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Doctors discuss what you should know about the coronavirus

SAN ANTONIO – In response to growing concerns over the novel coronavirus in San Antonio, the Metropolitan Health District and the Alamo Asian American Chamber of Commerce hosted an educational panel about the virus.

Dr. Jason Bowling, director of hospital epidemiology at University Hospital and UT Health; Dr. Anita K. Kurian, assistant director at Metro Health; and Dr. Hoan Pho of Methodist Hospital were among the panelists.

The point of the “Coronavirus: What you should know” discussion was to educate the public amid rumors and misinformation.

Pho said while research still needs to be done, there are three things people can do to protect themselves.

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He advised to avoid sick people and mass gatherings, don’t touch your face and maintain your health with nutrition and exercise.

He said your face includes mucus membranes of your nose, mouth and eyes, and if the virus gets into them that’s how it gets into the respiratory system.

Vitamins and minerals are also important to improve immunity, he said.

“You can’t always avoid getting exposed,” he said. “I think the most important thing there is probably not introducing the virus into your body, which is not touching your face or the thin mucous membranes. That’s where the virus penetrates.”

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The discussion followed days of alarm from some residents after an evacuee who tested positive for coronavirus visited North Star Mall on Saturday.

The mall closed Monday for deep cleaning but has since reopened.

More than 120 evacuees from the Diamond Princess cruise ship were released from quarantine at JBSA-Lackland on Tuesday. The evacuees are American citizens who have been symptom-free for 14 days.

Metro Health has opened a hotline for Bexar County residents with questions about the novel coronavirus.

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Residents can call (210) 207-5779 during weekdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. The COVID-19 hotline is available in English and Spanish.

Residents can also find information from Metro Health online.

Here’s what you need to know to help keep yourself and others safe:

Symptoms of the coronavirus

With COVID-19, there are several symptoms that could indicate a person who has been exposed is coming down with the virus. They generally appear between two and 14 days after exposure, the CDC states.

According to the CDC, these symptoms include:

  • Mild to severe respiratory illness
  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath

The symptoms of coronavirus are similar to the flu. Most strains of coronavirus — like a common cold or flu — are not fatal, but this is the first time officials have seen this particular strain of it, named COVID-19.

How to prevent the spread of germs

  • Cover your coughs and sneezes and keep your hands clean

When it comes to prevention, treat COVID-19 like the flu, which is still currently a bigger risk in the United States than COVID-19, the Surgeon General previously said.

One of the primary ways the virus spreads is through droplets and surfaces like counters or tables. Use disinfecting wipes to clean commonly touched surfaces and kill germs.

As you would with any other illness, make sure you wash your hands consistently and avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands, CDC officials say.

  • Health officials recommend only wearing a face mask if you’re sick

Stockpiling face masks keep them out of the hands of healthcare workers, who need them most.

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