COVID-19: What West Enders need to know about the public health emergency

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MANITOULIN – With the constant discussions about the novel coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic around the world, it is important to establish basic facts about the disease so that everyone can understand exactly what threat it poses and how to keep communities safe.

The official name of the virus is SARS-CoV-2, which causes the disease known as COVID-19. That name implies a connection to the SARS outbreak that hit Toronto hard in 2003, and COVID-19 is indeed a related disease. However, the symptoms and severity are quite different.

Is COVID-19 on Manitoulin yet?

Although it is impossible to say for certain whether the virus exists here yet, nobody on the Island, as of press time Wednesday, has tested positive for the virus. Testing is ongoing for people who have a higher chance of picking up the bug. 

There are two confirmed cases in Sudbury but both of those people are close contacts with each other and the public health agency does not believe it is circulating throughout the community as of press time. There was also one case within the boundaries of Algoma District Health Unit on Tuesday evening, March 17. 

COVID-19 symptoms

Signs of COVID-19 infection include a dry cough, fever and shortness of breath. These can range from mild to severe depending on each case.

Who is most at risk?

This virus is extremely wide-spread and has infected hundreds of thousands of people around the globe. For about 80 percent of patients, however, the symptoms are no more life-threatening or uncomfortable than a bad cold, and they will recover on their own in due time. People with compromised immune systems are most at risk for developing severe cases that require medical treatment.

What can we do about it?

If everybody on Manitoulin, Ontario and Canada comes together as one united group and follows the same medical advice to limit the spread, there is a significant chance that we can constrain the spread of the virus to manageable levels. 

This means everyone, even if they do not have symptoms or have not travelled, should keep as much distance between themselves and others as possible. 

Even though younger people are not likely to get cases as severe as older people or those with weak immune systems, they can still transmit it to people who are at greater risk.

Wherever possible, employees should attempt to work from home and only go out in public if necessary. This is all part of ‘flattening the curve.’

What is ‘flattening the curve?’

Briefly, flattening the curve refers to slowing down the spread of the virus so that it stays within manageable levels that the health care system is able to manage. When viruses spread unchecked, the number of infected people grows at a steep, exponential rate until those people are no longer living with the condition, at which point it drops off steeply.

By maintaining social distancing, shutting down gatherings, staying within homes unless it’s necessary to leave and practicing good hygiene, we can all help to slow down the spread of the virus and make sure the health care system is not overwhelmed. See the story on Page 5 of this week’s Recorder for more information about ‘flattening the curve.’

How can we manage the spread?

In addition to limiting social gatherings and keeping to oneself as best as possible for the foreseeable future, it is important to note how the virus spreads. Although it can spread through the air with in-person contact, COVID-19 can also live on surfaces for at least three days. It is important to clean high-contact areas like toilets, sinks, doors, light switches and tables regularly, at least twice per day. Do not share potentially contaminated items like drinks, cutlery and linens like bedsheets or washcloths.

What should I do if 

I have symptoms?

Do not go to the hospital or a health clinic as your first reaction.

You should self-isolate immediately and get in contact with Public Health Sudbury and Districts, the public health agency that oversees Manitoulin Island. It can be reached by phone at 705-522-9200 and callers should tell the agency their symptoms and their travel history.

The Ontario Ministry of Health has an online self-assessment tool which can provide some initial guidance of whether to call a health professional or not.

What if I think I need 

medical care?

If you’re ill and your symptoms match that of COVID-19, call your health provider and tell them you have a respiratory illness. If you are having trouble breathing and need immediate assistance, call 911 and tell the operator your travel history and symptoms. 

Do not use public transportation (which is less of a concern on Manitoulin Island) and if a healthy person has to drive a sick person to an appointment, it is best to wear masks over your mouth and nose to reduce the risk of infection.

I’m sick, now what?

You should immediately go into self-quarantine. Drink plenty of fluids and get as much rest as possible. The best treatment for this condition is time. If your condition gets worse, contact a health professional.

How can I keep 

myself healthy?

The best way to defend against contracting COVID-19 is by maintaining distance from other people, make sure everyone coughs into a tissue or their elbow if a tissue is not available, avoid gathering with other people, never touching the face and handwashing for at least 20 seconds, being sure to scrub and lather all hand surfaces
thoroughly.

What should 

someone do if they come to Manitoulin from a place that is known to have COVID-19?

Everyone should proactively self-isolate for 14 days and monitor their health. In that time, they should continue to follow best practices such as frequent, thorough handwashing and always coughing into a sleeve or tissue.

What about Fido?

Don’t worry, evidence so far has suggested that pets cannot get infected with COVID-19, nor can they pass it between humans. However, this is not yet definitive information and an ounce of caution is always worthwhile.

How can I stay up to date with the 

developments on this virus?

It’s more important than ever in these times of uncertainty to get information from reliable sources. The Manitoulin West Recorder and The Manitoulin Expositor have you covered and are working steadily to keep abreast of the information that matters to Islanders as it happens.

Visit our website, Manitoulin.ca, and click on the COVID-19 tab at the top for an up-to-date timeline of how the pandemic has impacted life on Manitoulin Island.