We have received many calls and emails about the Corona Virus, and we wanted to provide you with some help in navigating what seems like a lot of conflicting information.
We believe that the current risk of contracting the disease right now, in Maryland, is low. We believe that this risk will increase over the next few weeks as more cases are diagnosed. It is hard to predict the degree of risk over the next one to two months, but it will be greater than it is now. The number of cases will probably decline by May as patients become immune to the disease and stop transmitting the virus.
As of this writing there are about 1700 confirmed cases of the virus in the United States. About 60% of the cases are in three states: Washington (state), California and New York. Currently, Maryland has 12 confirmed cases.
Children under 15 do not seem to get sick with the virus for unclear reasons. Children can however carry the virus and spread it to adults who are at higher risk.
Most healthy adults (80-90%) that contract the disease will get a mild form that has the same symptoms as a bad cold. They may get a fever, a cough, chills and body aches. Last week the New England Journal of Medicine website posted a series of 1100 patients studied over the last few weeks in China. Patients who are elderly (>70 years), have multiple medical conditions or a history of lung disease such as emphysema have a higher risk of contracting a more severe form of the disease. These patients develop pneumonia and usually will need to be treated in a hospital. The risk of the fatal form of the disease is very low, probably 1-2%.
So, what should you do if you develop viral symptoms such as fever, cough, chills and body aches? As long as you don’t have unusual or severe symptoms such as shortness of breath or confusion, you should stay home and avoid further spread of the illness. You may treat the aches and fever with Tylenol or ibuprofen if that makes you more comfortable—but there is no medical reason that you need to bring your fever down. You should stay well hydrated. At this time, we can only treat your symptoms, there is no active treatment for the virus itself. If you develop shortness of breath, along with other symptoms of illness, you should proceed to the emergency room.
At this time, we do not have a mechanism to test a large number of patients in our practice, without risking further infection to others. We believe that testing will occur in outdoor sites in Maryland soon.
For now, you should minimize social activities and avoid large crowds such as concerts, political rallies and indoor sporting events. Frequent handwashing and avoiding personal contact such as handshakes, hugs and kisses is also a good idea. The CDC recommends against air travel for passengers over 70. Under no circumstances should you get on a cruise ship unless you want to spend the next month in quarantine at an army base. Virtually all cruise ships will have an infected passenger.
In summary, if you use common sense, you will likely be able to avoid contracting the Corona Virus. Elderly patients and those with chronic medical conditions, especially involving the lungs, should be especially careful. Our local medical system in the Annapolis – Baltimore-Washington area is one of the best in the world and this should give everyone confidence.
Please feel free to contact us by email (DrKatzDirect@gmail.com) or by phone (410-544-5900) if you have concerns or questions. PLEASE leave a message as our phones will be busy. We WILL answer all calls as quickly as possible,
Steve & Elaine
Stephen Katz, MD, Adult Internal Medicine
Severna Park Medical Associates
Concierge Medicine for Annapolis
31 Robinson Road Severna Park, MD 21146