COVID-19 Advice from West Medical
The West Medical team has been monitoring the spread of COVID-19 (aka coronavirus). While we’re not directly involved in the treatment of viral illnesses, as physicians it makes sense to stay abreast of one of the most important medical developments in many years. It’s an issue that may eventually impact all of us in the healthcare field and many of you reading this.
COVID-19, originally referred to as Novel Coronavirus, comes from a family of viruses that have been known to medical doctors and epidemiologists for quite some time. This particular strain of coronavirus is believed to have originated in Wuhan, China sometime in late 2019 before spreading to dozens of countries and, as of the time of this writing, infecting over 126,000 people.
While images of frantic shoppers buying dozens of rolls of toilet paper and jugs of hand sanitizer may bring up thoughts of modern versions of pandemics like the devastating Spanish Influenza outbreak of 1918 or some plague of the distant past, it’s very important to know that the vast majority of people who have been infected by COVID-19 have lived to tell the tale. While statistics vary significantly, sources agree that only a small percentage of people have died from the disease with almost all fatalities occurring in cases where the individual was typically 80+ years old and/or already suffering from a weakened immune system. Very fortunately, children seem to be protected. By comparison, this year’s much more widespread strain of seasonal influenza is believed to have killed somewhere around 18,000 between August and the end of February. Also notable, new data out of China suggests that severe illness only occurs in about 16 percent of cases.
How dangerous is COVID-19?
Presently, the CDC and most medical authorities rate COVID-19’s danger to individuals in the United States as much lower than most other illnesses that get press coverage such as SARS; this remains true despite a steadily growing number of cases throughout the country. In short, there is no reason to live in fear although older people and those with health problems obviously need to be extremely careful. The best advice we have is to stay well-informed (social media memes don’t count!) and take the extra time to thoroughly wash your hands – 20 seconds is recommended – and clean frequently-used surfaces. Perhaps most importantly of all, stay home when sick and avoid others who may be sick. Every person who contracts the illness risks spreading it to others so social distancing is the rule in these cases.
Even in a likely best-case scenario, the CDC and the U.S. Department of Health do expect some level of impact on the general public’s daily lives. This may include temporary school closures, shortages of various goods (like toilet paper), and mandates to work from home – all of which are more like inconveniences than a significant threat to life or limb.
One reality is that, sooner or later, there is a reasonable chance that you will either get COVID-19 or some other illness that may make you think you have it. Most cases will be mild and something like a bad cold, flu, or respiratory infection. Should you require medical attention under the presumption that you have COVID-19, the best thing you can do is call your medical provider ahead of time to allow it to make arrangements and take the necessary precautions.
For updates on COVID-19, the CDC Website and local media are good sources. Of course, if you have any questions for our team here at West Medical about any topic, please feel free to call us at the number on your screen or visit our contact page.