UCLA Health Coronavirus Update, Part 2 | Daniel Z. Uslan, MD, MBA

UCLA Health Coronavirus Update, Part 2 | Daniel Z. Uslan, MD, MBA


Coronaviruses are a large family of
viruses that are best known for causing the common cold. They are also
responsible for more serious respiratory illnesses, such as SARS and MERS. The CDC
says the new coronavirus can be spread from person to person with contact
within about 6 feet or closer. The virus is believed to be spread between people
mainly via respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or
sneezes, similar to how influenza and other respiratory illnesses spread. These
drops can land in the mouth or noses of people who are nearby or inhaled into the lungs. While it can be scary to hear about the
new coronavirus, according to public health authorities, the health risk to
people in the United States is considered low at this point.
For perspective, 15 million people have contracted influenza in the US during
the current flu season, resulting in 140,000 hospitalizations and more than
8,000 deaths. Risk factors for the coronavirus
include travel to Hubei Province, China, including Wuhan, or exposure to patients
with confirmed cases. Those travelling to other parts of China but who have severe
symptoms requiring hospitalization may also be considered for testing. The most common symptoms of the novel
coronavirus are fever, cough, shortness of breath, and breathing difficulties. In
more serious cases, the virus can cause severe pneumonia, severe acute
respiratory syndrome, kidney failure, and even death. The incubation period, the
time between exposure and symptoms, is typically 5 to 7 days, although it
could be as short as 2 days and as long as 14 days. Typically, with most
respiratory viruses, people are thought to be most contagious when they are the sickest. Doctors focus on treating the symptoms
associated with the illness based on the patient’s specific condition. There is no
specific antiviral treatment or medicine to cure coronavirus, although
experimental antiviral medications have shown promise in preliminary reports. A
vaccine is being developed, but it may not be available for clinical use for some time. Prevention is similar to recommendations
for controlling the spread of the flu: wash your hands often with soap and
water, cover your nose and mouth with your sleeve, not your hands, when sneezing
and coughing, and avoid close contact with anyone showing signs of a
respiratory illness. If you travel to Wuhan, China, or have come in contact with
someone who has, and feel sick with fever, cough, or difficulty breathing, seek
medical care immediately. I’ve heard a lot of myths about the
coronavirus. First, there is no evidence that the coronavirus can be transmitted
through products shipped from China or any other country. These viruses do not
tend to live on surfaces for very long, at most a few hours. Coronavirus germs
can be eliminated by using common disinfectants. While some coronaviruses have been linked to animals, such as camels, there
is no evidence that household pets, such as cats, dogs, or birds, can transmit this
novel coronavirus. Unless you’re in a healthcare environment or otherwise in
close proximity for extended periods with people who may be carrying the
novel coronavirus, there is no need to wear a face mask when out in public. In
fact, it might be counterproductive. So, if you are sick, what are some things you should do? Well, first, stay home, except to get
medical care. Don’t go out in public where you could potentially infect other
people. When you’re at home, separate yourself from other people in your home.
If you do need to go in to visit your doctor, call ahead before you go so that
they know that you’re coming in with fever and respiratory symptoms. Cover
your coughs and sneezes and remember to sneeze into your sleeve, and not into
your hands. Wash your hands regularly with soap and water, or use alcohol-based
hand rub. Avoid sharing household items to avoid spreading your infection to
people in the home, and monitor your symptoms for increasing fever, shortness
of breath, or worsening cough.

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