Coronavirus: Fact, Fiction or Fear Mongering?

Coronavirus: Fact, Fiction or Fear Mongering?

You can’t seem to escape the headlines regarding coronavirus, but what about the novel coronavirus (COVID19) itself? How serious is this virus, and how concerned should we be about its spread?

“I think it’s important for us to look at some historical perspectives,” says Dr. Nick Hysmith, Medical Director of Infection Prevention at Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital. “Although the coronavirus in general is fairly common, this virus is different. It is more like some of the more pathologic or serious coronaviruses we’ve seen in the past, such as MERS and SARS.”

To listen to an interview on this topic with Dr. Nick Hysmith, Medical Director of Infection Prevention at Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital, check out the Le Bonheur podcast. 

Dr. Hysmith is quick to point out that the current fatality rate of this particular strain is about two percent. “That is significantly lower than the MERS and the SARS virus, which were about 30 percent and 10 percent, respectively.”

The concern is over how quickly the virus is spreading.

Preventing the Spread

This particular strain of coronavirus only recently jumped from animal to human, which makes it particularly pathogenic. The human population doesn’t possess any immunity to it.

The symptoms are easy to spot, since they are as common as the common cold. “It does cause more of a common cold picture with cough, fever, that sort of thing,” explains Dr. Hysmith. Since it acts like the common cold, it only makes sense that it is spread the same way. So, the best way to prevent against the spread of coronavirus is also the simplest. “When you are sick, when you have a fever, cough, that sort of thing, stay home. Don’t go to work. Don’t go to school.”

For the most part, prevention simply requires good health etiquette. But, given the easy spread of this virus, Dr. Hysmith assures extra precaution is being taken. “We tell individuals to stay home, to wear masks if they are out in public, and then, when they are in the hospital, we have special rooms these patients are in.”

Warning Signs and Symptoms

The coronavirus has an incubation period of 14 days, and it has been shown to spread before a person is symptomatic. Anyone who has symptoms within 14 days of traveling to areas where coronavirus has spread should be evaluated, as should anyone who has been exposed to an individual who has been diagnosed.

“You should be evaluated by your physician, but you should call your physician prior to going to the office,” cautions Dr. Hysmith. “You do not want to expose other patients in the waiting room. Call your physician, explain the situation, and find out how they want you to proceed. See if they would prefer you to come in or possibly get in touch with the local health department.”

When should you go see a doctor?

“I think that anything you could go see your provider for routinely would be a reason to go see them in this case,” concludes Dr. Hysmith. “If you have difficulty breathing, where it’s hard for you to catch your breath, if you are having fevers that are uncontrolled, or if you are unable to eat or drink, these would be reasons for you to go see your doctor.”

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