EXPLAINER: COVID-19 in Mississippi: What to Do, What to Avoid | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

EXPLAINER: COVID-19 in Mississippi: What to Do, What to Avoid

The Mississippi Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control are releasing information about the Coronavirus pandemic—and tips for avoiding—as a Forrest County man becomes the first known case here. Graphic courtesy the CDC

The Mississippi Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control are releasing information about the Coronavirus pandemic—and tips for avoiding—as a Forrest County man becomes the first known case here. Graphic courtesy the CDC

The national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Mississippi State Department of Health are monitoring and releasing information on the outbreak of coronavirus, or COVID-19, a respiratory illness that is causing an international pandemic and on the rise in the United States.

Last night, the Mississippi Department of Health announced the first known case in Mississippi is a man in Forrest County.

Coronavirus causes flu-like illness ranging from mild to severe, with symptoms of fever, coughing, fatigue and difficulty breathing. Health-care professionals believe that COVID-19 is spread person-to-person by close contact within about 6 feet, as well as by coughing or sneezing. CDC is also investigating other possible routes of transmission, such as touching virus-contaminated surfaces.

Last week, the MSDH Public Health Laboratory in Jackson began testing samples from Mississippi physicians and health-care providers in cases where COVID-19 is a possibility. MSDH has tested 32 people for the virus as of March 11, 2020, and there has been one confirmed case of the virus in Hattiesburg. MSDH recommends that anyone with flu-like symptoms, especially the elderly or people in poor health, should see a health-care provider, who can assess individual cases that may need testing for COVID-19.

People at significant risk for serious illness from COVID-19 are adults age 65 or older and those with a chronic illness such as heart disease, diabetes or lung disease.

Suggested Ways to Prevent COVID-19

General prevention for COVID-19 is the same as for similar respiratory viruses like the flu. Measures include staying home if you are sick and avoiding close contact with anyone who is ill; covering your coughs and sneezes, preferably with a tissue; avoiding touching your eyes, nose and mouth; cleaning and disinfecting surfaces and objects that you touch often, such as tables, doorknobs, light switches, handles, desks, toilets, faucets, sinks and cell phones; and washing your hands frequently and thoroughly, especially after coughing or sneezing, blowing your nose or using the bathroom.

MSDH recommends washing your hands for at least 20 seconds—the time it takes to sing "Happy Birthday" twice—including cleaning under fingernails, between fingers and the back and front of the hand. If soap and water are not readily available, CDC recommends using a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.

Travel Warnings, True and False

The CDC has issued travel warnings recommending that potential travelers postpone or avoid trips to countries where COVID-19 is being actively transmitted. The U.S. Department of State has also issued a Level 4: Do Not Travel advisory to China. CDC and MSDH are also conducting health screenings upon entry into the U.S. nationally for travelers returning from affected parts of the world.

Last night in an address, President Donald Trump announced a travel ban into the United States from European countries other than the United Kingdom, causing chaos for travelers, including U.S. citizens traveling abroad, as well as members of the European Union, whom the White House did not alert in advance of the announcement. White House staff later corrected that seemingly total ban, editing Trump's statement to explain that the ban would only affect foreign nationals who have been in Europe's open-border Schengen Area.

MSDH is now operating a hotline for answers to questions about COVID-19 by phone. The Mississippi Coronavirus Hotline has updated hours from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Friday. To reach the hotline, call 877-978-6453.

To reach UMMC healthcare staff directly in lieu of your smartphone C-Spire application data, call 601-496-7200. Staff members will determine if your symptoms qualify and help you set up a testing appointment.

For more information, answers to common questions and advisories about COVID-19, visit the MSDH website or the CDC website.

The Jackson Free Press will update this post as new information emerges. Follow our coverage at jacksonfreepress.com/covid19.

Read more stories at jacksonfreepress.com/coronavirus.

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