Introduction to Dr. Gregory Smith’s COVID19 (Coronavirus) Article
In response to the respiratory illness that was first identified in China in 2019 and spreading from person to person, country to country, Gregory L. Smith, MD, MPH wrote an article on the coronavirus disease to share his insights and commentary on the latest news, preparing for an outbreak, and overall education from a medical perspective. More information on COVID-19 on the U.S. cases, complications, symptoms, and more can be found on CDC’s website. Below is the article Dr. Gregory Smith published on February 27, 2020 about COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 2019).
COVID19 (Coronavirus): What You Need to Know
Published Date: 27 February 2020 | Gregory L. Smith, MD, MPH
The biggest issue that is likely to come from the epidemic with be the result of fear and ignorance about the virus. Uncertainty can result in irrational and emotional decisions and policies that can worsen the situation and promote conspiracy theories.
The coronavirus or more properly COVID19 probably first infected a human in Wuhan China in mid-December 2019. The virus was probably present in an anteater type mammal and was transferred to a person, who then transmitted it to many. It is now occurring in 47 countries.
The risk of dying from COVID19 was about 1 in 40 for the initial people exposed in Wuhan. However, the virus is rapidly becoming milder so that for people exposed in the US the risk of dying is perhaps 1 in 1400. The infection in the US is expected to be the same or milder than Flu. However, because the death rate was high initially in Wuhan people will be very afraid of it. The risk of dying is highest in elderly people, and people with chronic respiratory illness.
COVID19 has a long incubation period, perhaps 14 days. So that people may be infected with the virus and not know it for 2 weeks. They are able to spread it much of this time. This is the biggest problem with the infection and is the reason there will continue to see spread of the infection around the world.
COVID19 is spread by coughing tiny particles into the air, direct contact with other humans, and leaving virus on surfaces where others can come in contact.
COVID19 infection is very similar to Flu. It starts with high fevers, cough, and shortness of breath. There are currently no readily available medications for COVID19. But the vast majority of the time the person is able to gradually fight off the infection over 7-10 days and the person returns to normal, just like the Flu. A vaccine is many months away.
THIS IS IMPORTANT: On 2/26/20 the first case of COVID19 was diagnosed in a man in CA that was not directly due to exposure related to travel outside the US and no obvious source of transmission.
It is very likely that over the next few weeks cases of COVID19 will occur all around the US. They usually occur in clusters of cases, such as people who were all at church, or in a plane together. Once cases occur near you it is likely that school, church, sports and other events with large gatherings of people will be cancelled until the virus goes through the community. ERs and hospitals are likely to become very busy during this period of time. Many businesses such as retail stores, bars and restaurants may close for a period of time.
Preparing for an outbreak in your community it the best pro-active thing you can do. Facemasks are most useful for people who are already infected so that they don’t cough virus into the air. There is no science to support the use of a regular facemask in public to prevent infection. If you are taking care of someone with COVID19 using a facemask, gloves and spray disinfectant should reduce the risk of getting infected yourself. A N95 respirator is much thicker and better fitting than a regular facemask and can protect against getting infected from particles in the air. The N95 respirator is very uncomfortable to wear for long periods of time.
Workplaces should prepare by having a plan to implement if and when cases occur in the community. Educate employees in advance about how mild this version of COVID19 is compared to what was first reported in Wuhan. Alleviate fear and the unknown with advanced education and plans to implement. As many workers as possible should work from home. Provide ample space between workers in the workspace and lunchroom. Minimize contact, such as handshaking. Remember that workers can be transmitting the virus for several days before they have any symptoms. Limit elevator occupants to one or two per elevator. Have a response team identified in case a co-worker is diagnosed with COVID19.
If you think you are exposed to someone with COVID19 contact the local county public health department for information and advice of where to go to get checked.
Get your Flu shot, as it will kill a lot more people in the US this year than COVID19.
Check with the www.cdc.gov/coronavirus for the latest update on US COVID19 cases.
About the Author: Gregory L. Smith, MD, MPH
Dr. Gregory Smith earned his medical degree from Rush Medical College at Rush University in Chicago, and a Masters of Public Health from Harvard University. He completed residency training in Preventive Medicine at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Since getting out of the US Army as a Major, Dr. Smith has been in primary care practice in California, Georgia, and Florida for the past 30 years. You can discover more about Dr. Smith by connecting with him on LinkedIn.
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