We are in a time of uncertainty with the spread of this virus. There is so much information being thrown at us, that trying to understand it is like drinking out of a fire hydrant.
Now that a lot of people are not working and not at school, the searches on the internet are increasing by the minute. On any given internet search, you can have as many as 5,690,000,000 results! 5+ billion! Many people are becoming overwhelmed with trying to research... increases the hysteria and anxiety of the current times.
Trust me, I get it.
As a physician, I have been getting multiple texts, calls, FaceTime chats from concerned family members and friends. What I’ve noticed the most is that a lot of people don't have the most accurate information…and how can they? There is just too much information being thrown at the community every minute of the day.
While I know I won’t be able to answer every question, especially since much of it evolves from day to day, let me answer some frequently asked questions, and comment on a few myths, when it comes to “The Rona.” (Gotta love the internet)
Let’s start with some myths.
MYTH: COVID-19 is the same as the flu.
I cannot stress this enough. This is not the flu. The flu comes from the Orthomyxoviridae family. But COVID-19 comes from the family of Coronoviridae, a subfamily of Orthocoronoviridae.
I know you skipped over those words. Just remember the flu and coronavirus are not from the same family. It’s like the Hatfields vs McCoys but without the fighting.
MYTH: Coronavirus and COVID-19 are the same things.
Coronavirus is a family of viruses that can cause both animals and humans to become ill. COVID-19, short for coronavirus disease 2019, is a medical condition/illness that is caused by a specific type of coronavirus. Although there have been other types of coronaviruses which caused illnesses like SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) and MERS (Middle eastern respiratory syndrome), there's only been ONE COVID-19.
MYTH: There is a cure/vaccine/natural remedy for this.
Right now, there is no pill or shot or specific treatment to get rid of COVID-19. The good news is that there are potential vaccines currently being tested and investigations or medications to shorten the course of the virus.
MYTH: If I feel sick, I should go straight to the hospital.
STOP! Take a moment. If you think you are sick, and your symptoms are mild, call your doctor or a healthcare provider. There are also Telehealth appointments where people can have their symptoms evaluated virtually. Some people with mild symptoms may be asked to stay at home and recover, while others may be instructed to go to the nearest testing center or hospital. In case of a medical emergency, call 911.
MYTH: I already “wash” my hands enough.
So, I’m going to be honest here and this may hurt for some: No you don’t. Most people don’t wash their hands properly or as often as they should. If you’re home, you should wash your hands several times a day, like before eating, after using the bathroom, before unloading the dishwasher (you know those dishes are clean, right?). Although most states have "stay-at-home" orders, you may need to leave the house for essential items. Think about the.… door knobs, ATM buttons, credit card machine, car doors, grocery carts! These are shared spaces and items. Make sure to wash your hands often with soap and water for 20 seconds. AND…don’t forget to disinfect those surfaces where the virus can hang out.
MYTH: I don’t have symptoms so I shouldn’t be stuck in my house!
Whoa! A lot of people right now are thinking this. Remember, the current recommendation for “social distancing” is to keep the virus from spreading. Don’t forget, you can have the virus and have mild or even no symptoms, and spread the virus. I'm sure you don’t want to go out and interact with someone who is at higher risk for getting ill.
OK! Now that we have a few myths out of the way, let’s answer some of questions.
FAQ: What are the symptoms? It depends on the person. The most common symptoms include fever, difficulty breathing, and a dry cough. Others complain of a runny or stopped up nose, sore throat, and even headaches. In some cases, COVID-19 can cause a person to become severely ill and need hospital care.
FAQ: Will I die if I get COVID-19? The majority of people with COVID-19 will recover. For those who are at higher risk for severe symptoms, it can be harder to recover. As you have seen on the news, some have become so sick, recovery doesn’t happen.
FAQ: Who is considered ‘higher risk’ for severe symptoms? You’ve probably heard the news talking about the elderly population being high risk….and this is true. But, there are others that are high risk that could be in any age group. If your body can’t easily fight off infection you could be high risk. Also, people who already have certain medical conditions, like lung disease, diabetes, kidney disease, cancer, and even high blood pressure are also high risk. Remember that some of those medical conditions don’t have an age limit.
FAQ: Well, can I at least keep my scheduled hair appointment? The current recommendations are in place to stop the spread of the virus in the country. Most states have closed non-essential businesses including hair salons. If your salon is open, I have some questions for you: Has the stylist or anyone in their household had symptoms? How is the salon screening the customers for COVID-19? Will there be more than 10 people in the salon? Do I really need this service right now? Like really?
FAQ: Isn’t everyone overreacting? This is the most common question I’ve been asked. Sooo, I can’t judge whether people are overreacting….although it is still hard to find toilet tissue (what’s up with that?). It is important to take this seriously. And although some may think the infection rate is low, you don’t want the number of infections, or the death rate, to get higher. The only way to prevent the increase in infections and illnesses is to prevent the spread of the virus.
Quick Note: Anyone who tests positive for this virus should stay home. Anyone who is in the house with someone who tests positive should stay home.
Hopefully, I was able to turn off the fire hydrant…or at least turn down some of the pressure. Continue to stay hopeful, stay safe, and be proactive in staying healthy.
Dr. Gina Simone
*For more guidelines, please see:
Centers of Disease Control and Prevention https://www.cdc.gov and World Health Organization https://www.who.int