Important Information About Coronavirus/COVID-19
Update March 11, 2020:
First of all, I am lucky at Oodle to be able to provide remote care when possible, as well as an intimate clinic setting, minimizing exposure for my patients. I ask my current patients to not schedule an in-person appointment if they have respiratory symptoms, but to plan for a phone visit. Kim and I will be looking at the schedule and forecasting each week to minimize health risks to patients and staff alike. Kim and I are taking our temperature daily and monitoring for symptoms ourselves, and will be of course staying home if we are ill.
There isn't a lot of new disseminated information about the disease itself. Recommendations on what to do if you are sick, possibly exposed, and how to protect yourself are the same and all easily accessible via King County Public Health's COVID-19 site.
The biggest changes in the last few days have been WA State mandated measures to reduce exposure. Big events (those larger than 250 people) have been cancelled. Many schools are closed and I would imagine other schools will follow suit closely (if not mandated closures sooner). The global response to this illness is to reduce exposure and slow the progression through the community. If you haven't heard about "flattening the curve" yet, or are not sure what that means, this article, published today, explains it well:
To stay informed via the web I'd recommend visiting WHO, CDC and King County Public Health websites. There are a lot of other sources of information out there, some very useful and some spreading misinformation.
Stay healthy and wash your hands!
And a side note, don't bump elbows (we cough and sneeze into the crook of our elbow). If you must bump body parts, bump something else for now.
Update: March 10, 2020
Please see the below information from King County Public Health. While testing is now more available for the public, testing availability is not unlimited, and you you still need to contact them before testing.
If you have respiratory symptoms, please call, text, or email the office. We can screen to see if you are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19. We don't want you to come in to check for the illness. Oodle does have some very vulnerable patients who cannot afford exposure to COVID-19.
This time of year we are still seeing a lot of flu, common colds, and now seasonal allergies are starting to surface. There are a lot of non-COVID reasons to cough right now, but COVID-19 is contagious and, as stated below, can make some people very sick. In Northern Italy the hospitals are truly overwhelmed with people needing intensive care. To avoid that same disaster in the US, we need to work very hard to slow the spread of the illness.
I have a trip/show/visitors planned. What should I do?
My best recommendation is to be flexible and plan for cancellations. Hanging out in large groups can be dangerous during a global pandemic. Based in the data I've reviewed so far, it seems the biggest risk to the public currently would be overwhelming the hospitals to the point where people who need advanced care can't get it (e.g. respirators, oxygen). Again: If we can slow the spread, people can get extra help if they need it and we can save more lives.
On March 5, 2020 I took part in a conference call with the CDC and spoke with King County Public health afterwards.
Symptoms of COVID-19 have been published widely and haven’t changed: these are cold/flu symptoms specifically fever, cough, difficulty breathing, congestion, body aches, headache (and less commonly abdominal pain, diarrhea, and vomiting). Fever and respiratory symptoms like cough are suspicious for viral infection: including the common cold, influenza and COVID-19.
Who is at highest risk to get really sick?
Patients 60 years or older.
People with preexisting illness, especially those with respiratory diseases like emphysema/COPD, cystic fibrosis
Kids seem to have mild cases or no symptoms.
If you are sick:
Fever is an important aspect of monitoring this illness, you should have a thermometer at home.
Stay at home. Isolate yourself as much as possible. If you have roommates/live-in family, a separate bedroom and bathroom you can use while you are ill is preferred. Be sure surfaces are cleaned regularly after contact. That includes doorknobs, light switches, and anything else you may touch that can infect others.
While the CDC has relaxed testing criteria, King County has only about 100 tests they can run each day. Priority testing is going to those with known exposure to COVID-19 or travel to endemic areas with severe infection. Or, those with severe lung infection requiring hospitalization with no other cause. So, bottom line, if you are well enough to manage this at home, you don’t meet testing criteria.
How long should I stay home?
At least 7 days from onset of illness and when you’ve had no fever for 72 hours without medications. Both these criteria should be met before you end your quarantine.
Employer Recommendations from King County
Telecommuting is preferred if possible
Shifts should be staggered to avoid crowding on public transit
No note should be required to stay home when sick (but I am happy to provide this if they need it anyway).
If you are not sick:
King County is recommending “social distancing”
This means: keeping distance of 6 feet from strangers to avoid contact/transmission if you can, and avoiding crowds, including cancelling public events.
If you are sick and concerned, text or call me at (425) 357-7175 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. If you need to go to the urgent care or ER, and think you may have a respiratory illness like COVID-19, call them first, they may have special precautions for intake to help make your visit more efficient and safer for other patients.
Download the King County Fact Sheet HERE
What about the flu?
If you haven't been vaccinated get your flu shot! The flu is killing a lot of people this year, as it always does, and is also very contagious. It also tends to be worse in children (unlike COVID-19). You can get your flu shot at any pharmacy, with or without insurance coverage. Please, once again, if you haven't received it yet, get your flu shot. We need to prevent serious illnesses like COVID-19 that we can!
Is it possible to get both COVID-19 and the Flu? Yes, it appears so. Please get vaccinated.
If you have any questions don't hesitate to call, email, text me. I will update this page as I receive more information.
Elizabeth Eaman, MD