The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak that started in China is causing a wave of fears, especially as there has been an exponential increase in confirmed cases reported in the US. On 3/14/20, there were a total of 335 positive cases and six deaths in California. Now the US has surpassed all countries in the number of cases, with over 1.5 million cases in the US as of 5/17/20, and this number is increasing exponentially as more testing is available. While there is a candidate vaccine being developed, there is currently no vaccine to prevent the coronavirus disease. The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to this virus. Stay safe and healthy by staying home whenever possible and keeping up with the latest CDC recommendations! As most parts of the country are reopening (including our practice in Fountain Valley), please keep practicing the basic preventive measures below, as we are not out of the woods yet.
Basic prevention (recommendations by the CDC and WHO):
- Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
- Maintain at least 6 feet from someone who is coughing or sneezing.
- Wear a mask in public.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
- Seek medical care early if you have a fever, cough or difficulty breathing.
- Stay home if you are feeling ill.
- Practice social distancing to avoid community spread. Catch up on home projects, books, old movies, online classes, etc.
Myths about the coronavirus disease:
- Myth: Drinking bleach or taking essential oils or other substances can protect against the virus. Fact: None of those recommendations have been proven to work, and some (such as using bleach) are dangerous. Follow the preventive measures listed.
- Myth: A face mask will protect you against the virus. Fact: The benefit of wearing the lightweight, disposable face mask is unclear since the tiny infected droplets may get through. However, studies of influenza pandemics have shown that when high-grade N95 masks are not available, surgical masks do protect people a bit more than not wearing masks at all. And when masks are combined with hand hygiene, they help reduce the transmission of infections. Face masks should be worn by those who are sick to prevent the spread. Tight-fitting respirators (such as the N95) can protect health care workers as they care for infected patients. These respirators are critically low and needed by the workers on the front line to fight this disease, and many clinics and hospitals are asking for donations.
- Myth: The disease mainly affects the elderly. Fact: The majority of reported cases of infection have been in adults, 49% of the hospitalized are 18-49 years old. The effect of the coronavirus on children is unclear at this point, though there has been recent death of an infant due to the coronavirus. The question is whether children are infected but have less severe symptoms or whether there are a lot of children that are not getting infected even when they have been exposed to the virus.
- Myth: The coronavirus dies quickly outside the body. Fact: The CDC says that current evidence suggests that the coronavirus may remain for hours to days on surfaces. A recent study showed that the virus was viable on the following surfaces: air-up to 3 hours, cardboard-up to 24 hours, plastic and stainless steel–up to 3 days. Here are some germ hot spots: gas pump handles, mailbox handles, escalator rails, ATM buttons, parking meters, and vending machine buttons. Practice frequent hand washing with soap for at least 20 seconds, and use hand sanitizers with at least 60% alcohol when you cannot wash your hands.
- Myth: Healthy young adults do not need to worry about becoming infected because they do not exhibit symptoms. Fact: While some of the NBA players who tested positive for the coronavirus, most people do suffer from symptoms that may include coughing, fever, and difficulty breathing. Even if you are not concerned with your own health, be responsible and do your part to prevent the spread by following recommendations for social distancing and staying home. Your loved ones may be more vulnerable due to age or immunosuppressed state; check up on your older relatives and neighbors and offer help getting groceries and/or medications.
- Myth: Taking chloroquine prophylactically can prevent infection with the coronavirus. Fact: While chloroquine is used to treat malaria, and seems promising in the treatment of the coronavirus, it is still being used in trials in the US. Recently, a man in Arizona died after taking a nonmedical form of chloroquine (used to fight parasites in aquariums) as a prophylactic measure against the coronavirus. On 3/29/20, the FDA has given emergency approval to distribute anti-malarial drugs to hospitals across the country, saying it is worth the risk of trying unproven treatments to slow the progression of the disease.
- Myth: Once you are infected with the coronavirus, you have a lifetime of immunity. Fact: It is unclear at this time. There are reports that people in China are getting reinfected, but they have milder symptoms or are asymptomatic.
- Myth: You can become infected with the coronavirus by eating contaminated food. Fact: While it is a possibility, it is very unlikely and there are no known cases. Unlike bacteria, viruses cannot grow inside food, so the amount of virus in the food would be expected to dwindle with time, rather than grow. For tips on how to food safety during this pandemic, read https://www.theorthobee.com/2020/03/29/safety-tips-for-grocery-shopping-during-covid-19-pandemic/.
More coronavirus myths & facts can be found at https://informationisbeautiful.net/visualizations/coronavirus-myths-mythconceptions.
As this is a novel virus, the situation and recommendations are constantly being updated as more facts are gathered. Please visit some of these sites for official updates: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/cases-updates/summary.html and https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/advice-for-public/myth-busters