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Well, it has been a while since I posted on here, and that’s because I am trying to focus the majority of my attention on my passion – to help women with adenomyosis. However, I feel like I need to post about the coronavirus now because I have at least some knowledge on the subject since my degree is in Microbiology. I also worked as a microbiologist early in my career prior to my work in genetics. Additionally, I have over 20 years experience working in a medical laboratory.
I watched part of the coronavirus task force press conference yesterday, and I was aghast at what Mike Pence said about the state of our country regarding the coronavirus infection. I would like to address several of his statements:
- Pence said that the “curve has flattened”. This is false. We are currently moving almost completely in a vertical direction. Yesterday, there were 40,000 new cases reported in the U.S. which is the highest number of new cases since this pandemic began.
- Pence insisted that the Trump administration has done a great job in dealing with the coronavirus pandemic. Let’s remember that 125,000 people have died in 6 months from this virus. The average ANNUAL death rate for the flu is 36,000 people. In comparing the two, I would definitely say that the Trump administration has NOT done a great job!
- Pence made it very clear that we all should be following the CDC guidelines….well, except that he did not mention wearing masks. When a reporter pointed out that the CDC guidelines state that we should be wearing masks and that masks are not being worn at Trump rallies, Pence tried to defend the administration by using the excuse “freedom of speech”. There are several problems here. First, the administration loves to apply the rules to everyone else, but when it comes to them, they always find some kind of excuse why it is OK that they don’t follow the rules. It’s like the reporter said, “Do as I say, not as I do.” Second, we all can exercise our freedom of speech digitally as Biden is doing. It is not necessary to have a rally. Stopping rallies due to health concerns is in no way an infringement on freedom of speech. Do it online!!
- When asked again why he didn’t mention wearing masks, Pence encouraged everyone to follow state and local guidelines (he did not mention that it is in the CDC guidelines). He never clarified why he wouldn’t state that masks were necessary EVEN THOUGH the CDC guidelines recommend wearing them.
- Pence actually said that the fact the coronavirus is spreading quickly in younger people is a good thing! I am speechless about this one.
OK, so now I want to get the truth out about some of these false narratives that seem to be circulating social media.
- Yes, it is possible for the virus to penetrate a mask, especially homemade masks. However, scientific studies have shown that wearing a mask will SLOW DOWN transmission. Homemade masks are not meant to PREVENT infection completely. The only way to truly be safe close to 100% is to dress in a biohazard suit and take extreme precautions like what they do in labs where the techs have to deal with these deadly viruses. What the experts are trying to tell us is that if you don’t wear a mask, you will be spreading this virus to the point that hospitals will get overwhelmed and will have to choose which patients live or die. We do NOT want to get to that point. By wearing a mask, infection rates will SLOW DOWN and “flatten the curve.” This will help to prevent the hospital systems from becoming overwhelmed. Please, if you don’t understand this, just know that scientific studies have shown that wearing a mask will help to REDUCE (not ELIMINATE) the number of infections.
- No, wearing a mask will not make you sick or kill you!! I get so angry when I see people spread this lie. I actually saw a woman in Florida at a town hall meeting a few days ago say that masks will kill you. Absurd!! Look…oxygen and carbon dioxide are nothing more than a couple of atoms. Oxygen contains two oxygen atoms (O2) and carbon dioxide contains one carbon and two oxygen atoms (CO2). They both flow freely through masks, especially homemade masks. There is NO risk of harm in wearing a mask. Also, let’s remember that surgeons wear them all day long without any issues. Think about lengthy surgeries that last maybe 8 to 12 hours. These surgeons don’t go home sick….tired, yes, but not sick. This lie is completely and totally ridiculous.
- Let’s talk about asymptomatic spreading. Trump and Pence constantly say they are safe from the virus because they do a temperature check on anyone who comes near them. Let me make this very clear: A NORMAL TEMPERATURE DOES NOT MEAN THAT PERSON IS NOT INFECTED. Many people who have a normal temperature and no symptoms may in fact be infected with coronavirus. Let me explain. Viruses of all kinds have an incubation period. The minute you come in contact with a sick person does not mean you will immediately fall ill. Viruses have incubation periods. With the coronavirus, the incubation phase is thought to be between 5 and 14 days. During this time, you may not feel sick at all. You may not run a temperature. You may not have any coughing or sneezing – no symptoms whatsoever. However, the virus is still in your body, so anytime someone comes in contact with you, you may be unknowingly spreading it to that person. Now, it gets more complicated than this – the number of virus particles that are passed between people also depends on how sick a person gets – but my main point here is that just because you feel great today and are not running a fever DOES NOT prove that you are not infected. Asymptomatic spreading is not an unusual concept. This is how the flu and the common cold are spread, and this is why these infections are so common. Here are a couple of facts: Of the 700 passengers on the Diamond Princess who contracted coronavirus, 46% were asymptomatic when they were tested. In Iceland, half of all COVID-19 positive patients were asymptomatic when tested. At the nursing home in Washington State, 13 of the 23 patients with COVID-19 were asymptomatic when tested. So please don’t think that just because you don’t have any symptoms that you aren’t infected. This is why it is imperative that EVERYONE wears a mask.
- When thinking about the prevention of transmission of this virus, think of this: anytime there is any forceful expulsion of air from the respiratory tract, you are putting others at risk. Examples such as coughing or sneezing are obvious, but think about singing. This is one activity that people don’t think about, but you are forcefully pushing air from your respiratory tract when you sing. There has been a case of a group that had choir practice several months ago, and even though they practiced social distancing (they all sat 6 feet apart), a large number of them came down with the coronavirus. Apparently one member came to practice sick, and by singing, it was spread throughout the group. Even the social distancing didn’t work!
While it is true that younger people fare better when infected with coronavirus, that doesn’t mean they are completely safe. I know of a family near here that almost lost their two sons to coronavirus. Thankfully they recovered, but they spent months in the hospital and were on ventilators. The boys were 14 and 16 years old.
So who exactly is at higher risk? I am sure you have heard that the risk goes up for the elderly and those with underlying medical conditions. But who exactly is that? Here are just a few examples:
People with weakened immune systems:
- Elderly – our immune systems naturally weaken as we age.
- Anyone receiving chemotherapy and/or radiation
- Anyone taking immunosuppressive drugs to treat an autoimmune disease (lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, etc)
- Anyone taking immunosuppressive drugs to prevent rejection after an organ transplant
- Anyone with AIDS
- Anyone with cancer
- Anyone with severe burns
- Anyone (including young people) with underlying medical conditions such as diabetes
Now, what are some examples of immunosuppressive drugs? There are many, but here are just a few of the more well-known ones (I see commercials all the time for these):
This covers a huge portion of our country. This virus doesn’t just attack the elderly. Please don’t think you are immune to it!
About Dr. Fauci – I have seen so many attacks on this man on social media. Some of the people attacking him are listening to people like Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, Tucker Carlson, Laura Ingraham, Trump, and others. This is infuriating to me. Both Hannity and Limbaugh are college dropouts. Carlson, Ingraham….heck, all of them….have NO medical background. NONE. Yet they insisted, especially early on, that the coronavirus was a hoax…or “just a cold” as Limbaugh put it. Dr. Fauci is in his 70s and has spent his ENTIRE career working in infectious disease. Why on earth would people listen to people with NO medical training, two of who never completed college, and believe them over Dr. Fauci and other medical experts??? That question keeps me up at night. It is utterly idiotic to believe these people over the experts.
My last point is this: PLEASE WEAR A MASK. I know they are uncomfortable. I know they are hot. But while you complain about that, think of the 125,000 Americans who have suffocated to death. Those people were certainly a lot more uncomfortable than those of us who have to wear a mask. Sometimes I think that we are so spoiled in this country that we have lost the ability to be compassionate. We have become a country of “me, me, me.” We have become very narcissistic. We need to start thinking about other people and start putting other people’s needs ahead of our own – just like Jesus taught us.
I hope I helped at least some of you to understand this virus a little bit better. And I hope some of you will take it a little more seriously.
Thanks for reading 🙂
Well, my answer to that question is both yes and no.
I decided to write this blog since I have a B.S. degree in Microbiology and over 20 years experience working in a medical laboratory. As I watch the media news coverage on this topic, I have had mixed feelings. One minute, I hear someone who, in my opinion, is talking very intelligently about this situation, and the next minute, I hear something that makes me cringe! So……here are my thoughts.
First and foremost, it is important to know that if you haven’t been directly exposed to the bodily fluids of someone with ebola, your chances of getting this virus are very, very slim. Why isn’t it a zero chance? Because nothing in medicine is impossible. The experts say that it is not transmitted through the air. I take that with a grain of salt. Right now, we are facing the biggest ebola outbreak of all time, and in my opinion, we just don’t know enough about this virus to say that anything is impossible.
Secondly, it is extremely important to remember that ebola can survive for short periods of time outside of the body. This means that if someone with ebola vomits, and it splatters on a wall, floor or doorknob, the next person to touch that area can potentially be infected. I think it is important to know this, and the media hasn’t really addressed this issue from what I’ve seen. Not only is it important to completely shield yourself from the actual patient, but it is also vitally important to completely sanitize any area where they have been sick. I am extremely impressed with the way that Frontier airlines has handled this situation. They have completely sanitized the airplane and even removed carpeting and seats from the area where Amber was seated. It might seem like an overkill to some, but it really was a wise decision, so kuddos to Frontier!
It is also important to keep in mind that viruses have an ability to mutate. Just because ebola behaves in a certain way now does not mean that it will always behave that same way. Viruses and bacteria have the ability to change and find their way around our defenses. Many bacteria have mutated and become resistant to certain antibiotics. This has now become a major concern in the treatment of many bacterial infections. Although we should not become panic stricken over this, it is important to remember this and not just assume that ebola will always act in the same manner as it is acting today.
As for me, I place the blame for the mishandling of the ebola situation in the United States squarely on the CDC. Of all of the health care institutions in America, the CDC knows (or should know) exactly what to do in a crisis such as the one we are facing today. Many, many inexcusable mistakes were made during the handling of Thomas Eric Duncan’s case, and in the end, it all falls directly on the shoulders of the CDC for not ensuring that the proper protocols were being followed. I do not agree with much of what Dr. Tom Frieden has done in handling this crisis, and, in my opinion, I believe he should step down. The following is a list of reasons why I believe there needs to be an overhaul at the CDC:
1. Dr. Frieden doesn’t seem to want to put a travel ban in place, stating that he feels it would backfire by not allowing medical care to get to the ebola ravaged countries in West Africa. Stopping casual flights into and out of those countries while still allowing medical flights to continue is something that can be done. It’s not rocket science, but just a matter of organization.
2. There was a clear failure to train hospital personnel in Dallas on how to safely handle Thomas Eric Duncan. There are many different types of personal protective equipment, which can range from just gloves and a lab coat to a hazmat suit that covers every inch of the person’s body. What type to use depends on the pathogen involved. Ebola requires complete coverage from head to toe, and the report that the nurses at Dallas cared for Duncan while having their necks exposed is indefensible.
3. Self monitoring of people directly exposed to Duncan, especially health care workers, was not sufficient in taking control of this crisis. These people should have been quarantined for 21 days and not allowed to travel in my opinion. But the worst part was the CDC telling Amber Vinson that she could travel with a 99.5 degree temperature. In a previous blog post, I talked about how medical professionals need to “think outside the box”. This is a perfect example. More than likely, whoever Amber talked to at the CDC looked on a list and saw that the cutoff for a fever was 100.4 degrees and told her it was OK for her to fly. But, if that person would have “thought outside the box”, it would have become clear that Amber should have never gotten on that flight since she had also been involved in Duncan’s care in Dallas. As someone on the news stated a few days ago, “common sense has taken a vacation”.
The CDC needs to take responsibility for this mess. The steps that are being taken now to ensure the health of the American public should have been taken the minute they found out that Thomas Eric Duncan had been diagnosed with ebola and was in the United States. Too little, too late.
So, in conclusion, I believe that we shouldn’t panic, but we should be aware. Know the truth about ebola and viruses in general and just be careful. Fear has come about by the failings of the CDC and the assurance that ebola wouldn’t enter this country. In this country, we do have the capability of controlling this virus, but it doesn’t do us any good if the ones who are in charge won’t do their job properly. We need for the CDC to step up and start ensuring that the medical professionals are properly trained in ebola and are given the proper personal protective equipment. Just my opinion.