Understanding current COVID-19 information, testing and prevention | Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium

Understanding current COVID-19 information, testing and prevention

May 14, 2020

Understanding the COVID-19 virus can be confusing and difficult as we continually learn about this virus and how it can be passed along within our communities.

This means that the information we have about the virus and how it can be detected with testing and prevention measures can change over time as we learn more.

Here is what we know about the risks from COVID-19:

  • Like the flu virus, COVID-19 can affect some people more severely than others.
  • COVID-19 can spread very easily among people, especially if they are sick.
  • Some people may carry the virus and spread it without knowing they even have it.
  • Older people, or those with weakened immune systems, may have a hard time fighting off the virus, causing them to become very ill if they become sick with COVID-19.

How do you protect yourself and others from getting sick?

Together we can slow the spread of COVID-19 by:

  1. Wash your hands for 20 seconds, cover any cough or sneeze and refrain from touching your face.
  2. When you have to leave home for an essential errand, keep a minimum of six feet away from others at all times and keep your mouth and nose covered.
  3. Stay hydrated, eat well, and rest.
  4. Stay away from others if you are sick.

While ANTHC and our staff at the Alaska Native Medical Center are working on all fronts to prepare for and protect communities across the state from COVID-19, there is a lot we can individually do to prevent spreading this virus. The most important thing to remember is that we can each work to protect our communities as our ancestors did for generations.

COVID-19 testing helps track community impact

Alaska has been fortunate so far compared to other areas of the world. As we watched this virus unfold, staff at ANTHC worked to provide testing to our patients. Knowing who has contracted the virus and from where helps us address where COVID-19 may be impacting our communities the most.

A very important part of keeping the number of people infected down is getting tested right away if you feel sick at all. Doctors used to think that the only symptoms of COVID-19 were a fever or a bad cough. Now, doctors know that there are much earlier signs to watch for, such as loss of appetite or sense of smell, and new diarrhea. As soon as you feel any of these things, we are strongly encouraging everyone, especially our Elders, to contact their provider and get a test.

COVID-19 test: Testing is available for patients who are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 or have no symptoms at all. This testing is conducted with a swab of inside your nose and helps medical providers detect COVID-19 infections early.

Antibody testing: The other testing available is called an “antibody test”, which is conducted through a blood draw. Developing an antibody is one of the ways our immune system responds to infections. If a person is exposed to any virus, the body develops these antibodies to fight it off. This testing shows providers if a person has developed antibodies to the COVID-19 virus. If the antibodies to fight COVID-19 are in your blood, this may help us understand if you may be immune to the disease in the future. Antibody tests might also be used to evaluate potential vaccines, or to determine what percentage of a population has been exposed and have recovered. The data derived from such blood tests may be useful in planning to re-open our communities.

Maintain good prevention practices to keep yourself healthy

Our governor and other community leaders took measures early on to protect our people from getting the virus. We learned from other areas that physically distancing ourselves from others was a very important part of keeping COVID-19 from spreading too fast for our health care system to be able to keep up with. We also learned that washing our hands more often and sanitizing items that people touch often, such as door handles and counter tops, also keeps us healthy.

Our state is beginning to reopen in many ways, allowing more social contact with others. While this opportunity is necessary, staying physically distant, having good hand washing and staying home if we are sick, are important ways to keep us all healthy. In doing so, we can help make sure that our communities continue to grow and thrive.

For the most updated information from cleaning your home to getting tested, please visit us at https://www.anthc.org/covid19/.

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