COVID 19: Novel Coronavirus Pandemic Information

By now I’m sure that you have heard a great deal about this pandemic virus. There is good information being broadcast about how to protect yourself. It is also likely that your child’s school has closed for a few weeks as a precaution.

This virus is not like a typical flu. It seems to spread more easily and can cause much more serious disease than seasonal influenza.

Fortunately, most younger people that get this infection get over the illness easily. But those with chronic conditions and the elderly population are much higher risk. At this point in time there is not any information whether patients with PANS/PANDAS will fall into the high-risk category, but since many of them flare badly with regular viral infections, it is logical that COVID-19 would cause a flare.

What we know about Coronavirus (COVID-19):

  1. It spreads by droplets that are coughed or sneezed. These droplets can travel about 6 feet before dropping to the ground (or onto a hard surface). It appears that the virus can live on a hard surface for up to 24 hours (but there are some other coronaviruses that can survive for days on non-porous surfaces).
  2. One can only become infected with this virus through your respiratory tract which is why everyone is advising to not touch your eyes, nose or mouth unless you have just washed your hands. You cannot catch coronavirus through your skin, only by transferring the virus to your face. You can become infected if someone sneezes or coughs on you, especially if you are in close proximity with an infected person.
  3. It seems that a person that has the virus can be contagious BEFORE they are feeling ill. If you know you have been exposed to someone with known COVID-19 infection, you should isolate yourself for 14 days until you can be sure that you are ok.
  4. There is no medical treatment for this virus. Patients with this infection receive supportive care while their immune systems fight it.
  5. There is no vaccine for this virus and likely won’t be one until 12-18 months from now. Flu vaccine is not effective against COVID-19. It is unknown whether infection gives permanent immunity to those that get over this virus.
  6. Older patients (>60 years) are especially vulnerable as are those with chronic medical conditions such as diabetes, heart and lung diseases, chemotherapy patients and those people that are taking immunosuppressive medications.

Follow the CDC guidelines:

  • Stay at home if you are ill; it is very easy to spread this virus. It might be a mild condition for you but could be deadly to vulnerable people. Young children are especially efficient spreaders of viral illness but fortunately, it appears that most children generally weather this infection well with few severe complications.
  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water; wash for 20 seconds and vigorously rub your hands while washing. Make sure that you carefully wash all surfaces of your hands and wrists. Help young children with handwashing. If soap/water unavailable, use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol and generously rub on your hands until it dries.
  • Avoid touching any part of your face (especially near eyes, nose and mouth) unless your hands have just been washed. Pretend that all surfaces, especially out in public, are highly contaminated and DO NOT TOUCH YOUR FACE after touching anything.
  • Obviously avoid people that are sick and maintain a distance of about 6 feet from other people when out in public.
  • Clean non-porous surfaces with disinfectants regularly, including doorknobs, light switches, counters, etc.
  • Cough or sneeze into a tissue or paper towel. Remember to wash your hands after throwing away the tissue. If tissues are not available, cough/sneeze into your elbow (never into your hands unless you can wash immediately).

If you become ill, please call your primary care physician. The symptoms are similar to a cold initially but will progress to include a fever. The symptoms of difficulty breathing is a very serious symptom and requires urgent evaluation.

Above all, don’t panic. Take advantage of this time at home to spend time with loved ones. Play games, read books, create fabulous art-work with them.

Children take cues from the adults they are with and certainly they have heard about this virus. Stay calm while you explain the facts about coronavirus to them. Remind them about hand washing and coughing into their elbows. And reassure them about being able to stay home with you and discuss what things you can do together while at home.

-Dr. Fox