health CEO Dr. Ashok Rai discusses social distancing amid coronavirus pandemic. March 12, 2020. (WBAY)
Dr. Rai joined us on Action 2 News This Morning for an interactive event on WBAY's Facebook Live. He answered your questions about the virus.
There are seven active confirmed cases of the virus in Wisconsin. Two of those cases are in Fond du Lac County. CLICK HERE for more information.
The virus has been declared a global pandemic.
Dr. Rai says it is essential right now to practice "social distancing." That's staying home, avoiding large crowds, and canceling large events.
Rai says these actions are not drastic and not the result of a "hysteria." "Those are really smart things to do," he says.
"At the end of the day, we know this virus spreads extremely fast. And we know it's lethal," Dr. Rai said on Action 2 News This Morning.
The reason: the United States health care infrastructure is not designed for a pandemic.
"Canceling events is not mass hysteria. Mass hysteria is when a health system is completely overrun and 20 people need a ventilator and we have one ventilator left and we have to make a decision on which person is going to survive and which person isn't. That's the situation we're trying to prevent right now," says Dr. Rai.
The local health care systems are taking cues from how other countries have handled the pandemic.
"We are really trying to learn as much as we can from the other countries. Those that did things well, like South Korea, and those that may have had things delayed and had a health system overwhelmed, like what happened in Italy. And the only way we know to prevent this right now is social distancing," says Dr. Rai.
VISIT wbay.com/coronavirus for full coverage of the pandemic.
What should you do you if you have symptoms?
"If you have a fever and you have a cough and you have COVID-19 and you're healthy, don't come see us," says Dr. Rai. "We can't do anything for you. We're going to recommend things over the phone. Call us. Use our virtual platforms. Telemedicine."
He continues, "We'll triage you. If you have underlying health conditions and you do our triage, we will automatically get you in. But we want to get you in in a safe manner."
Rai says people who are sick should isolate, wash their hands regularly and avoid touching the face.
"We do not have the ability to test everybody right now. When we're able to do mass testing, the health systems will figure out a way with the public health department to organize that," says Dr. Rai. "We're working on that every day on where we're going to do the testing in town, how many testing spots we need."
Older people and those with underlying health conditions (heart disease, diabetes, lung disease) are considered at high risk, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. People with those conditions should take the proper precautions.
"You really need to be careful. Practicing good hand hygiene, good health habits. Social isolation is really important for them," says Dr. Rai. "If they have symptoms, especially if they've traveled or been in contact with somebody, they should be calling us."
Action 2 News viewers asked a lot of good questions about the virus. One of those: if you get it once, can you get it again?
"We don't know yet. When we say it is a novel virus, that means we've never seen it before. So we don't know those characteristics," says Dr. Rai. "All we know is what we're hearing from other countries, and other countries are just getting over their first wave. Some have done a really, really good job at social isolation. Some have done even a better job at mass testing. Those countries that have done mass testing will be able to test again."
What are treatment options?
"We're treating symptoms, not the virus. So if you have a fever, we're giving you Tylenol or Advil for pain relief. Those are for people who don't need other medications that they should be taking. In the hospital if you get really sick and you can't breathe, we're treating that symptom by putting you on a ventilator if you need it. But really right now there's no technical treatment. We're treating the consequences of the virus. Not the virus itself," says Dr. Rai.
"When is it time to come to the hospital? Call us. If you're immune-compromised in any way or you're having a hard time breathing or you're having any other serious symptoms let us know. We will get you in the hospital. We'll tell you where to go so we can isolate those patients right away."
COVID-19 is spread when an infected person coughs or sneezes.
"The virus is found in droplets from the throat and nose. When someone coughs or sneezes, other people near them can breathe in those droplets. The virus can also spread when someone touches an object with the virus on it. If that person touches their mouth, face, or eyes the virus can make them sick," says the Wisconsin Department of Health Services.
DHS recommends taking these steps to help stop the spread of the virus:
--Frequent and thorough handwashing with soap and water.
--Covering coughs and sneezes.
--Avoiding touching your face.
--Staying home when sick.
The virus originated in Wuhan, China. The spread started in December 2019.
"People who have traveled in the past 14 days to places where there is community spread of COVID-19 (international and domestic locations), are asked to self-quarantine themselves and monitor for symptoms for 14 days. If symptoms, like fever, cough, or difficulty breathing are present, they should contact their local health department and health care provider for possible testing. People should call ahead before arriving at a health care facility for testing," reads a statement from the Wisconsin Department of Health Services.