Posted on March 2, 2020


News about the spread of COVID-19, more widely known as the coronavirus, has become increasingly hard to ignore in the past couple of weeks.

Last week, Covington County Hospital leadership met to discuss how to prepare for a possible outbreak after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) alerted hospitals nationwide that the virus would most likely continue to spread.

“For most people this will probably just be a nasty cold,” said Kathe Bryant, director of quality and safety at Covington County Hospital. “However, for the elderly and those with underlying health conditions, this could prove dangerous.”

The coronavirus is a new respiratory virus that causes flu-like illness. While little is known about the virus, it is thought to be spread person-to-person by close contact and by coughing or sneezing. Other possible routes of transmission, such as touching surfaces contaminated by the virus, are also being studied.

“The best thing you can do is wash your hands thoroughly and often,” said Dr. Word Johnston. “Get a flu shot, keep surfaces clean, and have medication on hand to treat cold and flu-like symptoms. Most importantly: stay home if you are sick to prevent any illness from spreading.”

Like the flu, the coronavirus can cause illness that ranges from mild to severe, with symptoms of fever, coughing, fatigue and difficulty breathing. At this time, there is no vaccine to protect against the coronavirus and no medications approved to treat it. In Mississippi, testing to confirm a case of coronavirus must be sent to the Department of Health in Jackson.

“It’s important for the public to realize that this is no reason to panic. This is not a plague that is going to wipe us all out,” said Gregg Gibbes, CEO of Covington County Hospital. “It’s a flu-like illness.”

As of March 2, the United States had a little more than 80 confirmed cases of coronavirus and six confirmed deaths.

According to the Mississippi State Department of Health, the risk of infection to the Mississippi public continues to be low. To date, there are no cases in Mississippi and no suspects under investigation for potential infection.