Coronavirus (COVID-19) Update
by Lauren Crosby, MD, FAAP
As many people know, parts of the world are experiencing an outbreak of a new strain of a well-known family of viruses called Coronaviruses. This family of viruses is not new and in general they cause respiratory illnesses such as the common cold. What is new is this particular strain of Coronaviruses called COVID-19 that was first detected in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China and has since spread to other countries. (You may also see it referred to as nCoV which is an abbreviation for “novel coronavirus”.) Though it also causes upper respiratory symptoms like a common cold, it can be fatal in certain circumstances. But remember, so can the flu.
COVID-19 does appear to spread easily in a community and the reasons behind this are likely several-fold: It is a new (novel) strain of this virus so people do not have any natural immunity to it, people may be contagious before they have any symptoms, people may have a very mild case and just think they have a cold, and people may carry it and not get ill yet still pass it to others. Thus, it is difficult to contain the virus. For the general American public, who are unlikely to be exposed to this virus at this time, the immediate health risk from COVID-19 is considered low.
People at highest risk for severe illness are the elderly and those with chronic medical conditions such as diabetes, chronic lung disease, cancer. Children are not at significant risk.
Current mortality statistics based on recent data:
- average overall mortality rate 2.3%
- history of high blood pressure, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, chronic lung disease, or cancer is 5-10%
- no history of chronic disease <1%
- overall men 2.8%
- overall women 1.7%
- over 80 years old 15%
- 70-79 years old 8%
- 60-69 years old 3.6%
- 50-59 years old 1.3%
- 40-49 years old 0.4%
- 30-39 years old 0.2%
- 20-29 years old 0.2%
- 10-19 years of age 0.2%
- 0-9 years of age ~0%
How is COVID-19 spread?
The virus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person.
- Between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet).
- Through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses or eyes of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs.
It may also spread by contact with infected surfaces or objects.
- It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.
What can you do to stay well?
There is currently no vaccine to prevent coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to this virus. Practice everyday preventive actions to help prevent the spread of respiratory diseases including:
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
- Stay home when you are sick.
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash or at least cough /sneeze into your elbow.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
- Follow CDC’s recommendations for using a facemask.
- CDC does not recommend that people who are well wear a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory diseases, including COVID-19.
- Facemasks should be used by people who show symptoms of COVID-19 to help prevent the spread of the disease to others.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
- If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty.
GET A FLU SHOT!! THERE IS NO VACCINE FOR COVID-19 BUT THERE IS ONE FOR THE FLU. LAST YEAR IN THE UNITED STATES THE FLU CAUSED OVER 40 MILLION ILLNESSES, OVER 600,000 HOSPITALIZATIONS AND OVER 60,000 DEATHS.
For information about handwashing, see CDC’s Handwashing website.
The CDC is advising against non-essential travel to certain countries. Please look at their website before traveling or planning any travel.
Is testing available?
There is no commercially available testing yet.
Suspected cases are currently being referred to the department of public health for testing. The CDC is only advising testing for patients with cold symptoms who have traveled to China or other areas of outbreak or have a known exposure to a COVID-19 patient.
Is there any treatment?
For most of us COVID-19 will look like a common cold. Currently there are no known specific treatments for COVID-19 other than supportive care such as rest, fluids, fever treatment. COVID-19 mortality is generally due to acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) and/or pneumonia
FOR MORE INFORMATION, VISIT THE CDC CORONAVIRUS WEBSITE:
Please DO NOT PANIC as most people will recover like we do from other viruses.