Update and Recommendations
Amidst the media frenzy surrounding the Novel Coronavirus-19 (COVID-19), we wanted to share the most up to date information to dispel misinformation and quell some of the fear that many of our patients are feeling.
COVID-19 is a new strain of the already known Coronaviruses that have been around since the1960s that include viruses ranging from the common cold to the more concerning, but contained, MERS and SARS viruses from previous years. For most of the American public, the risk for severe illness or complications from COVID-19 is low.
Per the CDC, for the large majority of patients who have viral respiratory symptoms, testing for Coronavirus is not necessary without other factors of exposure or unexplained causation.
The majority of those who are exposed will have mild symptoms that do not require medical attention. Those with more severe symptoms such as high fevers, chills, muscle aches, and cough will recover with rest, fluids, and over the counter pain relievers such as Tylenol and Advil. A very small number of patients will have symptoms that require hospitalization and even fewer patients will have hospitalization that results in a poor outcome.
Is It Like the Flu?
There are some similarities to the flu in that they are both viral and cannot be treated with antibiotics and are both respiratory illnesses that present with flu-like symptoms such as fever, cough and shortness of breath.
There are also many differences. The classic flu has a sudden onset of symptoms; whereas COVID-19 symptoms appear at a slower rate over a few days. COVID-19 has the added potential for gastrointestinal symptoms, a longer incubation period, and is seemingly more easily spread. The flu virus has been around for thousands of years allowing for some natural immunity that has been passed down from our ancestors in addition to the availability of a preventative vaccine and an effective anti-viral treatment to lessen the duration.
Even with the increased immunity, vaccine prevention and anti-viral treatments, the CDC estimates approximately 40 million Americans are infected with the flu virus each year, 650k are hospitalized, and 60k die. The numbers surrounding influenza are staggering compared to COVID-19. Worldwide, known COVID-19 infections are currently less than 150k and deaths are less than 6k.
This is not to say COVID-19 should be taken lightly. The WHO warns for those who are in an area where there are cases, the risk for infection should be taken seriously. Although for most people COVID-19 will cause mild illness; it can make some people very ill and, in some be it can be fatal. In order to minimize the spread and contain the virus quickly we need to work together, communicate, educate and self-isolate when we are sick.
To view the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) "Share The Facts" click here.
To view the WHO's Q&A Comparison between COVID-19 and the Flu click here.
When Should I Stay Home?
The CDC recommends that anyone who has recently traveled to a Level 3 country (China, Iran, Italy and South Korea) even if they don't have symptoms, to self-isolate for 14 days. The CDC's instructions for self-isolation can be found by clicking here.
The CDC recommends anyone who has been in close contact (within than 6 feet for a prolonged period of time) with a suspected or confirmed case should self-isolate for 14 days even if they do not have symptoms. (Significant others, roommates, etc.)
As we are seeing new cases each day in Fulton and the surrounding counties, it is recommended to avoid crowds, public transportation, and places where there are large numbers of people. This is especially important for patients aged 60 years or older and for patients with underlying medical conditions such as cardiovascular disease, respiratory disease and diabetes as they are more susceptible to complications.
If you are sick or experiencing viral respiratory symptoms such as fever, cough, shortness of breath or gastrointestinal upset, even if they are mild such as a headache or runny nose, STAY HOME until ALL symptoms resolve.
If you are having severe symptoms please call 911 and let them know your travel and exposure history, if any.
It is hard for many of us to stay home when we are sick, much less for what may seem like mild cold symptoms. The age old, American mentality of pushing through our normal day even when we are not feeling well, is just one of the reasons this virus is challenging to contain. If you are one of the UNfortunate ones who gets sick, but one of the fortunate ones who only has mild symptoms, grab a book, flip on the TV, or queue up a Netflix series and PLEASE STAY HOME until ALL symptoms resolve.
A decision to be responsible and stay home can make the difference between a few hundred cases verses a few thousand cases.
What Do I Do if I Think I've Been Exposed?
If you think you have been exposed either by recent travel or by person to person exposure, please call us. We can assess your risk and provide treatment options and recommendations and arrange for testing at a designated facility if needed over the phone with a TeleVisit. **Please note, we are unable to test for COVID-19 in our office at this time.
Also, as a patient of NFIMG, you have access to a dedicated COVID-19 Nurse Hotline staffed by Piedmont Hospital. They are specially trained to answer questions pertaining to COVID-19, review your exposure risk, and arrange for testing if needed. They are available Monday through Friday 7 a.m.- 7 p.m. at 1(866) 460-1119.
The CDC and the FDA are working to fast-track the approval and increase the production of COVID-19 tests to make them more readily available to healthcare providers. Additionally, the Georgia Department of Health, as well as several local hospital systems are working to quickly set up designated testing sites throughout the city.
Updated Appointment Policy
To be able to continue to provide the best medical care for all of our patients, we have added the following policies:
- If you recently returned from a country who has been documented as a level 3 country, regardless of whether or not you have current symptoms, we ask that you strictly follow the 14-day self-isolation recommended by the CDC. This includes delaying visits to our office and any other care provider until after 14 days has passed. We are happy to reschedule your appointment for a future date that is convenient and provide any refills you may need. If at any time you become symptomatic, please call us.
- Prior to scheduling patients who have lower respiratory symptoms such as cough, shortness of breath, fever greater than 100.4, and/or gastrointestinal symptoms we will evaluate and provide treatment via Tele-Visit when medically appropriate. If the symptoms are, or become severe we will facilitate evaluation through the Emergency Room where appropriate symptom management can be provided.
It may seem counter intuitive to not see a doctor when you are sick. However, due to the ease in which the virus spreads and because the treatment, which is centered around alleviating the symptoms with over the counter medications, remains the same with or without a formal diagnosis, the risk of spreading the virus to those you encounter on your journey, as well as the patients, staff and other visitors in the building are too great.
We will continue to schedule and treat patients in the office for appointments including routine physical exams, follow-up appointments, and acute medical concerns except as noted above. Please know, as we take these extra precautions, we are and will continue to be available by telephone to provide you with timely, personalized care.
Healthy Habits to Keep You Healthy
The safety and health of our patients is always our priority especially when you are in our office. To reduce the risk of potential illness to our patients and our staff we have increased the frequency in which we sanitize every area of our office from reception to the exam rooms and every surface from the light switches, door handles, and countertops to the computers, clipboards and pens using hospital grade sanitizers that are known to kill COVID-19. You may notice we have also made some changes and process improvements to reduce the number of times insurance cards, IDs, pens, and other items are exchanged in addition to removing items that might be shared such as magazines.
As we pull together within our communities and as a nation, we encourage you to be informed, stay up to date with the latest WHO/CDC recommendations, and follow good health practices such as the ones below to stay healthy and minimize spread of the virus:
- Avoid close contact with those who are sick.
- If you are sick stay home. Use a face mask to prevent the spread of germs to others.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
- Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue, then throw it in the trash can. If you don’t have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your bent elbow.
- Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds; especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing. If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with 60% to 95% alcohol.
- Routinely clean frequently touched surfaces and objects like cellphones, keyboards and door knobs, and light switches.
- Avoid touching commonly used public surfaces such as elevator buttons, door handles, and hand rails. If you must touch something use your sleeve or a paper towel to cover your hand.
- If you have not received a flu shot, while it won’t protect from COVID-19, it is your best protection for the flu virus.
- Get plenty of sleep and be physically active, drink plenty of fluids and eat nutritious foods.
- Review the WHO's Basic Protective Measures Against COVID-19 by clicking here.
We will continue to monitor the updates and recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization. We encourage you to visit their websites for updates as well. You may click the highlighted links to easily access the WHO's website and the CDC's website.
Thank you for choosing NFIMG for your healthcare where your good health continues to be our sole concern! We look forward to seeing you soon!
The Doctors and Staff of NFIMG