Defense Health Agency Offers Guidance on Coronavirus

Defense Health Agency Offers Guidance on Coronavirus
A sign warns travelers at London's Heathrow Airport of the coronavirus outbreak. (Photo by Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP via Getty Images)

While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the U.S. has a low “immediate health risk” from the novel coronavirus outbreak, a Defense Health Agency (DHA) official offered some basic advice for those concerned about the illness.


Coronavirus, first detected in Wuhan, China, has spread to the U.S., with the CDC tracking five patients who tested positive domestically as of Jan. 27. The CDC provides an updated report on the virus’s spread in the U.S. here.  


However, as of Jan. 28, there have been no reports of person-to-person spread of the disease in the U.S. More than 100 people had died of the illness as of Jan. 28, with 4,500 people in 16 countries infected and travel restrictions in effect within and to China to counter further spread.


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Stateside, individuals showing symptoms common to the virus – coughing, fever, and shortness of breath – likely have a more common ailment such as influenza. A Jan. 24 news release on the coronavirus from the Defense Health Agency stressed healthy behaviors that would avoid the spread of any contagious illness, such as washing hands and staying home when sick.


“Don’t think you’re being super dedicated by showing up to work when ill,” said Lt. Cmdr. (Dr.) David Shih, USPHS, in the release. “Likewise, if you’re a duty supervisor, please don’t compel your workers to show up when they’re sick. In the short run, you might get a bit of a productivity boost. In the long run, that person could transmit a respiratory illness to co-workers, and pretty soon you lose way more productivity because your entire office is sick.”


As for the coronavirus, Shih recommended following CDC guidance. As of Jan. 29, this included avoiding all unnecessary travel to China. Those who have traveled to Wuhan within two weeks of developing flu-like symptoms should seek care immediately and avoid contact with others. There is no specific care for coronavirus patients at present, per the DHA release, with patients being prescribed the same treatments common to others suffering fevers, sore throats, and breathing problems.


The CDC maintains a Frequently Asked Questions page about the virus here.

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Kevin Lilley
Kevin Lilley

Lilley serves as MOAA's digital content manager. His duties include producing, editing, and managing content for a variety of platforms, with a concentration on The MOAA Newsletter and Follow him on X: @KRLilley