Coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19): What You Need to Know

Dr. Mark L. Friedman MD, FACEP, FACP & CMO of First Stop Health

Last updated March 14, 2020

Recent Updates

Daily news headlines concerning COVID-19 (“novel coronavirus”) continue with no end in sight.

On March 11, after the number of cases reached more than 118,000 in 114 countries with 4,291 deaths, the virus was named a pandemic by the World Health Organization after the number of cases reached more than 118,000 in 114 countries with 4,291 deaths.

The concept of “social distancing” is also making headlines in the U.S., where there have been 1,215 confirmed cases of COVID-19, 36 of them resulting in death. As a result of the increase of confirmed cases in the U.S.:

  • The NBA, NCAA, NHL and MLB have canceled, delayed and suspended events
  • South by Southwest, Coachella and Broadway (NYC) have cancelled or postponed events
  • Hundreds of K-12 schools have closed, affecting 850,000 students across the country
  • The United States is restricting travel to/from 24 countries in Europe for anyone who is not a citizen or permanent resident

While reports of school closings and the surge in confirmed cases can be scary, you are still relatively unlikely to be exposed to COVID-19. If COVID-19 is spreading in your community, take extra precautions to put distance -- like staying at home instead of going out -- between yourself and other people. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), your risk of being exposed may be higher if you:

  • are in a community where ongoing community spread of COVID-19 has been reported (even in this case, your risk of getting COVID-19 is still considered low);
  • are a healthcare worker caring for patients with COVID-19;
  • have had close contact with people with COVID-19; and/or
  • have traveled to affected international locations where community spread is occurring.

COVID-19 Key Facts

  • The virus spreads easily from person-to-person.
  • Its symptoms are like a cold or flu. Think cough, fever, and/or shortness of breath.
  • Most people who are infected recover. Some don't show any symptoms.
  • An estimated 2.3% of those that contract COVID-19 die (the "case fatality rate" or "death rate"). The best outcomes are reported for those < 50 years old.
COVID-19 Death Rates by Age Group
Age Group  Death Rate
< 9 0.0%
10-19 0.2%
20-29  0.2%
30-39 0.2%
40-49 0.4%
50-59 1.3%
60-69 3.6%
70-79 8.0%
> 80 14.8%

How to Protect Yourself

As always, prevention is the best medicine. Here are some easy ways to protect yourself from COVID-19, as well as other airborne illnesses such as cold and flu.

1. Pay attention to travel warnings. 
If you’re planning a trip anywhere outside the U.S., you can view travel restrictions, recommendations, and updates on the CDC website
 
2. Wash your hands.
After being in public (mass transit, stores, restaurants, etc.) or touching things others have touched (door handles, stair rails, etc.), follow it with a 20-second scrub
 
3. Don’t touch your face.
Don’t touch your eyes, nose, or mouth. If you have to, wash your hands first.

4. Use hand sanitizer.
Thoroughly washing your hands with soap and water is your best bet. If that’s not available, use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
 
5. Avoid sick people.
That’s good advice all year round. Avoid close contact with people coughing, sneezing, or who have fevers.
 
6. Don’t buy a face mask for prevention.
The average face mask isn’t effective in preventing this type of illness. It is, however, effective for preventing you from spreading airborne viruses. 
 
7. Watch out for severe symptoms.

If you have difficulty breathing, shortness of breath, or a fever of >103 degrees, get immediate medical attention.

8. Keep "social distance." 
According to the CDC, social distancing means as remaining out of congregate settings, avoiding mass gatherings, and maintaining distance (approximately 6 feet or 2 meters) from others when possible. This helps protect you from exposure and helps slow the spread of the virus.

9. Use telemedicine to avoid waiting room germs.
While there is currently no specific treatment for COVID-19, you can use telemedicine to help assess the risk, get appropriate advice (as to whether you need to see a doctor), and get treatment for many other illnesses, such as the flu, sinus issues, or pink eye. The more you can avoid places where sick people congregate, the better.

Helpful Resources

From the CDC:

From the WHO: 

If your employer provides First Stop Health telemedicine, our doctors are here for you 24/7. Contact us at the first sign of illness for diagnosis and treatment via phone. We cannot treat COVID-19 via phone or video, but we CAN:

  • treat many minor illnesses;
  • save you a trip to the doctor's office, urgent care, or ER; and
  • prevent you from being exposed to more sick people and germs in those waiting rooms.


 

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