Dear Flash Readers,
I am honored to have been asked to publish frequent updates dispelling myths and confirming truths about our current coronavirus crisis. I take the responsibility seriously and will do my best to help you get information. My goal is to have a factual basis for everything I write here. I welcome questions and comments. As long as they are constructive I will do my best to respond when I can.
– Ben Marcum, MD – Stephenville Medical and Surgical Clinic
Myth 1: This virus is no big deal.
SARS CoV-2 is a highly contagious and extremely pathogenic beta-coronavirus. Before the end of 2019 it existed only in animals when a mutation occurred and it made the jump from animals to humans and apparently, human to human. It can live on surfaces for days… in some cases up to 17 days (swabs of surfaces in the cabins on a cruise ship that had infected people tested positive for RNA from the virus up to 17 days after disembarkation). A German study found that people who were infected but not showing symptoms or had very early symptoms produced thousands to millions of copies of the virus in their noses and throats, 1000 times more on average than people who had SARS CoV 1 (the original SARS virus). That heavy viral load during the first week of infection likely explains the high contagion rate.
So problem 1 is that it spreads like wildfire. Problem 2 is that a lot of people get very, very sick. 1 in 5 infections result in hospitalization and 1 in 25 need to go to icu. 1 in 50 die. 4 out of 5 people who go on a ventilator die. These numbers are way worse that the typical seasonal flu and it is just as or more contagious than flu. This poses a significant problem for our town. We have 30 general hospital beds. We have 5 icu beds and 4 ventilators. These numbers mean that if 200 people are sick at one time, we will need 40 general hospital beds and 8 icu beds. Only 200 cases at one time will exhaust our capacity. We could very quickly reach 1000 cases and there will be people laying in the halls of the hospital while we frantically try to care for them. This has already happened in other first world countries and is close to happening in major cities in the US. If we get 1000 cases at one time we can expect 10 patients who need a ventilator for every ventilator we have.
Also people with COVID-19 (the World Health Organization name for COrona VIrus Disease – 2019) stay in ICU longer – 11 to 14 days instead of the average 4 to 6 days spent by run of the mill ICU admissions.
So you can see, this minuscule pathogen poses a gargantuan problem. We have a chance, right now, every one of us, to save lives. Don’t go anywhere you don’t have to. If you need groceries, one person should go and get in and get out. Better yet, order it curbside and disinfect everything when you get home. Wear gloves and even a surgical mask if you have one. It is not by any means 100% effective but better than nothing. WE ARE NOT ON VACATION. The weather is nice and I know you have recreational activities or home projects you like to do. But if those activities put you in contact with potentially infected people or surfaces… I’m begging you on behalf of the medical community and your and my neighbors and loved ones, DON’T DO IT. SARS CoV 2 can live on a gas pump handle or debit card keypad for at least 3 days. Going for a joy ride, even if you don’t see another soul, increases the frequency you fill up your vehicle and thus, increase the risk of exposure. Everything you do carries a certain level of risk. It is not just a risk to you (yes even young healthy people have died), but a risk to the vulnerable people in our society – over 65, hypertension, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, immunocompromised… every person has the responsibility to protect themselves and their neighbors. Taking unnecessary risks so you can better enjoy your quarantine is self serving and dangerous. THIS VIRUS IS A VERY BIG DEAL.