A senior health official at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended that elderly Americans, particularly those with underlying health conditions, should stock up on supplies and stay home.
The new guidelines were shared Monday amid growing fears of the coronavirus, with recommended plans in the wake of a new study for older Americans who are more susceptible to getting sick.
“As the trajectory of the outbreak continues, many people in the U.S. will at some point in time this year or next be exposed to this virus, and there’s a good chance many will become sick,” Dr. Nancy Messonnier, the director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases at the CDC, said in a media briefing on Monday.
“The reason to stock up now is to kind of stick close to home,” she added.
A new study from China showed that 15 to 20 percent of patients with the virus developed serious illness and patients 60 and older were at a higher risk. People 80 years old and older, and those with existing health conditions, faced the highest risks of becoming seriously ill.
“The highest risk is those who are older and with underlying health conditions,” Messonnier said, explaining that she advised her own parents, who are in their 80s, to stay close to home though they are not currently in an area that has seen an outbreak of the novel coronavirus.
“I think if you’re in one of those groups, separately or together, you need to be thinking towards what personal protections you want to take,” she said.
“I really think it’s important for the American public to understand the risk,” Messonnier added. “We use these broad categories of over 60 or over 65, but the data really says that as you get older the risk goes up.”
“I would recommend that people make their own decisions based on an understanding of that risk,” she said as she reiterated the latest guidance from the CDC.
“Our goal is to protect you,” Messonnier said.
“This will require you and your family to take action,” she added, noting that that action means “you have supplies on hand like routine medications for blood pressure and diabetes, and over-the-counter medicines and medical supplies to treat fever and other symptoms.”
Messonnier advised that elderly Americans and those more susceptible should have “enough household items and groceries so that you will be prepared to stay home for a period of time” and she offered direction for family members and neighbors.
“Everyone has a role to play in helping to protect our family members, friends, colleagues, and neighbors who are at most risk,” she said, adding that even if the recommendations prove to be unpopular or difficult, “at CDC, our number one priority is the health and safety of the American people.”
At the time of this writing, there are more than 600 cases of COVID-19 in the U.S. and at least 22 deaths, mostly in Washington state, according to Johns Hopkins University.
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