INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – As more cases of the coronavirus pop up across the country, here at home, we all have questions. Although many answers can be found with a simple search, the best and most accurate come from the people prepared to protect you: medical professionals.
“I was actually in the emergency department yesterday and we are seeing a decent number of people come in thinking that they have COVID-19, but actually have no risk factors,” said Dr. Mark Liao, an emergency room physician and the Medical Director for Indianapolis Emergency Medical Servies (EMS).
Dr. Liao and our team visited downtown Indianapolis to answer questions you have about coronavirus and the impact it could have. Here are some of those questions and answers.
Craig Severance came down with Influenza-B about 30 days ago, as the coronavirus concerns started. “The question I have is a test that is not corona, COVID-19 compatible will it show up as a different strain or will it show up as a negative result?” asked Severance.
Doctor Liao replied, “So if you get tested using the rapid flu test and you have coronavirus COVID-19, the rapid flu test will come back negative. There is a very small population of people that have both COVID-19 as well as influenza or some other respiratory illness, but that’s a very, very small number. The chance of you being co-infected having both at that same time is exceptionally low.”
A child that we came across asked Dr. Liao a question. “How long has the coronavirus been in existence?”
Doctor Liao replied, “We think it’s at least been around since December 2019 since it was first been detected in Wuhan, China. It was probably transmitted through some sort of animal, like bats and spread from there or into the local population. Great question.”
Jessika Hankinson asked, “What is the reason why all of these big events are canceled and what’s the main concern about it?”
Doctor Liao answered, “That’s a great question. Based on our experience from other countries like Italy, South Korea, we do think close contact increases the risk of transmission of this disease. A lot of people who attend these events they’ll probably just come down with very mild illness and they’ll be fine. We just don’t want it to spread to something like a nursing home or the elderly and that’s what this is all about.”
When asked about pregnant women and if there’s a risk for their health, Dr. Liao responded, “Right now for our informational purposes, pregnant women don’t appear to have severe disease, that’s very different from 2009 H1N1 when pregnant women got very, very sick with influenza. This may be because we don’t have enough data to know about pregnant women yet, but right now it’s not a major risk group. The biggest risks groups we’re seeing is people with cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, asthma, COPD.”
What about businesses taking preventative precautions and others that are waiting to make the call?
“It really depends on the type of business that you’re in,” Dr. Liao explained. “If you’re in a place that deals a lot with the elderly, people with medical conditions like diabetes, I think it’s reasonable to have a very aggressive policy to stay at home if you’re sick, but if it’s a young, healthy workforce and people are generally in good health – they can wait.”
Kayla Havenor asked, “I’m pretty sure the important thing is washing your hands, right?
“So for coronavirus prevention we think it’s primarily spread through droplets and close contacts,” Liao answered, “So, from aside from washing hands, we ask if people sneeze of cough, don’t cough into your hands but into your elbow, if you put it into a tissue immediately put it into the trash bin, then wash your hands after and if you are sick, don’t go out into the general public.”
Lastly, someone asked “I have an autoimmune disease, Crohn’s disease and I know the medicine I’m on shuts down my immune system to better help with that, so what’s my susceptibility rate?”
Liao explained, “People with a weakened immune system we are worried about them and certainly we would want them to take additional precautions making sure they wash their hands often.”