For the last two weeks, the whole world has been monitoring and keeping tabs on the coronavirus outbreak that started in China.
Every day, we see the contagion growing and thousands of people in China are infected. Today, we see the announcement that the Secretary of Health and Human Services is declaring a national emergency. However, the president’s Coronavirus Task Force has emphasized that the American public is at low risk. Even though the strain is new, this virus is similar to those seen in other outbreaks, such as the 2002-2003 SARS outbreak. Yet, it is a deadly virus and there are still many unknowns as so far as the behavior of the disease.
Incubation symptoms usually take from 7 to 14 days and because of the nature of this virus, it is very contagious in human-to-human transmission. I have been asked how worried Americans should be. I believe that rather than worried, we must be proactive and educated.
I am very confident in President Trump’s task force because its membership is composed of brilliant scientists and epidemiologists, as well as leaders of government health care divisions. There are also many scientific companies already working on a vaccine.
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The most important question is: How do Americans get prepared? I have a few suggestions that I want to share.
We already know about travel bans where this epidemic is growing – so don’t travel to China. We also know that there is going to be monitoring and possible quarantines of patients who have recently arrived from that region.
However, we must also focus on our health. When you look at ways that many people have died from coronavirus, most of those cases have been from pulmonary complications. Most patients die from complications of pneumonia. When you get massive pneumonia from a viral infection, you have severe inflammation of lung tissue, which interferes with oxygenation and ultimately compromises other organs such as your heart, kidneys and liver. In other words, a septic shock develops.
Many times, pneumonia from viral infections also leads to a bacterial infection. This complicates the ability of your body to fight back and makes it difficult for your physicians to treat your infection.
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So, here’s what we should all think about:
First, most viral pneumonia outbreaks occur in people who are older or very young, i.e. infants. It also occurs in people with chronic diseases such as COPD, cardiac problems, congestive heart failure, Type 2 Diabetes, renal disease, and patients undergoing cancer treatment. Also, individuals with immunodeficiency disorders.
There are, however, some things that we can do to protect ourselves:
- If you smoke, now is a good time to stop smoking.
- If you are overweight, now is a good time to lose weight.
- If you are non-compliant with taking your meds, i.e. blood pressure medication, it is a good time to keep this under control.
- If you have Type 2 Diabetes be sure to be compliant with taking your medications and/or insulin.
- A balanced diet helps.
- Vaccines are important.
The pneumococcal vaccine is strongly recommended for older folks. Vaccines literally work like armies in your body to fight the infections that could make problems if you develop pneumonia. People over Age 65 should talk to their physician about getting the pneumococcal vaccine.
This is not a vaccine to think about. The flu vaccine is important for everyone as early as 6 months old. Please get it!
The famous whooping cough is a problematic disease. This vaccine gives your body the proper antibodies to fight secondary infections that you might get from viral pneumonia.
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The rationale for all the vaccines that I have mentioned is not that they will directly prevent you from getting the coronavirus, but they can prevent you from getting secondary complications. Getting the proper vaccines improves the ability of your body to fight and that is why it is important for you to consider them.
This is a good time not to worry, but to think about your health. This is a good time to stop the procrastination and have that conversation with your doctor. This is a good time to see how your own health is important and follow up on the recommendations of the doctors that have been advising us all to do the right thing.