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Underneath media melee: Get the facts on COVID-19 from West Palm Beach infections disease MD

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Op-ed views and opinions expressed are solely those of the author.

Dr. Suzanne Succop is a Board Certified Infectious Disease physician who has practiced for 25 years in the West Palm Beach area.

COVID-19 is a novel coronavirus that originated in December 2019 in Wuhan Province, China. ‘CO’ stands for Corona, ‘VI’ for virus, and ‘D’ for disease. Due to the global nature of our society, the virus is spreading rapidly throughout the world, including the United States. Some areas in the U.S. are experiencing community transmission, while others have clusters of cases, sporadic cases, or no cases.  On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) officially declared the outbreak a pandemic.

The common symptoms of COVID-19 include fever (in 85% of cases), cough, and sore throat. Patients may later develop shortness of breath. Of course, these are non-specific symptoms which could also arise due to influenza, other viruses, or bacterial infections.

Coronaviruses are spread from person-to-person through respiratory droplets. Close contact with a person positive for COVID-19 is considered to be within approximately 6 feet.

The U.S. Surgeon General stated the average age of death for people from the COVID-19 is 80 years old. The average age of those requiring medical attention is age 60. We know the disease is mild in most cases; at least 80% will not require hospitalization. Global mortality has still remained approximately 2%. In comparison, influenza mortality is approximately 0.4%. Children seem particularly resistant against acquiring the virus, likely due to milder coronavirus strains which frequently infect children, giving them partial immunity.

(Photo by Danny Lawson – WPA Pool/Getty Images)

There has been global cooperation from doctors, state health departments, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to try to contain the spread as much as possible. The WHO Director General stresses public health measures such as hand hygiene, respiratory etiquette, and social distancing. It is recommended to avoid sick contacts, to stay at home when you are sick, and to avoid shaking hands as a social greeting. Also avoid public transit if possible, as well as crowded places like sporting events or concerts. Cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces in public places is strongly recommended.

If you develop a fever, local hospitals can send nasal and oropharyngeal swabs to your state lab for testing. Positive results must be subsequently confirmed by the CDC. If you believe you have been exposed to a person with COVID-19, you are advised to call your state health department for guidance.

This is an evolving story, and updates can be found on the CDC website or CDC app. It is not known whether the spread of COVID-19 will decrease when weather becomes warmer as seen with Influenza. Regardless, the best protection is prevention of exposure to the virus.

Suzanne Succop

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