While I am far from an expert in Infectious Disease or Public Health, I have been actively monitoring developments and attempting to synthesize information from credible sources. I hope this summary helps put many of the pieces of this puzzle together. While we have no control over governmental responses to COVID-19, each of us can play a significant role in protecting ourselves, our loved ones, our neighbors, our communities ,and yes, contribute to overall public health. I think this message is being lost in all the noise surrounding coverage of the disease.
Let me stress: Each of us can contribute to the well-being of others by following simple precautions. Let me explain.
Due to the tremendous successes of our Public Health System and tremendous advancements in medical treatments, especially in the area of vaccine development, as a society, we are not accustomed to a disease for which we don’t have a “fix”. Smallpox, Measles, Typhoid, and Influenza are some examples of diseases which historically caused epidemics and pandemics in the United States. While Third World countries still continue to suffer the ravages of preventable diseases, we in the US have become accustomed to a readily available vaccine or treatment for an infectious disease. Prior to the development of vaccines, epidemics and pandemics occurred regularly. In 1796, the first vaccine developed was for Smallpox, but it was not until the 1940’s that large-scale vaccine production was possible and disease control efforts could begin in earnest.
Today’s COVID-19 looks a lot like the Spanish Flu of 1918. With no vaccine and no treatment, the available tools to control the spread of flu were largely limited to non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPI’s) such as isolation, quarantine, good personal hygiene, use of disinfectants, and limits on public gatherings, which were used in many cities. Sound familiar?
By following NPI’s, we will not only protect ourselves and loved ones, but also help protect our neighbors, especially the most vulnerable among us. Each of us can contribute to fighting the spread of COVID-19.
Your personal risk, if you’re a young and healthy adult…seems to be fairly low… The risk of inadvertently catching and passing along the coronavirus to someone else and continuing a transmission chain is much higher.
While the data on COVID-19 is limited, it appears that about 5% of COVID-19 victims develop critical cases that require hospitalization and critical care. While we have a well-developed healthcare/hospital system in the United States, we do have limited capacity. If the rate of infection is rapid, the concern becomes overwhelming our healthcare system.
The initial phase of controlling an epidemic/pandemic is containment (Preventing the Spread). We have lost that opportunity and now must look to mitigation (Control the spread to help preserve the healthcare systems ability to serve those in need). Not only those suffering from the virus, but also those suffering from chronic and acute health conditions. If the system is overwhelmed, it is possible that those with cancer or heart problems for example may also have trouble receiving care.
Public Health refers to “Flattening the Curve” and we all need to contribute to helping “flatten the curve”.
This isn’t just about ourselves. Our behaviors will affect the well being of others. By adopting protective measures such as “social distancing” when out in public, travel limitations, and excellent hygiene we can slow the spread of the disease and spread out the consumption of healthcare resources over a longer period of time.
This saves lives both in the short and long term, by making sure more people have access to ICU beds when they need them, by giving our supply chain time to ramp up production of masks and other personal protective equipment which are in short supply, and by allowing time for a vaccine to eventually be created.
I think you will agree, small inconveniences to help safeguard those around us.
How to prevent the spread of the virus
What are the Symptoms of CoronaVirus?
At Lowcountry Family Dentistry we will continue to monitor developments and advisories to help protect your safety. Please see our latest blog for office updates.
I hope you found this summary helpful. Please send comments or suggestions for updates.
Ashley Covington, DMD