These are difficult times. No argument there. Whether you’re on lock-down, shelter-in-place, working from home, or going to work in the midst of this viral tsunami, life is difficult and scary.
As a physician on the front lines of this battle, I see more than most, less than some, but what I encounter is real. Let me give you an idea of what we’re confronted with at the leading edge of this storm. Maybe it will answer some questions or clarify the situation.
As we all know, many patients who are elderly or are immunocompromised (have altered immune systems) can’t fight this disease as well as the healthy and younger folks can, and they may die from it. That being said, young people, 20 years and up, can get this disease too. Once infected, their outcomes vary from being contagious without symptoms (they often don’t even know they’ve been exposed) to a full-blown coronavirus infection with all its potential complications.
A 26-year-old man that came to see us for upper respiratory symptoms said, “I’m from the strong generation. I’m not worried about it.” Even though that may be true, many his age are falling ill across the country and around the globe. Don’t count on your age to keep you well, and please think of those around you. If you don’t take this threat seriously, you might be the one who carries it to a more susceptible person. To put it plainly, you might be the one who kills them.
For this reason, we medical providers wear protective gear including gloves, face shields, and N-95 masks. We don’t want to be responsible for carrying this pestilence to our loved ones, and in the event we may have been exposed, we don’t want to give it to any other patients.
One question I’m asked often is, does social distancing really matter? The answer is an emphatic yes. We know that coronavirus is airborne and droplet borne, it is also contracted by picking it up from an infected surface and then touching one’s face, eyes, mouth, etc. We have all been told that hand washing is essential—it is. If you’ve tried not touching your face or eyes, you’ve discovered how impossible that is. Wash your hands.
Although it is airborne, Coronavirus doesn’t remain in the air the way it does on surfaces. Gravity pulls it to the floor. If a person is coughing or sneezing in your direction, clearly your chances of getting the virus are greater than if they’re breathing normally. Still, it’s risky to be around someone infected with the virus, which has proven to be extremely dangerous, and powerful.
Some of the China autopsy data indicate the COVID 19 Coronavirus attacks us by causing very thick mucus secretions to develop and adhere to the walls of the respiratory system, narrowing the airways in a manner in which pulsed steroids and bronchodilators have little or no effect. Coughing doesn’t adequately move those secretions and they slowly diminish the ability to exchange enough oxygen to maintain life. In the early stages of exposure, drinking plenty of hot fluids is expected to wash the early virus secretions into the stomach where the acidity destroys the virus. Indeed, the first sign of this virus may be a vague sore throat. Symptoms should be checked if they persist.
The United States is an amazing country. It is truly the land of the free and home of the brave. Visit some third world countries and you’ll see how much we take for granted. America is also one nation under God, regardless of what some say. From the front lines we have seen time and again when the current administration has done everything in its power to support us and provide what we need so we can go back to caring for the sick and doing what is required to render this menace powerless. Regardless of your political views, no nation on earth can be prepared in advance for something like this to happen at any given time.
I stand behind our President. It doesn’t mean I agree with everything he says and does. It does mean that I pray for him, I respect him, and I am thankful for his leadership in this time under siege.
Pray for America, for your neighbors, for your family, and please pray for the rest of the world.