On this website you can find information and guidance from Joecrack regarding the current outbreak of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) that was first reported from Wuhan, China, on 31 December 2019. Please visit this page for daily updates.
Signs of Coronavirus Disease
Common signs of infection include respiratory symptoms, fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. In more severe cases, infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death.
Standard recommendations to prevent infection spread include regular hand washing, covering mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing, thoroughly cooking meat and eggs. Avoid close contact with anyone showing symptoms of respiratory illness such as coughing and sneezing.
Warning : Do not go on cruise vacations and avoid travel
The CDC issued new guidelines on March 8, 2020 recommending that “travelers, particularly those with underlying health issues, defer all cruise ship travel worldwide.” Cruise ship passengers are at increased risk of person-to-person spread of infectious diseases like COVID-19, the CDC says.
In addition, they are now advising that high-risk patients avoid non-essential travel, such as long plane rides.
See Also: Stay home as much as possible
The CDC issued new guidelines on March 5, 2020 for people at higher risk of COVID-19 that encourage them to stay home as much as possible. The CDC describes this group as “older adults and people who have severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease” but we consider those with inflammatory autoimmune conditions and anyone taking immune-suppressing medications in this group as well.
The CDC also recommends that if you do need to go out, try to avoid crowds and gatherings with large numbers of people.
Know the symptoms
The symptoms of COVID-19 are similar to those of influenza, says William Schaffner, MD, a professor of medicine in the division of infectious diseases at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville, Tennessee. These include:
- Shortness of breath
- Sometimes vomiting and diarrhea
- Aches and pains
- Complications like pneumonia
“Coronavirus is a respiratory illness and spread very readily through close contact,” Dr. Schaffner explains — for instance, if an infected person coughs or sneezes three to six feet away from you.
It may also be spread through an airborne route, which, according to Johns Hopkins, means “that tiny droplets remaining in the air could cause disease in others even after the ill person is no longer near.”
Experts aren’t sure if COVID-19 can be spread by touching an object or surface contaminated with the virus and then touching your mouth, nose, or eyes.
Symptoms usually appear within two to 14 days of being exposed to the virus.
While coronavirus is easy to catch, it is not found everywhere, like cold and flu viruses are.
“It’s important to listen to the news and advice of local health officials,” says Dr. Schaffner. “If there was an importation in Maine, it won’t affect people in Missouri; you need to be aware of your neck of the woods.”
The CDC recommends testing for the coronavirus in patients who:
- Have fever or symptoms of lower respiratory illness (cough or shortness of breath) AND who have had close contact with someone who’s had lab-confirmed coronavirus
- Have fever or symptoms of lower respiratory illness AND who have recently traveled to an area with widespread virus transmission (China, Japan, Italy, South Korea, or Iran)
- Have fever with severe acute lower respiratory illness (e.g., pneumonia, respiratory distress) that requires hospitalization and who do not have an alternative possible diagnosis (such as flu)
At this time, there is no vaccine (although manufacturers are working on it) and no specific antiviral treatment for COVID-19, but medical care can help relieve and monitor symptoms.
Keep in mind that because coronavirus symptoms are very similar to flu or other respiratory infections, you shouldn’t necessarily panic if you develop them. What you should do is call your rheumatologist or primary care doctor right away to determine next steps.
“If patients experience worrisome symptoms suggestive of coronavirus — or influenza — they should see their PCP/urgent care/ED immediately,” says Dr. Bose.
Be your healthiest self
Right now the regular seasonal flu is a still a greater threat than coronavirus for patients with inflammatory arthritis, says Dr. Schaffner. And, luckily, the lifestyle habits that help your immune system to function optimally during cold and flu system are important for fending off the coronavirus, too.
You should make sure you have your annual flu vaccine as well as practice these habits:
- Regular hand washing
- Staying hydrated
- Eating healthy
- Managing stress
- Getting adequate sleep
“One of the easiest things to say and the hardest things to do is to sleep well,” says Vinicius Domingues, MD, a rheumatologist in Daytona Beach, Florida. “People who are sleep-deprived are at much higher risk of contracting a virus.”
Another thing to keep in mind is to avoid taking “immune booster supplements,” says rheumatologist Doug Roberts, MD, an assistant clinical professor of medicine at the University of California Davis Medical School. “Some of these may interfere with the immunomodulating effects of your DMARDs [disease-modifying medications].”
It’s always a good idea to get your doctor’s approval for any over-the-counter supplements.
Stop the spread of germs
Hand washing (for at least 20 seconds with soap and water) is the hands-down (pun intended) winner when it comes to preventing the spread of germs. Here’s a video from the World Health Organization that shows proper hand washing techniques — it may be more involved than you think.
The CDC also advises common sense measures like avoiding touching your mouth, nose, and eyes, avoiding people who are coughing and sneezing, cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched objects and surfaces, and avoiding large crowds. In other words, “don’t be afraid to be the person with disinfecting wipes,” says Dr. Domingues.
At this time, the CDC does not recommend wearing a face mask to protect yourself from COVID-19. There is no scientific basis that they help prevent infection, says Dr. Schaffner. “The average face mask is too thin and fits too loosely around the face,” he notes, adding “though there is a small psychological benefit; you feel more comfortable and others know you have them in mind and are in this together.”
If you do choose to invest in a face mask, Dr. Domingues recommends the N95, which the FDA has cleared for use by the general public in public health medical emergencies.
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