TTUHSC Experts on the Coronavirus, or COVID-19

COVID-19, commonly known as the Coronavirus, is spreading across countries around the globe, and has been declared a “public health emergency of international concern.” As the virus spreads internationally, our experienced doctors at Texas Tech Physicians are staying informed about the latest details of the virus and letting us know how to keep communities of West Texas safe by sharing their insights.

Exercise Caution, Not Panic

There have been no cases of the coronavirus, confirmed or suspected, in Lubbock. While it is always good practice to stay aware and smart about the spread of the virus, TTUHSC experts say there is no need to panic about COVID-19.

“Mortality rate remains relatively low as far as infections go,” says Richard Winn, M.D., a specialist in infectious diseases at Texas Tech Physicians. The mortality rate is at about 3.4% right now, and Winn suspects it will drop even lower than that. Using influenza as a means of comparison, that statistic is quite low. “In the United States, this year we've had 2,100 deaths from influenza,” Winn says. “We haven't seen any from the coronavirus yet.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the virus spreads through the air (coughing, sneezing), and through close personal contact. Individuals who have not traveled to China or been exposed to someone who has traveled to China recently are not currently at risk.

Prevention and Treatment

Best practices involve washing your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water, decontaminating surfaces and avoiding others with respiratory illnesses. Richard Lampe, M.D., Chairman for the Department of Pediatrics at Texas Tech Physicians, emphasizes awareness when travelling, exercising extra care with what you eat or drink or expose yourself to. “Finding out which countries have the virus and the status before you travel is going to be important,” Lampe says, recommending that individuals follow travel guidelines set by the CDC.

Symptoms of COVID-19 closely resemble cold-like symptoms, including a runny nose, cough, shortness of breath, chest pain, fever and respiratory failure. There is currently no cure for the disease, and testing and diagnosis can only be done with the CDC.

Jacob Nichols, M.D., a physician with internal medicine at Texas Tech Physicians, encourages anyone with these symptoms to call their primary care physician or urgent care as soon as possible. As you call your provider, be sure to make them aware of your concerns for having coronavirus so they can prepare the facility for your visit. “When they do decide to do testing if they think you've had possible exposure to the coronavirus, then they will do nasal swabs throat swabs and they'll send a blood sample to the CDC, none of the testing is done here locally,” Nichols explains.

Awareness and treatment is important for all respiratory-related illnesses, so attention to symptoms is necessary in order to recover quickly and minimize the spread. This applies whether a person has the coronavirus, the flu or a common cold. “The one we really do worry about is the flu,” says Nichols, “and we do have treatment for it, so that's why we like to try and get on top of as quick as we can.”

For more reliable information regarding COVID-19, the CDC provides an abundance of up-to-date information regarding what they are doing for testing. And, as always, approach your primary care provider with any specific questions or concerns about your health.

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