While significant confusion and misunderstanding surround the coronavirus, certain facts are clear. Here, Dr. Jonathan Murrow, associate dean of the University of Georgia Medical School, answers common questions regarding the coronavirus.
At right: Dr. Jonathan Murrow. Photo from Piedmont Health Care.
Ingrid Nilsson (IN): What are your thoughts on social distancing? How seriously should we all take it?
Jonathan Murrow (JM): The only way we are going to stop this, short of hundreds of thousands of deaths, is with social distancing. Let’s assume a person is infected with either the common flu or coronavirus (COVID-19). At the end of 2 months, without social distancing, 400 people will have been infected with influenza. Coronavirus is an entirely different story. In 2 months, that same person will have infected 99,000 people. This is why social distancing is critical to preventing mass outbreak.
IN: What are the symptoms of the virus? When should someone get tested?
JM: Symptoms include cough, fever, and shortness of breath. While symptoms in teenagers and young adults are typically less severe, people under 30 have required advanced therapies including mechanical ventilation. Regarding “testing,” it should be performed if it will alter management. Unfortunately, despite federal assurances, we are still unable to rapidly identify and isolate infected individuals. Hopefully, new point-of-care testing recently approved by the FDA will allow rapid triage of patients.
IN: Are the hospitals able to support everyone with coronavirus?
JM: The hospitals are equipped to handle a wave of infections, but not a tsunami. Mortality rates from COVID-19 range from 2-10%, largely based upon whether the hospital system is able to manage the surge. Social distancing hopefully will “flatten the curve.”
IN: Is this a partisan issue in any way?
JM: A pandemic is not a partisan issue.
IN: How long do you think we will be under quarantine/social distancing?
JM: The country will likely be in an “ebb and flow model” for the next 12-18 months, where communities intermittently are under “stay-at-home orders” as cases rise. Infected persons will be isolated and contacts put under quarantine. This has proved to be a highly effective strategy in South Korea, Hong Kong, and Singapore.
IN: Should I be worried about coronavirus even if I’m healthy? young?
JM: Yes. As a young person, the biggest risk is that you’ll infect someone you love. Parents, grandparents, etc. are all highly at risk.