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Coronavirus Update: Nine Key Points to Know and Share

We’re entering phase 2 of reopening and we’re all overloaded with info on coronavirus, so here are my 9 keys points to know and share:

1. Nomenclature:  the term “coronavirus” refers to a family of viruses that includes the current virus that we are dealing with. “Coronavirus” can be used to indicate the family or this specific species.  “SARS-CoV-2” is the official name for the current virus; Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus number 2.  COVID-19 is the name of the disease; COronaVIrus Disease 2019

2. SARS-CoV-2 spreads the same way as familiar cold viruses: airborne transmission from coughing, sneezing, even talking & singing as well as transmission from surfaces like doorknobs

3. Spectrum of illness is huge: illness can range from completely asymptomatic to a mild cold to a bad flu to life-threatening disease.  An infected person has about a 0.5% chance of dying, most of this risk is centered on the elderly.

4. Risk of severe illness is highest with advanced age and with coexisting medical conditions. 85% of deaths in North Carolina have been in people aged 65+.

5. Coronavirus isn’t going away anytime soon.

6. We are nowhere close to herd immunity.  “Herd immunity” comes from veterinary medicine: when enough animals in a herd become immune to an infection then the infection can no longer spread through the herd and so even the susceptible animals are safe.  Herd immunity for coronavirus requires 60%-70% of the population being immune, but in North Carolina only 1%-2% of the population has been infected.

7. Vaccine? Eventually, yes.  But don’t hold your breath waiting.

8. Treatment? Nothing really good yet. Hydroxychloroquine was promising but remains unproven. An antiviral medicine called remdesivir may be somewhat helpful.  Several other treatments are being studied, so cross your fingers.

9. Masks & sanitizer: simple surgical or cloth masks reduce the chance of infecting other people by catching your respiratory droplets, the masks reduce your own risk of infection by keeping you from touching your hands to your face. N95 masks reduce your risk by filtering the incoming air. Hand sanitizer is portable and convenient, the CDC recommends 60% or higher alcohol content.

I hope you find this summary useful!

Dr O’Connell