As scientists and public health officials work to understand this new invisible threat better, the public’s collective head is spinning with new guidelines for managing life in the age of coronavirus.
Daily changes to official guidelines are frustrating, but it’s essential to know that guidelines for the management of some of the more virulent microbes typically evolve, and new information comes out regularly to inform the care of people infected with Multi-Drug Resistant Organisms, also called MDROs.
What we know about Coronavirus
Comparatively, let’s look at a bacteria called Clostridiodes Difficile or C. Diff. Even the name of the disease has changed within the past couple of years; we used to call it Clostridium Difficile. New research prompted the change after genome sequencing revealed more information, and the bacterial taxonomy of the bug was changed to reflect its place in the animal kingdom better.
Eradication guidelines for C. Diff have evolved as the bacteria has become better understood. Now, we have a better handle on how it behaves in terms of eradication and survival time on hard surfaces. Alcohol hand gels do not kill C. Diff on the skin, and typical hospital-grade disinfectants do not destroy it, either. C. Diff spores can live for a very long time--from days to years--and will easily infect an unsuspecting person’s intestinal tract given the opportunity. You can eradicate C. Diff on the skin by using high-quality soap and water while handwashing. Environmental surfaces must be cleaned with bleach, as bleach is the only cleaning agent that kills the spores the bacteria forms. These are the latest of the guidelines, but more research continually changes how we approach infection control and prevention.
Coronavirus, which causes the disease we call COVID-19, is a mutated version of the coronavirus we have all had--the common cold. What’s different about the virus classification of this strain is that in some people, it can progress rapidly from mild cold symptoms to a complicated course of the disease that can require extensive medical management.
Because we have so many vaccines to prevent viral illnesses, many people think this illness is going to be simple to manage. It’s vital to remember researchers have been working since the 1980s to develop a vaccine for HIV/AIDS. Thirty years later, there is belatedly a vaccine in clinical trials. We understand the flu virus well and can vaccinate based on predictions from the scientific community.
Preventing The Coronavirus
A coronavirus vaccine could be a year or two away as there are many steps to be taken in the development of a vaccine. Until then, all we can do is protect members of our community who are at the highest risk for complications. Self-quarantine, social distancing, cough etiquette, and disinfection of hard surfaces are currently our best defense.
While the media has done a great job of informing the public about risk factors, it certainly bears repeating. In essence, people at the highest risk for complications are those with pre-existing conditions. This includes people with lung disease, like COPD, heart disease, kidney disease, diabetes, and people whose immune system is compromised by either illness or medications.
Examples of immuno-compromising drugs are chemotherapy and biological medications, such as the type used to treat autoimmune disorders. After the age of 60, there is a decline in the immune system, placing older people at risk. At the risk of becoming repetitive, COVID-19 can kill these people. Again: COVID-19 must be taken very seriously as it can take the life of an elderly loved one or family member with an existing illness or condition.
Voluntary Self Quarantine
Stay home if you have a chronic illness; don’t expose yourself to a more severe disease. If you feel sick, use the telephone or email or Telehealth services to contact your doctor. Do not go to the doctor’s office, clinic, or emergency room for Coronavirus symptoms, except for difficulty breathing. Young people without risk factors generally don’t need medical treatment. Supportive care in the home is usually adequate: fluids, rest, and OTC pain/fever reducers. Save the medical treatment for those that genuinely need it. A self-quarantine will allow you to do your part in stopping the spread of this potentially deadly disease.
This pandemic will get worse before it gets better, but it won’t get better until everyone is doing all they can to avoid the spread of the disease.
Follow this link to the CDC to learn more about how to protect yourself: Prevention of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)