First of all, two disclaimers. I am providing you with my thoughts. These are not official positions of the federal government or the state of Idaho, though I do think my advice is consistent with government guidance. For official advice, go to coronavirus.gov or coronavirus.idaho.gov.
Second, this is a rapidly evolving situation and as we learn more, the advice may change.
What I am attempting to do is provide you with answers to questions for which I haven’t seen official guidance yet. Many of these are questions that I have recently been asked by friends or family – really!
1. Can I catch the coronavirus from Corona beer? No. The virus is not named for the beer. It is named for the appearance of the virus under the microscope in which it appears to resemble a crown – the Latin for crown is coronam.
On the other hand, in states or countries where there is significant community spread of the virus, going to a bar that is very popular and where you are in close proximity with a lot of people could increase your risks for coronavirus exposure, but that would be without regard to your specific drink of choice.
2. My sister is taking colloidal silver. She says it is supposed to kill strep, staph, the coronavirus and more. Should I take it? Absolutely not!!! First of all, there is no evidence that it does kill any of those organisms or prevents any of those infections, but there is evidence that long-term use can be dangerous to you -permanent skin discoloration, kidney damage and neurological problems. Let this be a lesson to everyone reading this. There are plenty of scams out there. Unfortunately, there are bad people and bad companies that take advantage of people’s fears to sell their products. If you see any advertisements for supplements, concoctions, potions, remedies or anything else that is suggested it will prevent or treat coronavirus, it is a hoax. At best, it will waste your money. At worst, it won’t provide you any protection and will actually harm you.
There are no known cures for the coronavirus. There is an antiviral drug that we are going to begin testing to see if it is effective in treating severe coronavirus disease, but let me repeat – at this time there is no known product that will prevent you from acquiring coronavirus infection or treat the infection once you get it. Anyone that tells you otherwise is peddling snake oil.
3. I am freaked out about coronavirus. Should I take my child out of school? No, unless your school has indicated it is closing or your child has an illness putting him or her at particular risk or there is a high-risk family member at home and there is a known case at the school. In general, children are at very low risk from the coronavirus, in fact, unlike the elderly, the case fatality rate for children from coronavirus is far less than that for influenza.
This is a good time to teach children about proper hand washing.
The problem with overreacting is that we really don’t know how long coronavirus will continue to be a threat. We don’t know whether it will subside during the warmer spring and summer months like many other cold and influenza viruses do or whether it will burn itself out like SARS virus did or whether it will return next fall and winter like influenza does. If coronavirus does not burn itself out, it is just not practical to keep your children out of school for the duration of the threat.
However, if there is reason for your child to be out of school, check with your school about the availability of online classes and work so that your child does not fall behind.
4. What about travel for spring break? This is a tough one. I wouldn’t do international travel right now because the situation is changing very rapidly, but if you are going to travel internationally, don’t go to the countries listed on the CDC’s website with level 2 or 3 travel advisories. As far as U.S. travel, if you are young and healthy, there is probably no restriction, though I wouldn’t travel to a state with widespread community spread, such as Washington state. If you are going to be bringing along anyone who is over age 70 or who has underlying medical conditions that would put them at increased risk, then consider travel that you can do in your car and activities that won’t involve large crowds.
5. What do I do? The stores are all out of hand sanitizer! First of all, take a deep breath and relax. I will tell you a secret. Bar soap is actually more effective than hand sanitizer in preventing the spread of disease. And, it does not have to be “antibacterial” soap. Most any bar soap will do the job. Just wash your hands all over – palms, back of hands, and particularly the fingers and fingertips for at least 20 seconds. Just use warm water. For the water to kill the virus, it would have to be boiling, and if you use boiling water, you will be getting medical attention for another reason. Warm water just helps disperse the soap better than cold water.
6. I was just at the store and they are out of toilet paper and distilled water. OMG! What do I do? Okay. Take another deep breath and relax again. I don’t even get this one. Why are people buying up toilet paper? Coronavirus doesn’t generally cause diarrhea. And, I haven’t even figured out what people are thinking about the distilled water. There is no evidence that you can get coronavirus from tap water and we wouldn’t recommend people drink distilled water instead of tap, bottled or filtered water anyway.
Since people now are just being crazy, here is my shopping list. It is based on two very unlikely scenarios – (1) I catch coronavirus or (2) we are worried that I have been exposed to coronavirus and I need to be self-isolated.
- Two weeks of food supply for me and my wife. (This is the worst-case scenario that I am going to be confined to home and can’t go grocery shopping. However, I have learned from my millennial daughters that Amazon and grocery stores actually deliver stuff to your house! Wow! And, (hands moving out from my head indicating that my brain is exploding) it turns out that Uber, Door Dash and a variety of other services will actually pick up meals from restaurants for you and deliver them to your house! I thought that was just pizza, but turns out you can get just about anything!) Another tip, if you do get sick, your appetite may be suppressed and you may find that warm or hot soups are particularly soothing, so pick up some extra soup.
- Two-week supply of your medications. This is a bit more challenging, but some insurance companies are approving early refills so that you can have an adequate supply on hand. This would be more of an issue if you are in an area with significant community spread and no family or friends that can run to the pharmacy for you. Also, there are more and more pharmacies that are beginning to offer delivery services.
- Tylenol and over the counter cold and flu remedies (decongestant, expectorant and cough suppressant). Check with your pharmacist or physician if you have medical conditions that might restrict what medications you can take. While you are at it, don’t forget Kleenex.
- Pet food that will last 2 weeks. Don’t forget our pets!
- Garbage bags. Ideally, keep a trash bag near the person that is sick and have them put all their Kleenex and other waste in the trash bag and then double bag it before you put it out with the trash.
- Detergent. Probably a good idea to wash sheets and bed clothes frequently if someone in the house does get sick. We just don’t know yet whether the virus survives on these items very long.
- Antiseptic wipes (Clorox, Lysol, etc.). Good for wiping down surfaces in the house that the infected person comes into contact with or that are in proximity to the areas where an infected person is coughing or sneezing.
- Optional – disposable gloves. You can use these for handling the trash or other items for the person who is sick. But, keep in mind, gloves are no substitute for hand washing. Even if you wear gloves, you should wash your hands after you take off the gloves.
- Optional – disposable cups, utensils, plates and bowls. There is no reason to believe that dishwashers will not kill the virus, you may just want the convenience of throwing away eating utensils and other things that someone who does get sick handles and puts in their mouth.
- Thermometer if you don’t already have one.
- Good books. If you do have to be self-isolated for 2 weeks and turn out to be fine, you will need something to keep yourself occupied. Nothing like lying down with a good book! If you are a fast reader, you better get two.
4 thoughts on “Answers to Questions you have about Coronavirus that you are Afraid to Ask”
Very good Dr. Pate. You have a great way of providing context and perspective and I the humor too.
Thanks, Terry! I find that keeping a sense of humor helps to keep life in perspective!
This post made me laugh. Thanks for differentiating between fact and fiction.
Unfortunately, there is a lot of bad information out there. I hope that my blog can serve as a source of information that people can rely on and benefit from. Thanks for following my blog!