Updated: Apr 9, 2020
By: Jarita Hagans, M.D. - V&P Magazine Guest Contributing Writer
Coronavirus has literally taken over the world, and the medical community is fighting to stem it’s spread. These efforts are being complicated by a fragmented response by federal and local governments, constantly changing advice from different medical agencies and 24 hour news coverage with a multitude of opinions. As a Family Practice doctor, I am trying to keep up with the latest information by reading articles and guidance from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), but also learning from my medical colleagues. We are banding together in Facebook groups with tens of thousands of healthcare professionals, including doctors from Italy and other countries, to figure out best practices and share our experiences in fighting Coronavirus 19 (COVID19).
We were initially being told that if you are young and healthy, that you were unlikely to become seriously ill from Coronavirus. However, the numbers are not bearing that out. A NY Times article published on March 18, 2020 noted that “New C.D.C. data showed that nearly 40 percent of patients sick enough to be hospitalized were aged 20 to 54. But the risk of dying was significantly higher in older people." This is not just a disease for older people. Many of my ER and ICU (Intensive Care Unit) doctor friends are seeing young people in critical condition from Coronavirus.
There are several causes of Coronavirus 19 spread in the United States. There are not enough Coronavirus 19 tests available in the United States to test everyone who needs to be tested. This limited testing availability means that some who have mild symptoms, like cough with no shortness of breath or fever, have been denied testing and sent home. We have to save the tests for those with high fever or with distressed breathing. There are also late cases of the flu and allergy sufferers, making it confusing to sort out which cough is due to what problem. Coronavirus 19 is a novel, or new, type of coronavirus. This means that we as doctors have never dealt with this particular virus before. We are learning as we go along. Per the CDC, some Coronavirus positive patients can have diarrhea or vomiting, in addition to the previously known symptoms of fever, cough and shortness of breath. Children can have mild symptoms like runny nose, according to the CDC, but can pass it on to an adult who can become much sicker. Asymptomatic carriers of Coronavirus have compounded the problem, allowing it to spread through families, communities and workplaces.
Because of the aforementioned issues, it makes it difficult for a doctor to decide who will get one of the coveted Coronavirus 19 tests. Until widespread testing becomes available, we will not know exactly who is infected. We have to work together to prevent spread. Do your part and stay home. If you have a medical complaint that is not related to Coronavirus 19, call your doctor’s office to reschedule your appointment or see if you can do a phone or telemedicine (video) visit. Don't congregate with others for house parties, play dates, cookouts or religious services. Work from home if you are allowed. Plan your grocery shopping so that you don’t have to make multiple trips. Do not travel unnecessarily. Coronavirus 19 is now in all 50 states. Let’s learn from Italy and practice social distancing and self-quarantines before it’s too late.
Jarita Hagans, M.D. is a board-certified family physician, foodie, author and artist. She attended Howard University in Washington, D.C. for undergraduate and medical school. Afterwards, she completed a surgery internship at Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital in Roanoke, Virginia. Eastern Virginia Medical School/Portsmouth Family Medicine is where she received her Family Medicine training.
She had the honor of being Intern of the Year and Chief Resident while training there. Operating a clinic for a battered women’s shelter and providing medical care for a homeless shelter were two of her favorite projects.