Coronavirus Update from MMC’s Medical Director, Dr. Aris Chaconas

Memory & Movement Charlotte wishes to keep all our patients and their families updated about the coronavirus outbreak that is being extensively covered in the news. 

By way of background, this infection is a respiratory disease caused by a new strain of coronavirus that was first detected in China. The name of the virus is SARS-CoV-2 and the disease that it causes is the coronavirus disease 2019 which is abbreviated COVID-19. Most people simply refer to it as the coronavirus. On January 30 of this year the International Health Regulations Emergency Committee of the World Health Organization declared this viral outbreak “a public health emergency of international concern.”  The World Health Organization is monitoring the extent of this disease globally and has yet to formally declare it a pandemic.

The symptoms of a coronavirus infection are very nonspecific and are shared by a common cold as well as the common flu.  The symptoms include fever, cough and shortness of breath.  After exposure to the virus, symptoms of an infection may take 2 to 14 days to show up.  During this asymptomatic period a person can spread the infection.

Coronavirus is believed to spread mainly from person-to-person.  This occurs between people who are in close contact with another, usually within about 6 feet, through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.   The droplets containing the virus can land in the mouth, nose or eyes of an of another person nearby or possibly be inhaled in the lungs, thus causing infection.  It is possible that a person can acquired the virus by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose or eyes.  However, this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.

We should recognize that the symptoms can be quite mild as well as severe and life-threatening. As with most infections, individuals at greatest risk for becoming infected and having the most severe of symptoms are the elderly and those with chronic illnesses. Such patients with the infection have developed severe pneumonia as well as a potentially life-threatening complication from the pneumonia called ARDS (acute respiratory distress syndrome) whereby fluid in the lungs blocks oxygen absorption.

Currently 43 domestic cases of coronavirus have been reported in the United States and a total of 6 individuals have died from their illness. For now, the risk to all of us remains very low, but with any viral infection affecting our communities the risk can change quickly.

So, what is being done to protect American citizens?

The President has assigned Vice President Mike Pence to lead a Coronavirus Task Force. Pence has assembled and body of renown experts in the field and coordinated interagency collaboration to focus on containing the spread of the infection to within the communities infected and preventing outbreaks from those communities. Local and state authorities are on the front lines of this fight and are coordinating with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Travel restrictions, isolation of those infected and screening travelling individuals are among the tools being used to mitigate the impact of the virus. Emphasis upon producing widely available tests for the virus, a vaccine to prevent infection and therapeutic treatments are underway. Our pharmaceutical companies have all collaborated in this effort. Multiple government agencies are working together including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, The National Institutes of Health, Health and Human Services, The Veterans Administration and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is the nations largest insurer covering 130 million Americans including 60 million senior citizens. It is responsible for infectious disease policies in hospitals, nursing homes, long-term care facilities, home healthcare agencies, surgery centers and dialysis centers. It is currently reviewing and modifying policies to mitigate the risk of coronavirus infections to our senior citizens.

So, what can we all do to protect ourselves and our loved ones?

Because the virus spreads from person to person we should avoid exposure as best we can. You may choose to avoid potential “hot spots” where many people converge and are in close contact such as airports, airplanes, subways, and large gatherings such as stadiums, concert halls and rallies. Certainly, we should avoid contact with symptomatic individuals. If we develop symptoms, we should seek medical help promptly to determine if the infection is indeed from coronavirus. If infected and the symptoms are mild enough, we could be isolated at home. It may make more sense to wear a mask if infected to reduce the chance of infecting others. Wearing a mask to avoid exposure may be problematic due to inappropriate and ill-fitting masks that can fail to block exposure. Also, since the virus can enter through the eyes a mask may not work. Certainly, we should wash our hands frequently with soap and water or hand sanitizer, especially after contacting surfaces exposed to the public such as washrooms, handrails and public transportation. Be sure to have had the flu shot and to take antiviral drugs if indicated for the common flu.

Being up to date about the coronavirus will allow all of us to remain rational and to act on facts rather than fear. You can also get frequently updated info from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Many of the facts in this update have been derived from that site. You can even sign up for email updates on that site.

Memory & Movement Charlotte is committed to the safety and health of our patients and families and will be watching the status of the coronavirus closely. If you are symptomatic and are scheduled to come see us, please call to reschedule your appointment.  We will provide important updates to you as they develop. We wish all of you good health.

-Aris Chaconas, MD

1 Comment

  1. Randy Hager on March 5, 2020 at 2:54 pm

    Spot on! Thank you for taking the time to put this information together.