Top 10 Things You Need To Know About COVID-19 Right Now
Wow, what a difference a few months make.
Just around four months ago I wrote about an emerging virus which was spreading across a province in China. I urged awareness but not panic as we were seeing a few cases spread outside the local area.
Within the next couple of months, our kids were asked to stay at home. Schools were canceled and professional sports were postponed, activities were stopped, and even doctors’ offices slowed down the types of visits we were doing.
Today we are modifying vacations, staying 6 feet apart and wearing masks out in public.
Everything moved so fast, it’s been hard to keep up. So as a quick summary and with the way everything has changed, I thought it might be helpful to put together the top 10 things we’ve learned about SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19:
1. SARS-CoV-2 is a new type of coronavirus that began circulating in the Wuhan province of China. The disease associated with the virus was named COVID-19. You might hear those terms used one in the same. There is a subtle difference, but not enough to dive into right now.
2. The symptoms of COVID-19 have been varied and what has been recognized as symptoms has changed over time. Upper respiratory (cough and congestion) and lower respiratory symptoms (rapid or difficult breathing) as well as fever or a flu-like illness are the core symptoms and the following have also been reported: loss of smell and taste, vomiting, diarrhea, sore throat, headache and muscle soreness.
3. Many people who are exposed and contract COVID-19 will not have symptoms. It’s not clear how these people without symptoms contribute to the spread of COVID-19. However, even those who develop symptoms later are likely contagious before their symptoms develop.
4. Kids have been relatively spared from severe illness from COVID-19, but not entirely. Children can develop classic symptoms and severe illness. Caution should be used for children with chronic medical conditions and infants under 1 year of age.
5. In addition to classic COVID-19 symptoms, children have also developed a condition known as multi-system inflammatory syndrome, which is similar in nature to a known syndrome called Kawasaki disease. The symptoms are varied but include prolonged fever, belly pain, vomiting, neck pain, a rash, red eyes without discharge and extreme irritability or fatigue.
6. Specific treatment for COVID-19 has been challenging. Multiple reports of various treatment options showed promise in small studies but have failed to produce results when brought into larger studies. The most promising treatments recently are a specific antiviral called remdesivir and for severe illness, a steroid called dexamethasone.
7. By far the best defense against COVID-19 at this point is avoiding exposure. Studies have demonstrated a clear benefit to maintaining social distancing, washing your hands and mask wearing as a safe means of slowing the spread of COVID-19 through communities.
8. Speaking of masks, they are a courtesy to others. They protect people who are more vulnerable to the disease, such as the elderly or those with chronic illnesses. Masks should cover the mouth and nose to keep others safe. Also, they are perfectly safe to wear.
9. Vaccine trials are ongoing for many versions of a COVID-19 vaccine but we currently don’t have any time frame for when a vaccine will be available. Vaccine trials take significant time to demonstrate safety and effectiveness.
10. Science changes. Yes, at first we were told we didn’t need to wear masks and now we know that masks are vital in protecting others from COVID-19 and that they actually save lives. So what happened? Science. This disease is so new, scientists and doctors are gathering information, or data, as quickly as they possibly can to make sure we are safe. We have gained a lot of information in a relatively short period of time and we will continue to gather more.
COVID-19 has been and will likely be the biggest disruptor to “normal” life of our lifetimes.
Keeping up with the latest information and the behavior of the virus is challenging for scientific experts. Keep in mind that as recommendations appear to change, that they are based on the latest information as we know it about the virus.
We will get through this but, as we have learned, it will only be as we can do it together.
Get to know Justin Smith, M.D.
Justin Smith, M.D., is a pediatrician in Trophy Club and the Medical Advisor for Digital Health for Cook Children's in Fort Worth, Texas. Dr. Smith is an experienced keynote speaker for a variety of topics including pediatric/parenting topics, healthcare social media and physician leadership. If you are interested in having Dr. Smith present to your conference or meeting, please contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
He has an active community on both Facebook and Twitter as @TheDocSmitty and writes weekly for Cook Children's checkupnewsroom.com. He believes that strategic use of social media and technology by pediatricians to connect with families can deepen their relationship and provide a new level of convenience for both of their busy lifestyles. Dr. Smith’s innovative pediatric clinic, a pediatric clinic “designed by you,” open now. Click to learn more. To make an appointment, call 817-347-8100.