Update COVID-19: “It’s a work in progress, but so is life.”

Yes, another quote from Dr. Who.

On January 29, I wrote about the new Corona Virus, now named COVID-19. Everywhere I look, I see worries about a pandemic. The number of deaths seem to be skyrocketing.

There are 73,332 confirmed cases of COVID-19, the new coronavirus that was first identified late last year in Wuhan, China, and at least 1,873 deaths, according to the latest figures from the World Health Organization (WHO).

So far, the death rate for COVID-19 is about 2%, which is higher than flu (less than 0.2%,) and lower than SARS (10%.) However, the actual rate for COVID-19 is unknown because only the reported illnesses are counted and it seems that some illnesses are quite mild, particularly in children.

(Hannah Norman/KHN Illustration; Getty Images)

Isolation is a great idea to prevent a pandemic. That said, it only takes the experience of a parent to understand that the people in isolated with the sick person are more likely to get sick, too. In other words, one child sick will most likely mean all four will be sick, as well as Mom and Dad. That’s what I thought about when I heard about the cruise ship quarantine.

News coverage of healthcare workers geared up in hazmat is a scary sight. According to the CDC recommendations, it’s also overkill.

The CDC Recommends

  • While the immediate risk of this new virus to the American public is believed to be low at this time, everyone can do their part to help us respond to this emerging public health threat:
    • It’s currently flu and respiratory disease season and CDC recommends getting a flu vaccine, taking everyday preventive actions to help stop the spread of germs, and taking flu antivirals if prescribed (Note from me: Flu vaccine is ineffective against COVID-19, however, most deaths occur in weakened individuals, so staying flu-free may help avoid complications if you come in contact with COVID-19.)
    • If you are a healthcare provider, be on the look-out for people who recently traveled from China and have fever and respiratory symptoms.
    • If you are a healthcare provider caring for a COVID-19 patient or a public health responder, please take care of yourself and follow recommended infection control procedures.
    • If you have been in China or have been exposed to someone sick with COVID-19 in the last 14 days, you will face some limitations on your movement and activity. Please follow instructions during this time. Your cooperation is integral to the ongoing public health response to try to slow spread of this virus. If you develop COVID-19 symptoms, contact your healthcare provider, and tell them about your symptoms and your travel or exposure to a COVID-19 patient.
    • For people who are ill with COVID-19, please follow CDC guidance on how to reduce the risk of spreading your illness to others.

Period of Contagiousness

COVID-19 may be spread before the infected person gets sick. Contrary to some reports, COVID-19 is not spread by people who do not have the disease.

COVID-19 may live on surfaces for several days or even weeks. To keep that in perspective, the common cold virus can live on a tissue for 30 days. Of course, the chances of dying from a cold is pretty slim.

You may be able to pass on flu to someone else before you know you are sick, as well as while you are sick.

  • People with flu are most contagious in the first 3-4 days after their illness begins.
  • Some otherwise healthy adults may be able to infect others beginning 1 day before symptoms develop and up to 5 to 7 days after becoming sick.
  • Some people, especially young children and people with weakened immune systems, might be able to infect others with flu viruses for an even longer time.

019-2020 U.S. Flu Season: Preliminary Burden Estimates

CDC estimates* that, from October 1, 2019, through February 8, 2020, there have been:

person coughing icon
26,000,000 – 36,000,000
flu illnesses
doctor patient icon
12,000,000 – 17,000,000
flu medical visits
hospital room icon
250,000 – 440,000
flu hospitalizations

14,000 – 36,000 flu deaths

Wired ran an article about the Wrong-headedness of comparing CONVID-19 to the flu. In the face of a lot of unknowns, I agree that it’s good to be vigilant about a new disease. However, I offer this anecdote:

An owner of the small company told me how worried he was about SARS. He was over 65, smoked, suffered from asthma, and heart disease.

“Adela, do you know who’s dying from SARS?” he asked. “People my age.”

First, Mr. Owner, your demographics (over 65) is the one that is dying the most. Period. Although SARS is, indeed, more deadly than the flu, you chances of infection from SARS is much slimmer than contracting the flu.

Still, Mr. Owner encouraged his employees to stay home if they were running a fever or “leaking” (i.e. runny nose or coughing.) And he quit smoking.

Everyone was healthier that winter.

Who can argue with that logic?

This photo is from The Atlantic. For more photos of Life in the Time of Coronavirus click here.