COVID-19 (the coronavirus illness): What you need to know and What you can do

What you need to know

1. COVID-19 is a flu-like illness, with symptoms primarily consisting of fever, body aches, cough and sometimes diarrhea or nausea, with more severe cases causing shortness of breath and chest pressure and occasionally low oxygen levels. This virus has a greater tendency to cause viral pneumonia and occasionally dangerous lung inflammation, especially in people over 60-70 and people who smoke or have heart or lung disease.

2. Currently, COVID-19 appears to be more deadly than flu overall, but mortality will NOT be the 2-3% currently reported, as we anticipate these numbers to go down as more data is gathered. It is important to remember that the flu is responsible for between 30,000 – 75,000 deaths every year in the United States alone, we just don’t see the news reporting them one by one and town by town all day long.

3. The virus seems most dangerous for those over 70 and those with heart disease and lung disease, with a significant percentage of those requiring hospitalization.

4. Nursing home patients will be at very high risk.

5. Children appear to have very mild illness with NO deaths reported so far under 10 years old.

6. Face masks are NOT helpful to prevent disease if you are NOT sick. If you have a cold, wearing a mask can prevent YOU from spreading virus droplets to those around you as long as you don’t touch the mask.

7. This virus has most likely been spreading in the US for the past 6 weeks, so the number of cases the media and others report is misleading and will increase significantly in the coming weeks, not because of rapid growth of new cases (which will continue to increase, unfortunately), but because we will be testing many more people (although tests are extremely limited and so far unreliable).

What can you do?

1. Stay calm…panic will not help at all. As mentioned, the “mortality rate” will be lower than currently reported and most people are at low risk of severe illness.

2. Wash your hands regularly and try not to touch your face.

3. Cover your cough w tissue or your elbow and wash your hands with soap and water often.

4. Don’t buy masks, these are needed for medical professionals to be able to see the more sick patients and we can’t get them right now because of supply shortages.

5. Get plenty of sleep – this is the best immune system booster.

6. If you have an upper respiratory illness and you have no shortness of breath, no chest pressure, no confusion or excessive sleepiness, it will be best to remain home to avoid spread, as there is no treatment for this illness other than time – your body WILL get rid of it, but it will take up to 14 days for you to NOT be contagious anymore. If you develop symptoms of cough, body aches, and fever, call your doctor for advice about what to do next.

At Boerne Family Medicine, we care about your health. We want to make sure you have all of the tools that you need to manage your health during this uncertain period. Consider making it a priority to get your flu vaccine this year, as the fewer flu cases, the easier it will be to detect the COVID-19 cases. Contact us or local pharmacy for flu vaccine availability.