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Coronavirus 6.0

As the weeks roll on we are gathering more information about the virus. It seems more contagious than we thought at the outset but the spread in the US is fairly limited so far. As more testing occurs we will get a better picture of the extent of spread. Even more clear is that there are defined groups at risk. If you are not in those categories you are not at all likely to have a problem should you get infected.

The data set from China is illuminating. There have been ZERO deaths in children up to age 9 and that is the case worldwide so far. Young adults up to age 40 the death rate is 0.2%, ages 40-50, 0.4%. After that the rate becomes increased to almost 21.9% if you are older than 80. This also is not considering your sate of health. One study suggested that if you have no underlying medical conditions the overall death rate (including all ages) is less than 1%. When they quote death rates like 3.5% and constantly refer to the ‘deadly Coronavirus” please keep those stats in perspective. With that information I am confident that the vast majority of people, particularly children, will do fine should they get infected. Right now if you have no exposure history at all it is unlikely you have coronavirus and more likely you have a common respiratory infection currently circulating everywhere in America. Exposure history would be if you have a travel history to Iran, Italy, South Korea, Japan or China or from a US hot spot like Washington state or were exposed to a traveller from those locations. Obviously if you were exposed to a known case that would qualify as well. There are no cases in CT as of this morning. If you meet those criteria, you should self quarantine. You should be evaluated only at a facility that can handle proper care, isolation and treatment. That would have to be a hospital at this time. Being it’s still cold and flu season and the symptoms are overlapping it’s important not to overload testing facilities because of fear. If you do not meet those criteria, continue to seek care the way you normally would for any illness. Though the CDC updated its testing recommendations to include patients w symptoms alone, unless Connecticut begins to have cases or until tests are more widely available they should be reserved for the aforementioned categories.

We are still trying to contain the virus with aggressive quarantining. I am not sure that’s really a practical approach. Too many people can not afford to just stay home and shudder their businesses for weeks at at time. I think it may come to be another virus that starts circulating routinely just as the flu does every single year. We would then be better off by protecting the groups at higher risk by allowing them to work from home or have them qualify for family medical leave if there are extended community out breaks.

The fact that children seem so resilient to this disease would also mean that unlike with other pathogens, schools and day care center closings will not be that helpful in containing spread. I believe that the scepter of devastation some media outlets are predicting is pure hyperbole. This is no time to panic. It’s really helpful to look at the facts and use them to asses risk and guide policy.

As a reminder flu cases are at 32 million w 18,000 deaths. 125 children are in that total so far this year.

Keep watching here for updates and stay calm, cover your coughs, wash your hands and live your normal lives.