NOTE: This month, My Thoughts is penned by Mills Home alum, and my dear friend, Ted Chandler. The esteemed doctor of medicine wrote the article using his new book on the coronavirus. Formore information, email Ted at email@example.com.
In spite of scary COVID-19 projections of Americans deaths, and, shelter-in-place orders, and, all the talk of flattening the curve, some people still aren’t getting how serious the coronavirus is, even though they could be playing a vital role in keeping themselves and the rest of their families and community safe.
Here are five facts everyone should reflect on, pay attention to, and follow:
1. People are contagious early in the infection, potentially even before they begin having symptoms. Thus, they are “silent spreaders.” A study conducted in Germany found that nine infected people were shedding huge amounts of the virus on day one of their infection –– when their own symptoms were similar to a mild cold.
2. After being contaminated, it can take up to 11 days for symptoms to appear. Research has shown that the median incubation period is five days. But, the range is between two days and 11 days. So, after picking up the virus, you could be highly contagious without knowing it. To be safe and keep others safe, the 14 day quarantine is a good approach for everyone.
3. The virus lives on surfaces for up to three days. In an experiment, scientists created an aerosol which contained the coronavirus to see how it would survive and spread after a cough, sneeze or from exhaled breath: on copper, it lived 4 hours; on cardboard, it lived 24 hours; on plastic and stainless steel, it lived 2-3 days.
So, on plastics or stainless steel, you can touch the contaminated object and then rub your nose, for example, and become infected, the same as you would by inhaling infected droplets.
4. The growth rate of the virus is exponential. The World Health Organization estimates that the number of people with the virus doubles every six days. This estimate led to the prediction by epidemiologists that 40% to 70% of all Americans could come down with the virus if extreme social distancing measures weren’t taken.
5. It’s not just old people who are getting seriously ill from the virus. Because most of the deaths from the coronavirus have occurred in older people, a lot of younger Americans have not taken the risk seriously. A recent report from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) found that in the United States 38% of people who were hospitalized by the virus were between the ages of 20-54, and 12% of the intensive care units beds were taken up by people aged 20 to 44. So, even if the virus doesn’t kill a younger person, it can still make him or her very sick.
This pandemic presents us with situations beyond our control. Thus, to have the best possible outcome, you must make things better by doing the right thing. You must take responsibility for making good decisions.
When we get sick, the natural response is to think we’ve caught the illness the entire world is worried about. Then, our gut instinct is rush to an emergency room. For the majority of those with body aches, chilliness, slight fever, runny nose, cough –– this would be the wrong move to make. Contact your primary care physician or urgent care clinic first.
Although testing may verify a specific diagnosis such as influenza or COVID-19, it does not change the management protocol. If, for example, you were a 46-year-old man with no underlying medical conditions and your breathing was not labored and you had a viral illness, the recommendation will be two weeks of isolation and supportive measures such as fluids, rest and acetaminophen at home.
Try not to panic –– and trust your medical professionals. Given the effectiveness of chicken soup and hot tea with honey and Tylenol, you can get these easier at home than in the hospital.
But, those who experience severe symptoms such as difficulty breathing need in-person medical evaluations. So, when that’s the case, you should call a health provider for guidance. For example, that’s the reason telemedicine has gotten a big boost during the past few months –– they can give you quick medical advice you need.
So, how can we be proactive in these days of uncertainty? Here are a few things, including suggestions from the CDC, to do at home:
1. Wash your hands with gel soap and water for 20 seconds several times during the day.
2. Cover your mouth if you cough or sneeze.
3. The sick should wear a mask. As the government issues directives for everyone to wear a mask when going to, for example, the super-market, you will be doing it as much to protect others as protect yourself. Be responsible.
4. Clean surfaces in the home using household disinfecting sprays or wipes.
6. Stay hydrated.
7. Treat fever with Tylenol per the package instructions.
8. Monitor for worsening symptoms and present for evaluation if breathing becomes labored.
9. Notify your doctor or healthcare provider before a visit so that precautions can be taken.
Also, remember the best defense against the virus is to improve your immune system. To help stay well, here are seven ways to augment your immune system:
2. Eat Real Food
3. Drink More Water
4. Spend Time in the Sun
6. Get Enough Sleep
7. Don’t Smoke
Finally, begin each morning in prayer. God is our true source of comfort, “the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” Be kind and consider the value of a smile, it costs nothing and takes little effort –– but gives much.
By E. Ted Chandler, M.D.
Emeritus Medical Faculty Wake Forest University School of Medicine
My Thoughts by Michael C. Blackwell, BCH President/CEO with guest columnist E. Ted Chandler