Local health expert answers your questions

ST. JOSEPH COUNTY, IND. - As coronavirus case counts rise, it seems like more questions are too.

Several of our viewers have been posting questions for health experts on our ABC57 news social media pages. So, we went to get answers from the Director of Infection Prevention and Epidemiology at Bronson Health Care, Dr. Richard Van Enk.

We asked him many of your questions, starting with what makes this virus different from other sicknesses like the flu.

“This virus seems to cause more severe disease than most of the other viruses that we’ve seen in the last 20-30 years. It seems to be quite contagious. It seems to be more contagious than the flu. Not a huge amount more,” Van Enk said.

Right now there are no drugs or vaccines for COVID-19, unlike the flu, where there are several.

“We are all completely unprotected,” he said.

Van Enk said that’s why the disease is put on a different level and why we’re seeing such a large government response worldwide.

Other viewers asked us about the spread of the virus.

“You have to have some sort of contact with another person or with something that another person has touched,” he said.

That’s why stay-at-home and social distancing orders are coming out in several U.S. states, including Indiana and Michigan. 6 feet apart at all times.

“We don’t normally think of ourselves of having a zone of distance around us but if you do that is protected,” Van Enk said.

He said the coronavirus enters your body through the eyes, mouth and nose. If you touch a surface with your hands, it’s important to not touch your face and hand washing is essential.

One viewer asked us if someone coughs or sneezes in one area if you can contract the virus if you go to that same place hours later.

“It’s called the droplet spread infection and droplets drop, they basically go a maximum of 6 feet from you and they drop directly to the ground after you cough or sneeze so there’s nothing remaining in the air,” he said.

And when it comes to surfaces?

“It depends on what surface it is and also depends on the environment. As soon as the virus leaves the body, it starts to die,” he said. “After an hour, half of the viruses are dead, after two ¾ are dead, after 3 to 4 hours most of them are dead and it’s unlikely that it will cause infections.”

Van Enk said that when you see viruses stay on a surface of a day or longer, that doesn’t mean you can contract the virus.

“You might be able to find them there but they won’t cause an infection,” he said.

If you have any other questions, feel free to email us or message us on Facebook.

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