Maryland Should Worry about Coronavirus
It is appearing more and more important that people in Maryland (and throughout the US) should be worrying about Coronavirus.
Coronavirus (now called COVID-19) has been spreading globally at an alarming rate. In 3 months, the number of cases went from 0 to 78,000 and has now spread to at least 40 countries. Although the US has only had 59 cases thus far, the CDC, WHO and Maryland Department of Health are all bracing for a potentially rapid and widespread outbreak.
How deadly is the coronavirus? How worried should we be? And what can we do to prevent our families from getting sick?
How Deadly Is Coronavirus?
The death rate during the 2003 SARS outbreak was 10%. On the other hand, the death rate from seasonal flu is 0.1%. So far, the death rate for Coronavirus has been around 0.7%, though in the city of Wuhan the death toll was between 2-4%.
Some experts think the initial estimate of 0.7% may be too low. “People who travel are generally are healthier,” according to JHU outbreak specialist Lauren Sauer.
On the other hand, Dr. Bruce Aylward, of the World Health Organization (WHO) stated, “You could have bad outcomes with this initially until you really get the hang of how to manage.” He also points out that people with lowered immune systems are often the first to get a new illness, and more likely to die from it.
So far, about 80% of Coronavirus cases have been “mild” while only 13% were classified as “severe”.
Do We Need to Worry about Coronavirus?
As many experts have stated, it is not a matter of “if”, it is only a matter of “when”, that Coronavirus outbreak will begin to spread more rampantly through the US.
Although a mortality rate of 0.7% seems much less worrisome than the 10% mortality rate of SARS, it is important to note that 0.7% death rate could still be devastating here in the US.
Dr. Anthony Fauci of the US National Institute of Health (NIH) points out that the death rate from seasonal flu is only 0.1% per year but when multiplied across the US population, results in about 56,000 people dying every year.
A death toll of 0.7%, depending on how wide spread the outbreak was, could result in hundreds of thousands of people in the US dying.
How Fast is Coronavirus Spreading?
The first cases were detected in China in December. Since then, China is reporting over 78,000 cases as of February 27, 2020.
South Korea has seen a sudden, rapid spread with 1,261 cases which has led the State Department to issue a Level 3 travel advisory.
Here in the US, only 59 cases have been reported. Maryland has not confirmed any cases of COVID-19.
Some reports are suggesting that Coronavirus is spreading much more rapidly than SARS did in 2003. So, though the mortality rate may be lower, the number of infected–and even the number that eventually die, could be much higher than SARS.
According to Wilbur Chen, an Infectious Disease specialist at University of Maryland, there are 3 potential scenarios:
- The virus is contained with travel bans and quarantines overseas before it’s widespread in the US.
- The viral pandemic continues over weeks and months.
- Warmer weather in spring/summer causes new cases to slow or stop, but like the flu, ramp up again in the fall.
How Is Coronavirus Spread?
COVID-19 (“COVI” for coronavirus”, “D” for disease and “19” for the year it was identified, is spread person to person. Unfortunately we do not know much more beyond the fact that it seems to be spread in the same way Flu and common cold viruses are spread to each other–mainly by touching an infected surface and then touching our eyes, shaking hands or a cough or a sneeze in close proximity.
How Do I Protect Myself and My Family from Coronavirus?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevent (CDC) is recommending the same viral respiratory precautions as one would take for the flu. For a more detailed, excellent article, read “How Doctors and Nurses Prevent Flu”.
In short, the recommendations are the following:
- Wash hands frequently and thoroughly (at least 20 second) OR use hand sanitizer
- Avoiding touching your face–particularly eyes, nose or mouth
- Clean and disinfect surfaces or objects that other people have touched (using an alcohol wipe).
How Do I know If I have Coronavirus?
Coronavirus may be difficult to diagnosis as mild cases will look very similar to the flu or a bad cold. A laboratory test can confirm the diagnosis–but, according to the Maryland Department of Health, only the CDC is capable of doing the testing currently.
If you are concerned or have any questions, we encourage you to contact your Primary Care doctor or visit an urgent care center such as Evolve.
Since Coronavirus infection is still rare, providers will be looking for a travel history to one of the areas heavily impacted. Or contact with someone who is sick who recently traveled.
The incubation period for COVID-19 is 2-14 days so if you have not traveled or come in contact with any sick, recent travelers, your chances of having Coronavirus, in Maryland, are very low.
For more information, visit the Maryland Department of Health or Anne Arundel Health Department of Health’s Flu Tips page
If you have been experiencing fever, headache, dry cough or any of the above symptoms, please see your doctor immediately–remember that if it’s Coronavirus, we want to avoid infected others. And if it is Flu, we want to start you on the right medicine.