So if you are immunocompromised like me, the presence of the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) has you feeling uneasy. Between the political jockeying, the stock markets dropping, and the news cycles spreading panic, it’s hard to know how much information to take to heart. I know I panic every flu season, so this added virus is an additional concern. I’ve had two bouts of upper respiratory illness this year and both have taken a toll on my health and my bank of sick time. I just heard the first American in Spokane, WA has died as a result of the virus, so I decided to spend the day doing some research.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO): Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses which may cause illness in animals or humans. In humans, several coronaviruses are known to cause respiratory infections ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). The most recently discovered coronavirus causes coronavirus disease COVID-19.
What are the symptoms? According to the American Centers for Disease Control (CDC), symptoms can occur 2-14 days after exposure and include: Fever, coughing, shortness of breath. In addition to those initial symptoms, WHO also states, “Some patients may have aches and pains, nasal congestion, runny nose, sore throat or diarrhea. These symptoms are usually mild and begin gradually. Some people become infected but don’t develop any symptoms and don’t feel unwell. Most people (about 80%) recover from the disease without needing special treatment. Around 1 out of every 6 people who gets COVID-19 becomes seriously ill and develops difficulty breathing. Older people, and those with underlying medical problems like high blood pressure, heart problems or diabetes, are more likely to develop serious illness. About 2% of people with the disease have died. People with fever, cough and difficulty breathing should seek medical attention.” ***NOTE 2% is world wide, not in the US.
According to the CDC, since there is no vaccine yet, the following precautions are recommended to prevent illness:
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
- Stay home when you are sick.
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
- Follow CDC’s recommendations for using a facemask.
- CDC does not recommend that people who are well wear a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory diseases, icluding COVID-19.
- Facemasks should be used by people who show symptoms of COVID-19 to help prevent the spread of the disease to others. The use of facemasks is also crucial for health workers and people who are taking care of someone in close settings (at home or in a health care facility).
*** Facemasks are being price gouged at this time and hard to find in communities and online. Amazon claims they are cracking down on this, but so far, I see ridiculous prices. Click on the photo below to link to Amazon listings. Most recommend that N95 respirator masks are the best if you are sick, as they don’t allow the virus to spread past the mask and ventilate so you can breathe. Masks should be disposed of after use because they may hold contagious pathogens.
***A helpful tip for washing your hands. Sing “Happy Birthday” twice to wash your hands thoroughly in warm water with soap. If using hand sanitizer, use products with at least 60% alcohol.
Both the CDC and WHO state there is no recommended antiviral treatment for COVID-19. Mild cases of the virus should use fever reducers and pain relievers as they do with other upper respiratory infections. You should get checked to screen for the virus even if the symptoms are mild. More severe cases may require care for vital organs.
Flu vs. Coronavirus
From all I have read, the flu has been more deadly this year, than the novel coronavirus. Statistics from October 2019-February 2020 indicate that it is estimated 18-46,000 people in the United States will die from flu complications. That said, it was just reported that one person has died from the coronavirus in Washington state. The flu is no joke. A young boy in my area lost his life to the flu a few weeks ago. He was perfectly healthy prior to getting sick. I do get my flu shot, but often the strains floating around don’t correspond with the vaccination batch. So is the coronavirus more deadly than the flu?? I honestly don’t know. It’s easy to say no because the flu kills so many people each year. I think the “novel” part of the coronavirus is what is scaring us all. It’s new. There is no vaccine and it killed a large number of victims in a short period of time. The bad part is it seems to be spreading very fast and although officials thought they knew how it was spread, people with no identifiable exposure have been diagnosed recently on the west coast. It is definitely community spread.
Coronavirus and pets:
This is something I did not consider, but upon doing research, I read that pets can, indeed, contract the coronavirus. I have a dog that is more chronically ill than I am. I reached out to my neighbors to ask if someone could take her if I get it. The cats can be locked in a bedroom or I can ask my Vet’s office to take them, but Georgia requires too much care. Plus, she is the world’s worst nurse!!
According to the CDC:
If you have animals living in close contact: “You should restrict contact with pets and other animals while you are sick with COVID-19, just like you would around other people. Although there have not been reports of pets or other animals becoming sick with COVID-19, it is still recommended that people sick with COVID-19 limit contact with animals until more information is known about the virus. When possible, have another member of your household care for your animals while you are sick. If you are sick with COVID-19, avoid contact with your pet, including petting, snuggling, being kissed or licked, and sharing food. If you must care for your pet or be around animals while you are sick, wash your hands before and after you interact with pets and wear a facemask. See COVID-19 and Animals for more information.”
According to the news, an infected person in Hong Kong has a dog that tested “weak” positive for COVID-19. USA Today reports: “It was not immediately clear if the animal tested positive due to “environmental contamination” of the dog’s mouth and nose, according to a statement from the territory’s Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department.” If I get sick, you know Georgia Grace will be my first concern. Getting her to a safe place to be cared for will help me heal. (obligatory cute Georgia picture included)
Chronically ill and COVID-19:
Many of us living with chronic illness take immunosupressvrs that put us more at risk to contract upper respiratory illnesses. I, myself have had 4 URIs, including a bout with pneumonia, since January 2019. Biologic medications work miracles for my joints, but wreak havoc on my immune system. I’m not an expert by any sense of the word, but I do think those living with compromised immune systems must be hypervigilant in taking precautions against both COVID-19 and the flu. It’s hard for me because I work with kids. I love them, but they are germ factories for sure. Most often they come to school because their parents don’t have sick time to keep them home. I can’t tell you how fast colds, viruses, and flu spread through my schools. I know in Japan, schools were closed for the time being. I don’t now what will happen in the United States. I just think we all have to take precautions, wash our hands, and STAY HOME WHEN WE GET SICK.
****Since writing this, it was announced the first US victim of COVID-19 had preexisting medical conditions. Wash your hands, don’t touch things in public unless you absolutely have to, and be vigilant that you are not around sick people.
Here is a great reminder of how to properly wash hands. Click on image to go to site.
Be well my friends. I hope the only Coronas you come across are on a beach with a lime.
****housekeeping: All direct quotes have links to the site highlighted in blue.