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Kentuckians urged to prevent coronavirus by same protocols as influenza

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The Kentucky Medical Association (KMA), the Kentucky Foundation for Medical Care (KFMC) and the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky are urging Kentuckians to practice known flu prevention protocols in light of Tuesday’s Centers for Disease Control (CDC) warning that the novel coronavirus is expected to spread within communities in the United States.

“While novel coronavirus presents a low risk currently to the majority of populations within the U.S., we do know that the virus can spread rapidly and is transmitted primarily through tiny air droplets and close contact with an infected person,” said KMA President and Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky Board Chair Brent Wright, M.D. “However, the good news is we already know how to prevent the spread of such a virus, since protocols for it are nearly identical to those for the flu, which remains a much greater threat to public health currently.”

KMA, the KFMC and the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky partnered for the 2018-2019 public health campaign, Focus on Flu, which seeks to mitigate the spread of influenza across the state by encouraging Kentuckians to get their flu vaccines, consult their physicians if they think they have the flu, and help prevent the spread of the illness by implementing a number of known prevention techniques.

While the flu vaccine will not prevent novel coronavirus, having the flu weakens your immune system, leaving you more susceptible to contracting other illnesses like coronavirus. Seasonal flu is continuing to circulate across Kentucky, with more than 1,800 cases confirmed just last week and a total of 66 deaths so far, so it isn’t too late to get a flu shot, even if you’ve already had a bout of flu this season.

Symptoms of coronavirus also closely resemble influenza, so patients are encouraged to consult with their doctor if they are experiencing fever, cough and shortness of breath.

Health officials have also emphasized that proper hand washing is the most effective way to prevent the spread of both novel coronavirus and influenza.

“Washing your hands with warm soap and water, for at least 20 seconds, as frequently as possible, helps prevent the spread of germs more than anything else,” said Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky President and CEO Ben Chandler. “Covering your mouth when you sneeze or cough and staying away from others when you are sick are also common-sense practices we should be utilizing during all seasons, but particularly to prevent respiratory illnesses like the flu and coronavirus.”

“While coronavirus is scary, we can be confident that we are doing everything we can to prevent it by treating the threat of the virus the same manner we do the flu,” said Dr. Wright.