The coronavirus has crept into my affairs. No, I don’t have it. I’ve got the allergies again, pollen season ramped up in February and by March, I am sneezey all the time. No, concerns over the new pandemic have caused clients to take actions, ask us what actions we’re taking, and because I’m also part of the local writer’s guild board, soon I must help decide how we do events. It’s time to do a little research.
What is it?
I’m a compartmentalized curious person. The exact genetic make-up of COVID-19 is beyond my comprehension and doesn’t affect my problem solving needs. It is a virus, which may have different terms of treatment than bacteria. It affects the respiratory system. The name has nothing to do with beer. Instead, the name refers to its shape, which is round with thorns and kind or looks like a corona or crown.
How bad is it?
For some the experience will be mild, like a cough. More severe instances include shortness of breath and fever. For those in weakened conditions (heart or breathing conditions) like the elderly, it could be fatal.
For many people, this is like getting sick as any flu or bad cold where staying at home and resting does the trick. Some might worsen and need hospitalization. And some might not make it. A common stat I’ve heard is 0.5-2% fatality rate. As of March 5th, 2020, China reported 3.4%. The percentages are much higher once we measure against the elderly, say 8%. Being sloppy about handling this means your grandma might die.
Better medical care reduces the chance of death. That’s a concern for people who can’t afford medical care or need to wait until they’re sure it’s bad before paying to find out they have a simple cold because even that expense is significant.
I’d like to instigate the right amount of empathy but not panic. These are higher fatality numbers than SARS. If everybody got it, this is one out of 50 people. As John Oliver’s recent episode pointed out, it’s the same death rate the television show The Leftovers is premised on where everybody felt sad. And again, your grandma is at a higher risk. Most of you have nice grandma’s, let’s keep them safe.
What are the symptoms?
The scary part of any contagion is the incubation period. Covid-19 grows inside you for two to fourteen days with no symptoms. So all that “I don’t feel sick, I’m fine” means you still could be plague-ratting the rest of us and not even know it.
Once the virus is ready, it will seem like a bad cold or flu. The CDC says:
"Call your healthcare professional if you feel sick with fever, cough, or difficulty breathing, and have been in close contact with a person known to have COVID-19, or if you live in or have recently traveled from an area with ongoing spread of COVID-19."
The advisory says to call ahead and explain your symptoms and concern. Do not show up with an appointment. That risks exposing other people. I imagine a doctor’s office would have a clever plan to bring you in at the right time so you’re not coughing on other patients.
Here’s more specific criteria of when they would run the test (which means look to see if you have these):
1. Those who have symptoms such as fever OR lower respiratory symptoms (cough or shortness of breath) and have had "close contact" with a confirmed coronavirus patient within 14 days of their first symptoms.
2. Those who have fever AND lower respiratory symptoms, require hospitalization, and have traveled to areas impacted by the epidemic in the last 14 days.
3. Patients with fever and severe acute lower respiratory symptoms who require hospitalization and for whom no other diagnosis has been found — such as the flu. No travel or contact exposure is needed.
Where did it come from?
It came from Wuhan Province in China. Suspected to have come from an animal (not seafood) and made the jump to humans. Do not freak out about Chinese people, food or packages. They aren’t carriers. They aren’t making people sick. If you’re going to say anything bad about China, blame their government. It screwed the pooch during SARS and denied it and stymied efforts to track and contain. We’ll see how they get graded this time around.
How do we stop it?
The mad rush to buy all the toilet paper and bottled water will not help. Face masks won’t help, and in fact reduce the availability to health workers for other issues (lying spurting arteries during surgery).
We should be doing the things we should’ve been doing:
Wash our hands before and after dinner, potty, messy things
Use hand sanitizer after using other people’s stuff
Cleaning our keyboards and other frequently used surfaces
Cover our mouth when coughing or sneezing
Avoid close contact with sick people
Stay home if we’re sick
As the situation develops, more action may be needed
Old people may want to avoid family gatherings or public gatherings
Going out to places employees can’t stay home if they’re sick (restaurants)
Avoid large events (indoor worse than outdoor) like conventions, concerts
A friend of mine wrote about this in her blog and I’d come to a similar conclusion when I had to make a guild announcement.
We are responsible for each other's health by our own actions.
It’s not about hiding from others who might get us sick, but adopting steps that reduce our chance of unknowingly spreading it.