The coronavirus has and will continue to get lots of attention in the weeks and months to come. There are two main reasons why this virus, known as COVID-19, is getting such attention. First, it can kill healthy adults in addition to the elderly, especially those with other health problems and weakened immune systems. It is interesting that this infection is either mild or nonexistent in children. There have been no pediatric deaths and very few kids even seem to get sick (Great news for parents!).
Second, COVID-19 is transmitted easily. The average infected person spreads the disease to 2-3 people. That is a significant rate of increase. Evidence is showing that it can be transmitted by people who are just mildly ill or not showing any symptoms. This may be why this virus will be difficult to contain.
This is why we should be cautious and informed through the right sources such as researchers and scientists who actually are monitoring this virus which is the CDC and World Health Organization (WHO). Listening to government officials or a non-medical resource may give you false information.
What we do know is that on average, seasonal flu strains kill about 0.1% of people who become infected. Early estimates of the coronavirus death rate from Wuhan, China have been around 2.0 percent. But the death rate may be even lower if, as many experts suspect, there are many mild or symptom-free cases that have not been detected or accounted for. So the true death rate could be below 1 percent, similar to that of a severe flu season according to Dr. Anthony S. Fauci and Dr. H. Clifford Lane, of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and Dr. Robert R. Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Even if the death rate is low, an infectious disease can take a toll if enormous numbers of people catch it. As of this week, there are about 87,000 coronavirus cases and 3000 deaths. The number of cases continues to expand outside of China.
So what can we do?
1. Wash your hands…alot! Best results are to wash for at least 20 seconds.
Alcohol based hand sanitizers are also good. Try not to touch your face which is where germs tend to migrate.
2. If you have a cough, and especially a fever, please stay home from school or work. Your teachers and employers will understand with how sensitive this situation has become.
3. Avoid traveling to the main areas where coronavirus is spreading quickly, including China, Italy, Iran and South Korea.
4. Consider getting a flu vaccine if you haven’t done so already. We may find out that it could give some residual immunity, but mainly because you don’t want to get a double “wammy” and end up in the hospital. Flu season is still upon us.
What NOT to do?
1. Panic!! No need to be ordering a years worth of your prescription medications, oxygen, water and hoarding canned goods and other supplies, building bunkers and preparing to go off grid…don’t do that.
2. Masks are helpful if you have the coronavirus or the flu to avoid the spread of disease. But stocking up on masks and gloves causes a shortage for the people who really NEED it, like medical professionals and hospital staff.
As you can see, the list of what to do is the same list that is recommended for cold and flu season minus the travel restrictions. Although I have always recommended to avoid being around people that are sick.
This article may give you an overview of coronaviruses and why this one is unique.