There is a lot of misinformation about the coronavirus being spread, some by the media, some by politicians, but mostly by internet conspiracy nuts.
It would be nice to have the facts about the disease because there isn’t much we can do to avoid catching it if it becomes a pandemic. There’s no vaccine and no chance for one for about 18 months — and that’s stretching it. There are no drugs to treat it — no antibiotics or anti-virals that would help, although researchers are working frantically to see if an existing drug can be effective.
Here are five things you may not know about the coronavirus from an internist in New York.
1. The coronavirus can live up to nine days on most porous surfaces
This is one tough bug.
Although there are not data for COVID-19, other coronaviruses have been shown to persist as long as 9 days on glass, metal, or plastic in the worst case, with a very large amount of virus inoculated. Packaged goods from China are very unlikely to have infectious particles due to long shipping times and reduced virus infectivity on paper.
COVID-19 can be spread from infected surfaces, so keeping hands washed (or frequently using alcohol-based sanitizer) and being careful not to put your hands to your face will help reduce infection. However, the major risk is person-to-person through droplets from a cough or sneeze.
2. Fabric masks are ineffective to protect yourself
Fabric masks can be worn if you’re at the store or someplace indoors with other people, but as preventive measures, they don’t work.
The correct mask for clinical care is an N-95 respirator, which needs to be fitted properly to the face. If the mask doesn’t fit well, it can lead you to think you are protected when you are not, and might actually increase your risk of getting infected. They are also quite unpleasant to wear for any length of time at all, if they fit correctly. Finally, you can contaminate yourself taking it off if you aren’t trained to do that properly.
Fabric masks probably do very little except protect you from splashes, but even so the holes in the fabric allow the viruses to pass right through. Surgical face masks are designed mostly to protect the patient from the wearer. It keeps your coughing and sneezing droplets from getting out.
I was going to stock up on masks until I read that.
3. 80 Percent of healthy people who get the coronavirus will show no symptoms or only mild symptoms
A woman in California is currently intubated in the ICU with no clear idea of how she was infected. Because 80-90% of cases have no or minimal symptoms, many public health officials fear that the opportunity to contain the virus is lost and a pandemic is inevitable.
This is the good news. The bad news is that if you’re old and sick, getting the coronavirus is very dangerous.
4. The symptoms of the coronavirus are not much different from symptoms of a cold
This is why the media hype and Democrat hysteria is so dangerous. Doctors’ offices and hospital emergency rooms are going to be jammed with people who can’t tell the difference between a cold and the coronavirus. If you do feel sick, call the doctor first. They have specific guidelines that will help them determine what it is you’ve got and what you should do about it.
Symptoms of severe disease are fever, cough, and shortness of breath. This could indicate pneumonia, the most dangerous form of the disease, and the one most likely to lead to requiring hospitalization. Critical illness with COVID-19, especially in the elderly, is very dangerous.
Meanwhile, those people who don’t have the coronavirus who have been panicked into going to the hospital are preventing the truly sick from receiving treatment.
5. How should we be feeling at this point?
Between slightly and moderately anxious. We have prepared for disaster before and it hasn’t really shown up. Prepare for the worst: hope for the best.
Good advice to follow under any circumstances.