I wanted to write some thoughts to my patients about the novel Coronavirus that has dominated our lives and thoughts so much in the last couple of months. Coronavirus and humans have co-existed for a long time; it is a frequent cause of what we know as “the common cold”. However, this novel or new strain is different enough that much of the public has little or no immunity to it. Hence, our present pandemic.
It is primarily a respiratory virus. It infects the upper and lower respiratory tracts, causes varying severity of illness there, and is then spread by the coughing or sneezing of its victim. Small expelled droplets may be inhaled by others who then become sick too. The virus can survive on surfaces, including hands, so it is very important that we wash frequently (8-10 times a day) and not touch our faces (mouth, nose, etc.). The social distancing we are all encouraged to practice is critical because droplets will fall out of the air beyond 3 feet. And touching outstretched hands/arms can’t be done from 6 feet away.
The availability of testing has been poor, but it is revving up in typical Government fashion (i.e, “late”). There also are severe shortages of Personal Protective Equipment for us all, especially health care workers. Throw in the fact that up to 50% of those infected are asymptomatic and that clinical infection begins 2-14 days after contact is made. What that means is that we really don’t know how many are infected and transmitting the novel Coronavirus. We may be off many times over on our estimates of how wide-spread the virus actually is. And if we wait until others are sick with the illness before we avoid them, we will likely contract the illness.
There are also early rumblings about how the virus can mutate still further and potentially become more lethal. That happened twice during the Spanish Flu outbreak of 1918 and 1919 which infected a third of our race and had a death toll of between 50 and 100 million. The mortality rate of Covid-19 (the illness from the novel Coronavirus) is running on balance around 1%. Spanish Flu was higher and killed the healthiest among the populace. Covid-19 can attack across the age spectrum, but it is most lethal to the elderly, especially if they are immunocompromised or have chronic pulmonary ailments (emphysema, asthma, etc.).
So what can each of us do to increase our safety? We MUST do as we have been told. Social distancing, frequent handwashing, and avoidance of face-touching—all these are our personal responsibilities to ourselves and to everyone around us. We shouldn’t avoid the news altogether, but it will only increase our obsessions and fears when we listen. It is hard to measure the effect of constant stress and worry, but it is definitely not good. Play games and laugh with your family while you quarantine at home. Read books you have always wished you had time for. Hike and be in nature, bicycle in nature (if our “spring weather” ever allows it). Do healthy, positive things. We WILL get through this!
Here at Upper Valley Family Practice, our primary concern is your peace and health. We can connect you to Coronavirus testing sources, and they still require a 12 day turnaround and self-quarantine steps for that same time period. We provide Telemedicine care here as well. Simply tell Andrea you would prefer that when scheduling. We have already done several visits that way. We are always available to answer questions you might have, especially at this time of high anxiety and stress. Test our commitment to you. We think you will be able to tell that we care about you.