As of this writing, we have seen very few suspected cases. We have tested patients who are exhibiting classic symptoms and have some history of exposure. Those test results are pending. It seems as though our patients, in general, are compliant and following guidelines regarding social distancing and self-quarantine.
*Much of what we know about the disease comes from hospitalized patients in China, yet most patients with the disease will not require hospitalization.
*The disease is spread person-to -person, usually through respiratory secretions (coughing and sneezing). The virus is also present in blood and other body fluids in infected individuals. The disease is much more contagious than the flu.
*The common symptoms are fever, cough (usually dry), muscle pain and fatigue. More severe cases will also have shortness of breath.
*Transmission requires close contact (approximately 6 feet) for a prolonged period of time, or direct exposure to contaminated body fluids.
*There have been confirmed cases in Arkansas, but not in Columbia County as yet.
*Most cases of coronavirus disease are mild and self-limited. 80% of infected people will have mild disease, but the overall mortality rate is estimated at 2.3% (compared to 0.1% for flu).
*The incubation period (or time from exposure to when a person begins to exhibit symptoms) is, on average, 4 days. If you become ill, the average recovery time is between 2 and 9 days. However, with severe illness this can be much longer.
*Older patients and those with chronic diseases (COPD, diabetes, autoimmune diseases), as well as pregnant mothers will likely be more severely affected. Interestingly, children do not seem to be as severely affected to date.
*In the coming days, there will very likely be a spike in confirmed cases in our area. This is due to the fact that we have been unable to test until very recently. These are not necessarily "new" cases. Many people who may have had the disease over the last few weeks will have had a case mild enough to not even prompt a test.
*Hospitals and physician offices (including ours) are already experiencing difficulties with acquiring needed supplies. Disinfectant, masks, and other protective equipment and supplies are being rationed by suppliers. Local sources and stores have been depleted.
*We are still learning about this virus and the epidemiology daily. Social distancing works, but will serve to lengthen the duration (while lessening the severity) of the outbreak. This means that the delays and closures may continue for some time. We do not know how long that may be.
*Practice social distancing. There has been a wealth of information about this recently, and we will not repeat it here. Just know that the theory is sound, and when practiced consistently, it will decrease the spread of the disease. If you are sick, stay home.
*Practice good hygiene. Become a hand-washer if you are not already one. Every time you come into contact with another person or leave your home, wash your hands before and after. Sneeze or cough into your elbow (and then wash your hands). Use disinfectant on hard surfaces in your home and workplace, paying special attention to "high contact" areas such as doorknobs, etc.
*Find ways to stay connected. With social isolation comes an increase in depression and anxiety. Use social media sparingly, and learn to scroll past every new update and opinion on the virus. Re-learn how to talk on the phone. Re-connect with old friends. Take a walk in your neighborhood and wave to the neighbors.
*Use your healthcare resources wisely. Doctor's offices, Urgent Care Centers and Hospitals have limited time, supplies and equipment. If you are ill or feel bad, please call or come in. On the other hand, please be aware that we will not be able to test everyone "just to see" if they have the virus. Here in south Arkansas, the pandemic is coinciding with allergy season. If you have the same symptoms that you have every spring, such as runny nose and cough, then realize that you are probably suffering from seasonal allergies. On the other hand, allergies are not associated with fever, but fever is a cardinal symptom of viral infection. Use discretion.
*Get your information from reliable sources. The CDC and the Arkansas Department of Health are the best sources of reliable, up to date information. Your Facebook friends generally are not. This pandemic, understandably, has captured all of our attention. Well-meaning re-posts of someone's opinion are not necessarily fact. Practice becoming a wise consumer of information.
*Support local businesses whenever you can. Many local stores and restaurants are offering curbside service and take-out. See the Magnolia Columbia County Chamber of Commerce page for updates.
*Get outside in the sunshine whenever you can. Drink plenty of fluids and get plenty of sleep, and engage in moderate daily exercise. These habits will improve your immune system measurably.
* Most importantly, please try not to panic. Do try to be patient with those working at the grocery store, pharmacy and other service-oriented businesses that have the same fears and difficulties as everyone else.
*We are committed to even more stringent disinfection policies in our facility, and will be cleaning doorknobs and surfaces multiple times daily.
*We have set up an alternate clinical area for patients with respiratory illnesses. This will keep high-risk patients segregated from other patients.
*We have Personal Protective Equipment that we will use to keep ourselves from transmitting disease from one patient to another.
*We have a limited ability to test patients on-site at the current time, but we will have more tests available soon.
*We have clinical personnel available to answer your questions about the virus and whether you should come to see us, seek emergency medical care, or come home.
*Regular medical problems and the need for follow-up care will not stop during the pandemic. We will continue to provide care for our patients and are committed to keeping them safe in our facility.