Information on Covid-19: Answers to FAQ's and why it's important to protect our community
Updated: Mar 19, 2020
Whitney H. Mitchell, MD
WHAT IS COVID-19 AND WHY IS IT MAKING PEOPLE SICK? Covid-19 is a Corona virus, a well-known and studied family of viruses that causes a flu-like illness. What makes Covid-19 unique is that it has recently crossed from animals into humans. Because our bodies have not seen Covid-19 before, our white blood cells have not made protective antibodies yet.
WHO IS AT RISK? Most everyone will eventually be exposed to Covid-19. For most, we can expect mild symptoms consistent with the flu: fever, chills, sore throat, phlegm, and cough. Some will not have symptoms at all (but are still contagious). Those at risk for more serious illness are seniors, pregnant women, and those with underlying medical conditions such as asthma or other breathing conditions, immunosuppression from chemotherapy or other medications, diabetes, heart conditions, neurological disease, or kidney and liver diseases.
IF MOST OF US WILL EVENTUALLY HAVE COVID-19, WHY SHOULD WE GO THROUGH ALL THIS EFFORT? New Braunfels has approximately 15,500 seniors and many more than that with underlying medical conditions. We have 30,000+ locals who are susceptible to severe complications of the virus that we as a community need to protect. The risk of mortality to our high-risk community is estimated to be as high as 10-15%. New Braunfels has a total of 24 ICU beds; at any given time 3-10 are occupied at each of the 2 hospitals. This means that really sick patients would not get the care they need.
I DON'T KNOW ANYONE WITH COVID-19, SO IS THIS REALLY A RISK TO ME OR MY COMMUNITY? You may have heard that there are no cases of Covid-19 locally, and you may not know anyone with Covid-19. There are reasons for that. Physicians in the state of Texas were not allowed by the state of Texas to test for Covid-19 until this week. Currently testing is becoming more available but is not wide-spread. In addition lab results may not be available for up to a week after testing. This means that it is very likely that there are people in our community that are either demonstrating symptoms or carrying Covid-19 and do not know it.
HOW CAN "FLATTENING THE CURVE" HELP? Epidemiologists have found that the number of cases of Covid-19 doubles every 3 days. That means that 1 case of Corona virus becomes 32 new cases in 2 weeks, 1024 cases in 4 weeks, and 32,768 cases in 6 weeks. On average people are infected for 5-6 days before showing flu-like symptoms, during which time they are likely spreading the virus unknowingly to family, coworkers, friends, and customers. By using "social distancing" and good hygiene practices, a community can decrease the number of new cases to a more manageable rate for medical care. This allows our hospitals and medical providers to keep up with the load of new cases and means better care for you and your loved ones should you need it.
WHAT CAN I DO TO PROTECT MYSELF, MY LOVED ONES, AND MY COMMUNITY? First and foremost, use good hand-washing hygiene frequently by either washing your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds or using a hand-sanitizing product like Purell that has at least 60% alcohol. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands, and sneeze into a tissue or your elbow if a tissue is not readily available. Disinfect frequently-touched surfaces using a household disinfectant, alcohol solution, or bleach solution. Avoid close contact with others by avoiding groups of people and maintaining a 6 foot distance from others. Stay home whenever possible and cancel any non-necessary meetings and get-togethers.
WHERE CAN I GET MORE INFORMATION THAT I CAN TRUST?
CDC, The Centers for Disease Control, provides factual and up-to-date information about Covid-19, how to protect yourself and loved ones, and what to do if you think you are sick.
The Comal County Public Health website also provides information that is relevant locally.