For South Peace News
Dr. Kathryn Koliaska is a medical officer of health in the Alberta Health Services Health Zone. In a phone interview on March 18, she spoke about COVID-19.
“The virus doesn’t pick and choose,” Dr. Koliaksa says.
The Alberta-wide recommendations apply to the North Zone, both rural and urban. This is a new virus so people don’t have immunity to it.
Alberta Health Services is asking people to make lifestyle changes with the goal of “flattening the curve”, meaning to slow down the spread of this very contagious virus, Dr. Kolaiska says.
Adhering to the precautions prevents illnesses and saves lives.
“We’re looking at reducing the transmission of the virus,” she says. “The more people mix and mingle,” the faster the virus spreads.
Children aren’t good about germ control, says Dr. Koliaska, so don’t mix groups of kids.
COVID-19 is spread by people coughing, which disperses the virus to other people who are close by or who touch surfaces the virus falls on. The amount of time the virus survives outside the body varies depending on the surface it is on.
Basic measures have stayed the same, but some specifics change from day-to-day. The best source of information is AHS.ca/covid, says Dr. Koliaska, which is updated daily, so it is good to continue to check this source regularly.
How do we ‘flatten the curve’?
Anyone who has travelled outside of Alberta, should stay at home for 14 days and monitor for symptoms. This is self isolation.
Anyone who is ill should self isolate.
Everyone else should wash their hands, cough into their elbow, and avoid touching their face and physical contact with people and often touched surfaces.
The basic rule of thumb is to stay over two adult arm lengths away from people other than your family. These basic measures are based on what people can control, says Dr. Koliaska. People have control over washing their own hands, where they go, and what they touch. They can’t control the cleaning routines of businesses. Most, if not all businesses, have increased cleaning measures and are changing their businesses to align with the new health regulations. Community centres, and other public buildings are closed. Meetings with 50 or more people are cancelled or postponed.
There are a range of symptoms, including fever, runny nose, cough, and trouble breathing. Some people have a mild case, others have all of the symptoms. The elderly and people with preconsisting medical conditions have a greater risk getting very sick. Some have died.
There’s no point in testing anyone without symptoms, says Dr. Koliaska.
A person tested today, could be exposed tomorrow. The pre-screening questions make sure AHS is testing the right people, and gathering the most pertinent information.
The hospitals are taking precautions. It is important for people to keep on top of their health. The general advice on the AHS website still applies. If a matter is urgent, go to emergency. If you have COVID-19 symptoms don’t go to the hospital.
People with symptoms of COVID-19, should go to the website. Fill out the self-assessment form. If it says they should be tested, they should call 811. They will be on hold for a while. 811 will give instructions on how to be tested.
The goal of testing is to “limit the movement of people who are ill”, says Dr. Koliaska. This can mean being tested at home, at a mobile test facility, or other forms of access to the test. It will adjust as the situation changes. It can take up to four days to receive test results, says ahs.ca/covid. This information is updated daily at the end business hours.
It is still very important to socialize, Dr. Koliaska says, so people need to get creative. Call people, use Skype or other electronic communication tools.
There are lists of suggests of activities to do with families at home and while maintaining social distancing and self isolation on ahs.ca/covid.