Coronavirus (COVID-19): What Everyone Should Know

This is a fast-moving situation, and the most up-to-date information is critical

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Photo by Dimitri Karastelev on Unsplash

Misinformation is the enemy in situations such as that which we face with respect to the novel coronavirus, known as COVID-19. The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) published the most recent update for clinicians about this infection, and I thought it was important to let others know about what we clinicians are being told about this virus:

  1. As of Feb 27, 2020, more than 82,000 cases have been confirmed, and 2800 deaths have been reported.
  2. The virus probably originated in bats, and it is suspected that an anteater (the pangolin) was the intermediate host between bats and humans. This animal is endangered and commonly trafficked.
  3. Most recent research shows the incubation period — meaning the time before symptoms of infection show up — are anywhere between 1–14 days, with some reports suggesting an incubation period as high as 24 days. And, it is has been shown that those without symptoms can pass the virus to other people.
  4. It is estimated that one infected person can pass the virus on to 2–3 people, making this virus more likely to cause a pandemic than SARS.
  5. It appears that the virus causes more severe disease in older people, and — thankfully — children and young adults do not have as severe an illness. Generally, patients present with fever, cough, fatigue, and body aches.
  6. The “case-fatality rate,” or the percentage of people who die after getting infected is highly variable. In China’s Hubei Province, the epicenter of the infection, mortality can be as high as 8–15% in older adults. Outside of China, however, it appears that the mortality is 1–2%, thankfully. That’s still a lot, especially since this virus has spread to many more people than SARS or MERS.
  7. At this time, there are no vaccines or treatments that have been shown to be effective. Treatment is mainly supportive. At the same time, researchers are hard at work trying to develop an effective vaccine. In addition, there are some antiviral medications that have shown some promise, and clinical trials are also being conducted with these drugs.
  8. The most important things we can do are the following: (1) wash our hands thoroughly and often; (2) practice proper cough etiquette; (3) if we are sick, we should stay home, unless we are very sick, at which time we should seek medical attention as soon as possible; (4) avoid touching our eyes, nose, and mouth; (5) routinely clean frequently touched surfaces and objects.

Again, this is a rapidly changing situation, and it is hard to keep up. We should not panic. At the same time, we should be vigilant and arm ourselves with the most accurate and up-to-date information.

NY Times featured Pulmonary and Critical Care Specialist | Physician Leader | Author and Blogger | His latest book is “Code Blue,” a medical thriller.

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