Northwell Health’s Long Island Jewish Forest Hills physician offers tips on how to combat the coronavirus

Courtesy of LIJ Forest Hills Hospital

Fear of contracting the coronavirus has prompted New Yorkers to take preventative measures to better prepare and protect themselves, as the number of cases statewide has risen to more than 100.

In Queens, Dr. Miriam Smith, chief of infectious disease at Northwell Health’s Long Island Jewish Forest Hills, is reassuring the public to not panic, citing a low risk for the general population. 

“A vast majority of patients who have been infected have had mild symptoms and have recovered. To date, Northwell has not had any cases identified,” Smith said. “We are absolutely expecting cases as we are the main transportation hub and prepared to deal with cases if patients need to be hospitalized. The information being transmitted through the CDC and the NYC Department of Health are good and updated, and we will deal with cases as they come to us.” 

In the meantime, Smith recommends that with this particular case of coronavirus, handwashing is absolutely paramount — it’s the single most effective infection control measure for any transmissible disease, she said. 

“The CDC and the local Department of Health as well as medical systems have put into place infection protocols, in terms of not only handwashing, but limiting contact in large gathering areas, and taking careful information about anyone who was in the hot zone that have been reported to date,” Smith said. “In addition to China, this includes South Korea, Japan, Iran and Northern Italy — that’s information we seek in detail.” 

As the prices for surgical face masks skyrocket, resulting in a reported shortage worldwide, Smith reiterates that the masks are not useful. 

“The protection is not ideal. I know people have been hoarding these masks from everywhere they can find them, and they’re not particularly useful and I think it’s being done because people are afraid,” Smith said. “The general surgeon masks are not recommended.” 

The masks that are helpful, Smith said, are the N95 masks that are fitted with low porosity and are used by medical personnel in potential exposure to a patient. 

According to Smith, there is a vaccine in development for the coronavirus, but it will take months to be available for a trial. 

With symptoms that can range from anything as simple such as a flu-like illness to pneumonia and respiratory failure, Smith is recommending everyone follow the CDC and NYC Department of Health protocols to protect themselves from the coronavirus.

The NYC Department of Health issued these simple steps to help stop the spread of this and other respiratory viruses: 

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.