U.S. Surgeon General Jerome M. Adams is urging Americans to stop buying disposable surgical masks because they are not effective in preventing the spread of the coronavirus. And because of the growing demand for the masks, prices are rising and there is concern about a possible shortage of the masks for healthcare workers which would put them at risk. “Not having a mask does not necessarily put you at the risk of contracting the disease,” Adams wrote on Twitter. He explained that preventive measures like staying home when you are sick and washing your hands with soap and water can prevent the spread of disease. The demand for masks has caused a surge in prices at Amazon and eBay. He wrote in his twitter post “Seriously people—STOP BUYING MASKS!” As of February 28, more than 83,000 cases of coronavirus have been in confirmed in over 50 countries, of which 8,000 were classified as serious. The Louvre, one of the world’s premiere art museums, closed Sunday and Monday after employees expressed concern about the coronavirus. One hundred and thirty people have been affected by coronavirus and two have died. At least 2,800 deaths have been attributed to the disease, surpassing that of the 2003 SARS outbreak. More than 36,000 people have since recovered, according to the World Health Organization. Status of Coronavirus in Alabama Since mid-January, the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) has worked with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to learn, prepare and provide the most up-to-date information about the new coronavirus that causes COVID-19. Travelers, including college students, business travelers, tourists and airline employees, are returning to Alabama from countries where the disease is widespread. ADPH has monitored more than 100 people returning from China and there are no positive cases of COVID-19. As a clearer picture is emerging, ADPH advises the general public that the best way to avoid infection is to wash your hands frequently, avoid touching your face, cover coughs and sneezes, stay home when you are ill, and practice social distancing strategies such as staying 6 feet apart from other individuals. Flu shots are recommended for those who have not had one this season to allow for earlier identification and limit confusion as to whether COVID-19 or the flu. This will also hopefully free up resources for use if a COVID-19 outbreak occurs. In addition, ADPH is asking that all universities and colleges implement their plans to mitigate and control the spread of disease on their campuses. The CDC has recommended that institutions of higher education consider postponing or cancelling upcoming student foreign exchange programs and is asking current program participants to return to their home country.
The Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) recommends that all consumers consider refraining from the use of electronic cigarette and vape products (i.e., vape pens, liquids, refill pods and cartridges) until national and state investigations into vaping-related deaths and illnesses are complete. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is investigating a cluster of severe pulmonary disease among people who use e-cigarettes or vape products, with more than 800 cases of lung injury reported from 46 states and one U.S. territory. Two-thirds of cases are 18 – 34 years old, and 12 deaths have been confirmed so far in 10 states. As of September 25, there were 16 Alabama residents under investigation. Of the 16 reports, 2 cases have been ruled out; 2 have been identified as probable cases of lung disease associated with vaping. Alabama is currently not included in the national case numbers. Those who choose to continue the use of e-cigarettes and vape products should not buy these products off the street or from unregulated sources. Consumers should avoid modifying or adding any substances that are not intended by the manufacturer. Consumers with nicotine addiction who have used e-cigarettes as a method to quit smoking should not return to the use of conventional cigarettes. Patients have experienced symptoms that include cough, shortness of breath and fatigue, with symptoms growing worse over a period of days or weeks before admission to the hospital. Other symptoms may include fever, chest pain, nausea, abdominal pain and diarrhea. Most of the cases are among adolescents and young adults. ADPH has requested that health care providers report any cases of suspected serious respiratory illness they treat among patients who use electronic cigarettes or other vaping devices. State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris said, “The use of any tobacco product is unsafe. While this current outbreak is being investigated, the safest option is to refrain from using any e-cigarette or vape product. Furthermore, there is no situation in which these devices should be used by pregnant women or youths.” Alabama law now prohibits the sale or transfer of vaping products or electronic nicotine delivery devices to minors. Free help is available for Alabama residents who are ready to kick the tobacco habit. The Alabama Tobacco Quitline number is 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669) or residents may visit quitnowalabama.comfor help. The Quitline provides individualized coaching to help any type of smoker or tobacco user, including e-cigarettes and vape, to quit. In addition, the Quitline offers up to eight weeks of free nicotine patches to those medically eligible and enrolled in the program. Quitline coaching services are available seven days a week from 6 a.m. to midnight. For additional information on electronic cigarettes and their health effects, visit http://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/basic_information/e-cigarettes/index.htm. For more information on quitting tobacco, please visit ADPH Tobacco Prevention and Control at alabamapublichealth.gov/tobacco.