5 Things That Make Me Breathe Easier About COVID-19

March 12, 2020

 

Type the letter “c” into your search bar, and a list of articles about the coronavirus pop up immediately. We are hungry for information about this latest virus, and so, are absorbing it from any source at high rates. Knowledge is power, but disinformation is dangerous. Also dangerous, is picking out details that are most frightening to keep readers and viewers glued to the source, and leaving out those which might add some perspective and relief. People are in a panic, toilet paper (weird choice, it is usually milk) is flying off the shelves, and there has been at least one reported instance of a racially motivated attack because of the coronavirus.

This is serious, and people are dying worldwide. Anxiety and stress are also serious, will lower your immune system, put you at risk for a cardiovascular event, ruin your sleep and negatively affect your health in so many other ways. I add the following to the conversation, not to minimize the significance of what is going on, but to highlight a few facts that allow me to breathe a little easier.

  • In China, the rate of transmission is decreasing. Yes, there has been criticism about the extreme quarantine measures, but it does demonstrate that this virus can be managed.

  • When SARS hit in 2003, we also knew very little about the virus. The timeline in terms of when it started and when it spread was very similar. It had a 10% death rate (SARS-COv19 has an estimated 2.3% death rate.) It was contained in the United States, meaning no further spread, by May 6.

  • While the death rate in Italy appears higher, this may say more about the country than the virus. The death rate from influenza has been higher in recent years in Italy as well.

  • So far, kids seem to be safe and scientists are reporting there is no evidence the virus will mutate. In China, less than 1% of infections occurred in children less than 9, with no deaths. This is important for two reasons. One, I care more about my kids than I do about myself. Two, kids are little Petri dishes and are great at spreading germs. If they were infected in large numbers, the virus could spread more rapidly.

  • This is a new strain of a virus, not a new virus altogether. Coronaviruses are well known, and while there is no cure, their behavior is largely understood. This helps in treatment and containment.

I urge you to do a few things, for yourself and for your family.

  • Read only reputable sources, and honestly, while I appreciate you reading this, it is simply my educated take on what is happening. Stick with news sources, that don’t sell advertising, for facts.

  • Watch what you say around your kids. Last night, Larry said at the dinner table, “People think this is the end of the world.” Taken out of context, that is about as frightening a thing as a 10 year old can hear. Rookie move for sure. If your children have questions, answer them honestly, but in most cases they don’t need every gory detail. If you are worried yourself, try to check your behavior around them. Our kids are stressed enough.

  • Reinforce behaviors you are hopefully already encouraging, especially in winter months, in terms of personal hygiene and stopping the spread of germs.

  • Don’t perpetuate the hysteria by oversharing every bit of bad information out there on social media. Now, may be a great time for a complete break from social media. Need another reason? Here’s one.

  • Acknowledge there is only so much you can do and reduce your stress by exercising, meditating, cutting down on sugar and caffeine, and staying busy with the most important things in life, friends and family. Unless you are sick, then stay busy in your own room with a great book and a Netflix binge watch.

 

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About Dr. Karen Latimer

I’m a family physician now struggling to take care of a bunch of kids who keep calling me Mom. When I’m not wiping butts, refereeing sibling rivalry and chauffeuring over-scheduled little people, I write a family medical blog that gives you five thoughts on all sorts of different health topics.