The Novel Coronavirus or COVID-19 is highly contagious, and though some who carry the virus experience few to no symptoms, it poses a substantial threat to the lives of older individuals and those with compromised immune systems. In the United States, that segment of the population includes a high concentration of military veterans.
According to Gregory A. Cade, owner and founder of the law firm, Environmental Litigation Group, P.C., “veterans who served in the US military are 4% more likely to develop serious lung diseases as a result of prolonged exposure to great amounts of toxic agents that include asbestos, agent orange, PFAS containing aqueous fire fighting foams(AFFF), and many more chemicals.”
US military Veterans suffer from respiratory disorders like pulmonary fibrosis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) at a higher rate than civilians, likely as a result of service-related exposure to toxic materials. Additionally, more than half of the country’s 18 million veterans are 65 or older. This puts them at greater risk of death from COVID-19 as the pandemic continues to worsen.
Even with stay-at-home orders in place and heightened safety precautions being taken, the disease is already being passed around VA hospitals and veterans communities. There is evidence of the disease being transmitted outside of human contact or respiration, by simply touching the same surface as someone who carries the Novel Coronavirus. Death tolls are still rising, and nation-wide quarantine orders have prompted record unemployment.
Still, veterans are not without hope.
The CDC maintains that COVID-19 symptoms like fever, cough, and shortness of breath typically appear between 2-14 days after being exposed to the virus. Veterans who experience any of these symptoms should contact the closest VA facility or healthcare provider to get tested for the disease.
Confirmed cases will be placed under a quarantine for at least 14 days. Short-term isolation is one of the most powerful weapons people have in combatting the spread of COVID-19. As well, the VA adds, are:
- Getting a flu shot
- Good hygiene
- Social distancing
The VA recommends veterans use VA Video Connect to communicate with VA practitioners before visiting a VA facility in person. They can also send a doctor a secure message through My HealtheVet.
“Veterans need to practice good personal hygiene, which includes proper handwashing, covering nose and mouth with a tissue while sneezing or coughing and washing hands soon after, avoiding touching nose, mouth, and eyes with unclean hands,” Cade writes. “Frequent cleaning and disinfection of surfaces such as door handles and countertops can give additional protection. Social distancing measures such as avoiding close contact with sick people and staying at home helps to stay away from the virus.”
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Matthew Russell is a West Michigan native and with a background in journalism, data analysis, cartography and design thinking. He likes to learn new things and solve old problems whenever possible, and enjoys bicycling, going to the dog park, spending time with his daughter, and coffee.