Thank you to Northern Nevada Health System for sponsoring this post on Coronavirus. As always, all opinions are our own. Read our disclosure.
A couple of weeks ago, we asked our readers what they wanted us to write more about. Coronavirus (COVID-19) was on the top of that list. When thinking of an expert to bring in on the topic, Dr. Amanda Magrini was the perfect person.
The Coronavirus: What Is It and Why You Should Care
Q: What is COVID-19?
A: COVID-19 is a brand new member of the coronavirus family, which is a large group of viruses that typically cause cold-like symptoms.
COVID-19 was labeled by the World Health Organization and stands for CO- corona, VI- Virus, D- disease and the year it was first discovered, 2019.
Q: If you test positive for COVID-19 and recover, can you be re-infected?
A: Experts are still researching this disease so we do not know yet if you can be re-infected. Many of the viruses in the “coronavirus family” can cause infections multiple times.
This is because we don’t create long term antibodies to combat some viruses. However, there is some evidence that COVID-19 might be different.
Q: When do they suspect Coronavirus will peak and then finally start to decline?
A: This is a moving target, and honestly by the time you read this, what I wrote will have changed.
The great news is we are seeing strong evidence that the measures we are taking in our community are working and that we will not see near the projections that were initially out shared. But we must continue being vigilant and staying home, only going out for essential needs.
Q: Why are there so few cases in Washoe County? Are there actually more cases than they are saying since most people are being turned away from testing if they don’t have major symptoms? I heard you have to talk to your primary care physician before even being considered for a test.
A: The cases in Washoe County change daily and will increase as we gain more access to testing. Testing is limited to strict criteria and guidance from the Health Department.
However, we need to consider the data that shows how one infected person can unintentionally spread the infection to others. This is why the stay at home directive is so important.
Q: Is the Coronavirus airborne?
A: I think the first thing we have to do here is to differentiate between airborne and droplet spread.
Droplet is a more common way for an infection to spread, where pieces of virus are spread from coughs or sneezes to people nearby.
Airborne is when an infection can be spread into the air around us just by breathing or talking. We don’t have a definitive answer about this yet either. There may be certain circumstances where the virus is “airborne”, for example, after a breathing tube is inserted into someone’s airway to help them breathe, but there is NOT strong evidence that this is the case.
At this point, most cases are thought to be from droplet spread.
Q: Why is COVID-19 worse than the seasonal flu? I hear more people die from the flu every season.
A: The death rate for a typical flu season is about 0.1% versus 1-2% for coronavirus- so it’s about 10 times more deadly than the flu. Also, what has been of great concern is the number of people that end up requiring hospitalization when infected is about 20%, AND the time they are in the hospital is an average of 11 days.
The seasonal flu hospitalization rate is 1-2% with an average of 5-6 days. Our hospital systems just cannot handle those numbers of people all requiring intensive care all at once, and when the system is overwhelmed with those sorts of numbers more people end up dying because we can’t take care of them all to the level we need to.
Q: I’ve read that people have tested positive without showing any symptoms – is this true?
A: Yes. Up to 1/4 of people may be “asymptomatic carriers”, and have no outward symptoms of illness at all but spread it readily.
Another problem is that people are infectious for a few days before they even start to have symptoms, so there is a lot of spread that happens even before you know you are sick.
Q: I heard Nevada won’t peak until the end of April or early May. What do you think?
A: I think the appropriate aggressive measures taken early on in the pandemic by our leaders has slowed the spread to a certain degree. We anticipate spikes here and there, because of how easily the virus spreads.
The hope is that with better access to testing, once we do start to open things again, we will be better able to track outbreaks and trace contacts with infected people to stop it from getting back to the level it has been.
Our Immune System and The Coronavirus
Q: Does taking Vitamin C help? There has been so much back and forth on this.
A: Honestly, the only thing that has proven to help fight or prevent viral infections is eating well, getting enough sleep and reducing your stress!
There is a study underway in China to look at this, but without any medical evidence to back this claim, it is not something I would recommend at this point.
Q: Do humidifiers really help germs not live on surfaces?
A: This was a new one for me that I had to research a little! There have been a few small studies that reviewed the use of a humidifier and how it impacts infection rates. Therefore, humidifiers might be effective.
It’s important to know you do not want too much humidity which can promote mold or bacteria overgrowth. It seems that the sweet spot is probably somewhere between 40-60% humidity and this might reduce viral transmission through droplets in the air or on surfaces.
Q: What are the risks looking like for infants?
A: So far, small studies mainly from China have shown that infants don’t seem to get the severe illness that older adults do. Of course, you will always hear the media stories of the exceptions, but infants and children seem to have milder courses.
Q: What kind of damage is COVID-19 causing to the body?
A: The most common, severely affected system is the respiratory system/lungs. It can cause Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS) by damaging the small airways and creating inflammation that makes it very hard to breathe.
In some cases, it has been shown to affect the eyes – pink eye, the nose/mouth- loss of sense of taste/smell, and in some cases the stomach/intestines – diarrhea. We are still learning how this virus reacts in different patients.
Q: Can you become immune to Coronavirus?
A: See above- we don’t yet know how long someone is immune to this infection or re-infection following illness.
Q: When do you think a vaccine will be available for us?
A: The scientific process can’t be rushed. We are very likely looking at a year to 18 months to get through clinical trials to prove that it is effective and safe. But this is far better than the average 10-15 years it takes for new vaccines or medications to be approved.
Q: Is it true Elderberry is not safe to take during this pandemic?
A: Elderberry has been praised and gained a large following for its immune-boosting effects, but there has been some suggestions that this same effect can actually worsen the inflammation that can occur in the lungs with COVID-19 infection (Acute respiratory distress syndrome- sometimes if our immune system is too powerful it can turn on itself).
There isn’t enough evidence one way or another for me to answer this at this point.
Q: What immune supplements should we be taking?
A: See the question above. Self-care above all else!
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Safety Precautions You Should Be Taking
Q: Where can we get masks? What kind of masks should we get to protect ourselves?
At this time it is recommended people wear some sort of mask/facial covering when in public, mainly because we are recognizing more now the potential spread from people who haven’t developed any symptoms.
The public should refrain from using N95s or even surgical masks as these are in short supply and desperately needed by our community healthcare providers. Wearing a mask is more so for the protection of people around you, although it is also a reminder to be vigilant and continue good hand washing/not touching your face, etc.
Q: What is the proper way to sanitize groceries and packages? Should we really leave them outside for 3 days?
A: This is a tough one. It is best to avoid close person-to-person contact when picking up. Try to pay by phone or online when you can, remove food from packaging that would be handled, and make sure to wash your hands afterward.
You don’t have to leave them outside for 3 days, just remove any packaging that has been handled and wash your hands!
This is a great video if you want to take precautions:
Q: Is it necessary to wear a mask and/or gloves when going grocery shopping? Should we wear masks when we go out? Do they really prevent COVID-19 if they aren’t N95?
A: See answer above. It is a good reminder to continue social distancing and good hand washing. Gloves are not necessary. There is probably still some element of protection even if they are not N95 masks.
Q: Can a cotton cloth home-made mask actually protect me from Coronavirus?
A: Yes; there is evidence that these are protective as long as they are removed the correct way (by holding the straps and washing after use as well as washing your hands)
Q: My husband is still working (his job is essential), how can I make sure he is not bringing germs home?
A: My recommendation is for your husband to bring only the essentials to work- food, keys, ID badge. Wipe down anything potentially exposed (think phones!) with sanitizing wipes.
Change clothes before leaving work, or in the garage or near the entry is probably best, including shoes. Shower immediately when getting home.
Q: When should a health care provider be quarantined?
A: At this time, the recommendation for quarantine of a health care provider depends on the “exposure category” they are placed in after caring for a potential or known COVID19 patient.
For the most part, if the provider was wearing a mask, they are low to medium risk and will self-monitor for symptoms or fever for 14 days.
If for some reason, a health care provider was in a room with a patient without a mask and that patient was later found to be COVID19 positive, it would be recommended they quarantine for 14 days at home. These rules have changed several times over the past few weeks as we have learned more about COVID.
Expecting Parents, Doctor’s Appointments, and More
Q: How is this virus affecting pregnancy and the baby?
A: We just don’t know enough to say for sure. However, we do know that influenza and SARS-Covid are more dangerous in pregnant women, and COVID 19 has been associated with preterm labor but there isn’t enough data to say if this is truly a risk or not.
Q: I’m scared to give birth. My family won’t be there, I’ll be alone. What should I expect? Are they discharging new moms faster?
A: Our community hospitals and providers who work in labor and delivery have developed numerous measures to keep patients safe. Check with the hospital you will deliver at for detailed information regarding coming to the hospital and discharge.
Q: Should I still take my child(ren) to their doctor’s appointments? Or a baby to wellness check-ups? Or should we reschedule?
A: Many offices are separating well visits from sick visits, depending on the time of day (for example well visits in the morning and sick in the afternoon, allowing for a deep cleaning of the office in between).
That being said, if your child is not due for vaccines, you may consider holding off until things have calmed down for their well-child exam, or use telemedicine if available. If you or your family member is having a medical emergency (even if not related to COVID19), you should seek care.
Our hospitals are safe and have additional precautions in place to care for the public. DO NOT delay care if it is a serious situation.
Q: What precautions are hospitals, doctor’s offices, etc. taking? Just trying to ease my mind.
A: Most hospitals and health care facilities are screening patients for any symptoms of COVID-19 (as well as all employees) among other risk factors including recent travel or exposure to sick contacts before allowing anyone into the facilities.
In addition, sick visits are being cared for in dedicated locations (drive-through, change of schedules, one clinic for all sick patients, etc.) or at dedicated times to prevent mixing sick patients with others.
Many offices are allowing telehealth visits as well, which can be done from the comfort of your couch. Northern Nevada Medical Group is offering virtual visits by calling 775-352-5300.
How To Keep Our Community Safe
Q: How can the community continue to help all of our frontline providers?
A: Stay home! We know you keep hearing this and it can be difficult to keep you and your kids at home. If you need to manage essential errands such as grocery shopping, picking up medications or similar make sure to practice social distancing. Wear a mask, wash your hands, and limit who runs the essential errands if you can.
Stay Home for Nevada
There you have it! Thank you so much to Dr. Magrini and her team for taking the time out of their busy schedules to give us locals some peace of mind when it comes to this virus.
Have another question that we missed regarding Coronavirus? Ask your question in the comments below and we will try to get it answered ASAP.
Northern Nevada Health System is a regional network of care that has elevated and improved access to healthcare for 40 years. The System operates two acute care hospitals located in Sparks and Reno, 24/7 freestanding emergency departments, a Medical Group which offers family and internal medicine, urgent care and specialty care, and Quail Surgical and Pain Management. NNHS is committed to maintaining and improving the well-being of the community and is known for top-rated patient satisfaction, in addition to providing quality care and a safe environment for patients to heal. To learn more, visit northernnevadahealth.com.