A Word From Dr. Hillel Harris

I’d like to offer my perspective on the state of the health crisis facing our nation, and the world. The novel viral infection is highly contagious because we have never been exposed to it before. Therefore, our immune system does not have the “memory” of it, and it takes our bodies longer to mount a successful immune response. Although there are certainly those who have become quite ill from it, it causes a lower respiratory tract infection (fever, cough, and possibly gastrointestinal symptoms such as vomiting or diarrhea, and / or body aches, fatigue). For some people, the infection can progress to a bronchitis or a pneumonia. It is the pneumonia, often in multiple parts of the lung, that has the ability to make all people very sick, even those who were previously healthy.

If you are having symptoms that could be due to COVID-19 (Corona Virus Disease-19), stay at home and isolate by self-quarantine, unless you think you need to be hospitalized. The treatment is supportive care, meaning fluids, acetaminophen, and rest. No other treatments have been shown to be effective as of now. Do not go to the hospital if you just want to know if you have the infection, or just want to get tested. The hospitals do not have this ability. Additionally, the hospital staff and supplies are being stretched thin, so by staying home when possible you are helping the system. However, symptoms that would suggest a person may need to be hospitalized, are difficulty breathing, which may include wheezing or a feeling of air hunger, or any type of shortness of breath. Another reason to be hospitalized is an inability to drink enough to stay hydrated, such as if a person is vomiting or having significant diarrhea.

As I mentioned above, our goals now are to help the health care system care for those who become ill. If many people get sick and need hospitalization at the same time, our healthcare system will be overrun. The public health goal, then, is to slow the spread, also called flattening the curve. This is a rare instance in modern society where each of us are asked to place our own needs aside for the betterment of our community. We do this by staying home when possible, even if we become sick. Staying home also means we are sacrificing our abilities to do the things we want, like going out and being together with others. We isolate ourselves to protect others from us. The goal is to slow down the transmission, so that the paramedics, doctors and nurses have the capacity to care for those who are ill.

Understanding that we are trying to slow the spike in positive cases is the goal, not to cause widespread panic. The total number of cases will continue to rise, and we can all do our part to help slow the rate of transmission. Just act civilly with each other and follow the Centers for Disease Control, the local health department and government for up to date information. Do your best to continue to live well by eating right and exercising, even outdoors. The next article will address the impact on social isolation on our overall health. I will start a question and answer section, so feel free to send me your questions to https://www.facebook.com/drhillelharris/ or https://www.facebook.com/MDLifestyleCenter/.

Dr. Hillel Harris

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