As we continue to take precautions against COVID-19, it’s more important than ever to understand the medical facts about this pandemic. Debates are widespread about the nature of the novel coronavirus: is it really that dangerous? Are the “stay at home” orders an overreaction? Isn’t COVID-19 just like the flu? Rather than feeding speculations like these, we must emphasize what we know about COVID-19: it’s an unprecedented virus with far more serious consequences and implications that the flu – and it’s critical that we act accordingly and continue to practice social distancing in order to preserve the health and safety of our communities. Let’s dive into six key facts about COVID-19:
1. Although the fatality rate may turn out to be similar (<1%), the higher prevalence and infectious rate of SARS-CoV2 results in many more deaths. In 2019, there were 34,000 deaths from influenza in the U.S. over a 12 month period. With SARS-CoV2, we have had over 50,000 deaths in less than 2 months.
2. SARS-CoV2 has a long incubation period (5-14 days) so people are infectious for a longer amount of time before they have symptoms versus the flu, which is 1-4 days. Longer incubation = more people infected.
3. This is a new virus with no prior immunity within our population so we are all at risk.
4. We have no vaccine for COVID-19 and therefore no way to prevent it other than social distancing.
5. We have no effective medication for COVID-19. With influenza, we do have Tamiflu and Xofluza that decrease the severity of the virus.
6. SARS-CoV2 is unique, and in severe cases, it can cause a very prolonged, SARS-like (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) illness that is different from the SARS we have seen with other viruses. Patients with this virus don’t respond to ventilation the same way. There is also concern that it may increase the risk of blood clotting, thereby increasing the risk of strokes, pulmonary embolus, and heart attacks even in younger people.
As we continue to weather this unprecedented storm, it’s critical to look to trusted healthcare professionals anytime you have any questions or doubts. The information above isn’t meant to scare you; it’s meant to empower you to make the best decisions for your health and the health of your loved ones and neighbors. By staying home, taking the proper precautions, practicing excellent hygiene, and listening to reliable healthcare organizations like the CDC and WHO, each one of us has the power to help flatten the curve and combat the spread of COVID-19. Stay safe and healthy.