COVID19: What are the facts?

COVID19: What are the facts?

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by Lisa Larkin, MD, FACP, NCMP, IF

COVID19. It is all over the news and social.

What are the facts? As of 3pm March 8, 2020, there have been 109,000 confirmed cases globally of COVID19 and 3800 deaths. There are 474 confirmed cases in the US, although that number is likely inaccurate and low due to very limited testing to date. The mortality rate is likely much lower than currently reported because only those who are very ill are being tested currently.

The good news: We know that the vast majority of people who become infected will have mild illness and recover. Elderly individuals and those with health issues are at highest risk.

COVID19 is about as infectious as seasonal flu. One infected person is likely to infect 2.5 others. It is vastly less infectious than measles and more infectious than MERS or Ebola.

Everyone should be educated and informed, but I encourage you, please, not to panic. This outbreak is clearly going to grow and is not containable. Without question, many of us will be infected and recover.

The key things to remember: wash your hands frequently and well. Hand washing is critical and the best protection. Stay home if you are ill with flu-like symptoms and fever.

Many of my patients have been asking if they should cancel travel over spring break. I believe this should be an individual decision based on your destination and the health of who is traveling and who you are visiting. There is currently no ban on U.S. travel.

For individuals with health issues, or elderly individuals or families with infants, I would consider cancelling travel, especially if your destination is to states where there have been confirmed cases. For healthy individuals, I would suggest you take precautions by frequent hand washing, but I would not cancel, although the decision must be individual and is personal choice. I am not personally cancelling any of my US travel at this time although many large planned meetings, including SXSW in Austin, TX, have been cancelled.

International travel depending on the destination is another story.

The #COVID19 pandemic is rapidly evolving and travel guidelines are likely to change in the coming days to weeks. Stay tuned for updates