TO ENLIGHTEN, NOT FRIGHTEN!!

Wednesday, March 18, 2020:

So you might ask why do you need to come here and get information from this local source,  when you can easily click anywhere on your desktop and read more than you need to know about this new viral infection?

The reason we are doing this is because we feel that the Flatbush Jewish Center should be not only a place of gathering for prayer, but a center of comfort, of learning, and a place where vitally important information can be disseminated to all the community it serves! Moreover,  it must be a place where you can feel secure knowing, that the only agenda it has is truth based on evidence and fact.  

My mission,  is to bring our present reality into focus, in a way that won’t frighten you but will enlighten you.  All you will read here is what we in medicine call “evidence based truth  and facts”.

In the coming days and weeks you will have an opportunity to ask questions and be part conference calls and video chats, all designed to socially connect us while we have to be distanced from each other. We can still be closely connected, even if we are not in the same space, all the time sharing only facts about the situation we find ourselves in. 

That having been said, let’s talk about Covid 19.

Coronavirus is not a new entity in our world. They’ve been coronaviruses going back many years, you may be familiar with them from prior and smaller epidemics such as SARS or MERS. In fact if you look on the back of many of your bottles of detergent and bleach, you can see that it says that it kills the coronavirus.

This virus is called “novel” because it is slightly different in its structure and perhaps even in the way travels and it affects different groups of people. We are learning more about this virus every day, and more importantly we are beginning to understand how it’s transmitted, who it affects, and with that, how we can protect ourselves and each other from it. Ultimately that will tell us how we can treat it, and prevent it spread.

From what we’ve seen around the world we know the virus is highly contagious. It spreads not only from respiratory droplets, meaning,  from inhaling airborne secretions from infected individuals, but it also lives on surfaces like countertops, banisters, door knobs, or anything that you can touch that was touched by an infected individual. It is for that reason that we tell you to wear gloves, and use antibacterial cleansers. 

FACT 1:  There is no need to spend thousands of dollars and hoard Purell,  because PLAIN SOAP & WATER DOES EXACTLY THE SAME! 

Wash your frequently, it will protect you! 

Next, let’s talk about the seriousness of the virus itself. The first thing we must immediately dispel is the movie version of a viral outbreak.  In the movies, the virus hits the individual and they immediately explode into thin air and cease to exist! That is absolutely not what is happening with Covid 19. 

This viral infection  appears to spread quickly, that is true.  Based on the real world data as well as the CDC (Center for Disease Control), it is estimated that 80% of the people who actually catch the infection will recover completely and fairly quickly.  Clearly there have been reported deaths from the infection, but exactly what the percentage of deaths are the so-called “death rate” from the infection is really not known.  Since testing has been slow to get started in the United States, we really don’t have a clue as to how many people have the infection so calculating the actual rate of death from it has been impossible to know. There are estimates that anywhere from 1 to 2% might be the actual death rate.

So who is at risk for this infection?

From what we have seen so far the infection attacks people over the age of 60 and those who have multiple medical problems such as hypertension, diabetes,  heart disease,  kidney disease and lung disease. People who have cancer on chemotherapy, patients with HIV or hepatitis C, and patients who have had a transplant and are on drugs to stop rejection, are at a higher risk.  In all of the above cases, either the disease process or the treatment the patient is getting, stops the patient’s immune system from protecting them. This allows the virus to enter them more quickly and cause more damage. That is why you were hearing everybody say that patients with multiple medical problems who are older should take extra precautions to protect themselves. At the present time what are the extra precautions?

Firstly,  it’s probably a good idea to stay at a  distance of 6 feet from other people or to stay away from large groups of people completely.

As I stated above – washing hands, wearing gloves, taking common protective precautions like avoiding crowds and being 6 feet away from others will help keep you well. So does this mean you cannot walk out of your house or hug your kids? Absolutely not! It’s important for you to continue to get fresh air and exercise but to do so where it is safe.  As long as you are not having symptoms of dry cough, shortness of breath, fever or chest pain, hug your kids and make sure they and you feel secure!

Stay tuned for more!  I’ll have exciting news later! 

Warren J. Wexelman, MD
NYU School Of Medicine
Past President, Flatbush Jewish Center