CORONAVIRUS

Everybody seems to have a different opinion about the Coronavirus and what we should do to prevent its spread and treat it.  My friends and former patients have called looking for my opinion and most have not been happy with my response.

By their vary nature, viruses are unpredictable.  Even the influenza virus, which we have studied for many years, makes us look like fools as it traverses the earth.  Some years our vaccines work well, and some years the expected virus mix changes and all of our preventative measures fail.

Truthfully, I have no real idea how this pandemic infection is going to play out.  Being a pessimist by training, my gut tells me that we are being attacked by a truly dangerous and potentially lethal disease for which, currently, we have very little defense.

So, what should you do to deal with the effects of the coronavirus?  First, don’t panic!  Don’t hoard masks, hand sanitizers, food and water (unless you live alone and don’t have help available).  Hoarding these items is only going to keep them out of the hands of those who truly need them.  Next, WASH YOUR HANDS WITH SOAP AND WATER, FREQUENTLY!  I can’t stress how important proper hand cleaning is.  One of the hardest things I had to learn as a doc was not to touch my face.  KEEP YOUR HANDS OFF OF YOUR FACE!

Third, put an N95 mask on if you are sick and isolate yourself as much as possible.  COVER UP WHEN YOU COUGH EVEN IF YOU ARE WEARING A MASK.  Remember, the sick person wears the mask.

The problem with the coronavirus is that it causes symptoms identical to the common cold and influenza.  The only way to know if you have it is to be tested and getting tested is not going to be an easy task.  Even if you test negative for the coronavirus, you could still have it.  All tests are associated with false negatives and false positives.

If you are sick, call your doc and ask him/her what to do.  In the dark ages (when I started in medicine), if your child had a very infectious disease like measles or chickenpox (vaccines have almost eradicated these diseases), parents knew to call the office before coming in.  My staff would arrange to meet them at the side door and escort them to a secluded exam room.  It’s time to reinstitute that policy.  If you think you could have coronavirus, do not sit down in your doc’s waiting room unannounced.  CALL FIRST!

STAY WELL HYDRATED!  Dehydration is your enemy!  Eat even if you don’t feel like it.  If you have trouble eating, then take tiny amounts of food on a every 15-minute regimen. Vitamins, specifically Vitamin C, may be helpful.  Treat fever only if you are miserable or dehydrated.  I believe that fever is part of the body’s defense system.

If you are old and have other medical problems, seek help early.  Over the years, I’ve often heard my patients say, “Doc, this cough is killing me.”  This time it just might kill you. 

It’s time for our community to rally to the aid of those who need us.  If you are hoarding masks and know a sick neighbor or friend, share a mask with them.  Let your neighbors know that you are available and can shop for them if they get sick.  A bowl of homemade chicken soup is a great way to say, “I care.”  You are not going to get sick by dropping food off at their house.  Make sure you call or text to check on them on a regular basis.

Together, we’ll do fine.

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