You’ve probably seen people stocking up on staples - including that elusive toilet paper - to prepare for the spread of the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19). It’s even more important to stock up on trusted information about how to protect yourself and your loved ones.
COVID-19 is primarily a flu-like respiratory illness. Symptoms that are being described the most include fever, cough and shortness of breath. We’re finding that they typically occur anywhere between 2 days to 14 days after exposure. However, as the virus continues to evolve, we are also beginning to see patients that are presenting without respiratory symptoms including GI symptoms such as nausea vomiting, diarrhea and now even symptoms including abnormal taste and lack of smell.
Most people with COVID-19 have mild symptoms and shall fully recover. Factors indicating a higher risk for more severe illness include:
- Nursing home or long-term care residency
- High-risk conditions:
- Chronic lung disease or moderate-to-severe asthma
- Serious heart conditions
- Immunocompromised, including cancer treatment
- Severely obese or with certain underlying medical conditions
- Diabetes, renal failure, liver disease
- Pregnant women should be monitored but have not been found to have increased risk.
The spread of COVID-19 occurs by close person-to-person contact and via cough or sneeze droplets. You can also get COVID-19 from touching contaminated surfaces and then touching your mouth, nose or eyes. Because COVID-19 is contagious, your best defense is practicing good hygiene, social distancing and self-care.
Hand washing is crucial, and should be done often -- after blowing your nose, coughing, sneezing or going to the bathroom. Wash your hands before preparing food and eating, and after touching potentially contaminated surfaces. Always wash your hands with soap and water for 30 seconds (Sing Happy Birthday 3 times) or use hand sanitizer that is at least 60 percent alcohol.
- Avoid contact with sick people.
- Stay home when sick and limit contact with others.
- Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
- Disinfect surfaces that may be contaminated.
Social distancing means keeping six feet between you and others to reduce the spread of COVID-19. This includes limiting crowd sizes to 5 or less people and avoiding busy stores. It is important that young adults pay close attention to these recommendations as we are now finding that COVID-19 is affecting the young population at a much higher rate than what was initially thought. As well, many patients are showing no outward signs of being positive for the infection and/or transmitting this disease on to their loved ones who are at a much higher risk for severe complications from this infection.
who experience minor symptoms of COVID-19 recuperate at home by drinking fluids, resting and taking over the counter medications like acetaminophen or Ibuprofen/Motrin. It is important to note that initially the CDC had issued a recommendation for people who are COVID-19 positive to not take NSAIDs (Motrin/Ibuprofen) for fever control. However, after reexamination and looking at the data this recommendation has been taken back as there is no link between NSAID’s and worsening symptoms in those with COVID-19.
If you feel sick with fever, cough or difficulty breathing or were in close contact with someone with COVID-19 in the 14 days before you began to feel sick, seek medical care. If you go to a doctor’s office or emergency room, be sure to call ahead and tell them about your possible exposure, recent travel and your symptoms.
Emergency warning signs that indicate you need immediate medical attention include, but are not limited to:
- Trouble breathing
- Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
- New confusion or inability to arouse
- Bluish lips or face
COVID-19 is already here in North Dakota; and is going to pick up speed very quickly in the next couple of weeks. We already are starting to see the effects of this virus at our Hospital; we ask as health care providers to please do your part in slowing down the spread of this pandemic. Remember there are hundreds of doctors, nurses, and other health care workers who are on the front lines putting our lives at risk to protect all North Dakotans; please make our jobs easier and safer by following these above recommendations.
(Waqas Kayani, MD, is a Hospital Medicine doctor at CHI St. Alexius Health and an Assistant Clinical Professor with the University of North Dakota.)