- On the website Worldometers, cases of Covid-19 are tracked, and a few days ago, the US became #1 in the world. You can see the breakdown here by country worldwide and by state here.
- US cases by county map, here.
- Michigan here.
- Anticipated peak and surge by state, assuming full mitigation practices by everyone nationwide.
- Financial Times curve of death rates worldwide.
It was exactly 100 years ago, this day, that my father, serving in the military where he had been suffering from the Spanish Flu in the Army barracks at Camp Custer, Michigan awaited word about his grandparents.
Joseph, known as Dode, Bolton had died on February 24rd. The flu was rampant in the Claiborne County, TN community of Hoop Creek where he and his wife, Margaret Claxton lived.
On Dode’s death certificate, his cause of death was described as “Pneumonia in both lungs following the flu.” The doctor has been caring for him for 6 days, although there wasn’t much the doctor could do.
The death certificate says Dode was buried the next day, but that’s not what the family recalled.
Dode’s body was put out in the barn where it was cold, awaiting burial. Everyone was sick, too sick to build a casket and dig a grave. Besides, the family was waiting on something else.
Margaret was sick too. She wasn’t expected to live either – and she didn’t. She lingered another 14 days beyond Dode when she too died of flu complications on March 10.
According to her death certificate, she had been under the doctor’s care since the same day as Dode. Her cause of death was “Bronco Pnumonia following flu.”
The family stated that they were buried together in the spring, when the ground thawed and people got well enough to dig the graves and bury the couple.
Browsing the Claiborne County death records, there were many spring deaths that year.
100 Years Apart
Dode and Margaret died before the invention of antibiotics and anti-viral drugs. Before the days of oxygen “tents,” hospitals and life-saving treatments. And certainly, before the days of vaccinations.
One would think that in today’s modern world, we would be beyond rapidly spreading pandemics – yet – here we are.
Exactly 100 years later we are facing another uncontrolled pandemic – the COVID-19 Coronavirus.
But there is one big difference. Our world has gotten smaller in the sense that people travel more often, more rapidly and more widely. Everyone depends on automobiles and rapid transit systems. Air travel is an everyday occurrence – meaning that a contagious disease can be very quickly spread worldwide. That’s exactly what’s happening. People travel, become infected and spread the disease back home before they know they are ill, like ant poison carried into the heart of the entire ant colony – Typhoid Mary on steroids.
What is the COVID-19 Coronavirus?
The Covid-19 Coronavirus is related to other viruses, which make humans and animals sick.
Over time, viruses mutate, become slightly different and more deadly as we have no immunity to fight the new viral strain.
That’s why there’s a new flu shot developed every year, and why the effectiveness may vary. Sometimes different people become sick from the same virus in different ways, meaning some people who are infected with the COVID-19 may have either no or light symptoms. Some become very sick but recover. And of course, as we’ve all heard, some die.
The worse part though, is that it appears that people can actually infect others during the 2- 14 days before they develop symptoms and up to 14 days after the symptoms are gone.
Symptoms can appear 2-14 days after exposure. Some people are contagious but have no symptoms as all. Not a lot is known about this virus at this time, so an abundance of caution is in order.
What are the Symptoms?
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) reports symptoms here, which include:
- Shortness of breath
Generally NOT a runny nose, vomiting or intestinal discomfort. This virus attacks through the lungs – although everyone can manifest this disease somewhat differently.
Older people, over 60, and increasing with age, or people with compromised immune systems such as HIV or transplant patients, people undergoing chemo or people with underlying organic systemic health issues such as lung, liver, kidney or heart disease are particularly vulnerable.
There is currently no vaccine nor treatment except for treating the symptoms individually as they appear. Therefore, prevention is key.
Diagnostic Swab Test
There is a swab test, but they are in very short supply inthe US and most people with symptoms are currently not being tested here.
Currently, the virus has been confirmed in about half the US states, but with no or inadequate testing, it’s certainly possible that it’s far more widespread than we know at this point.
My family member who teaches at a medical school hospital says they’ve adopted the “washing and introvert” protocol. That’s good advice for all of us.
What Can You Do?
This is NOT a time to panic, but it absolutely IS time to educate yourself and take preventative measures, including:
- Wash your hands with soap and warm water for a full minute, often.
- Use hand sanitizer or alcohol wipes liberally. Can’t find hand sanitizer? You can use anything with more than 60% alcohol. Here’s a list of disinfecting products provided by the EPA. Here’s a sanitizer recipe, and another one here from the World Health Organization (WHO).
- Follow CDC recommendations here.
- If you get sick with COVID-19 symptoms, the initial recommendation was to go to the hospital to be tested. However, now the recommendation is to call your health-care provider so as not to potentially infect others.
- Don’t touch things like gas pump handles and doorknobs, especially in public places. I always wash my hands after touching things like menus in restaurants.
- Stay home. Given that people don’t know if they are infected and can be infecting others for a full 2 weeks before they realize they are ill, your best bet to stay well is to stay at home.
- If you feel ill or “off,” don’t go to work or anyplace. Many employers are arranging for people to work from home if possible.
- If your child is ill, keep them at home too. School and confined spaces are literally petri dishes.
- Don’t touch your face, meaning mouth, nose or eyes. People think they don’t, but they do without realizing it. This also extends to finger foods.
Face masks may or may not be effective. The virus is typically spread by actual contact, but if you are sneezed on directly and breath in the drops, you can contract the disease that way. However, the most common infection route is through touching something an infected person touched or otherwise contaminated and then touching your face. Face masks may help prevent you from touching your own face, even if they don’t directly prevent the virus in other ways. Please see the letter from Dr. Robb, below.
Where to Obtain Reliable News
This virus is a health issue, not a political football (please, no political comments, regardless of how you feel.) I would strongly, strongly recommend obtaining your information from health professionals and those who have no other agenda.
Here are some resources for you, including maps.
- Here’s a video from Weather.com who states they will keep people updated.
- This New York Times map is great, but you may be limited to 3 articles a month unless you are a subscriber.
- Here’s the CDC US map and other coronavirus information
- WHO information about the Coronavirus.
- NBC News Coronavirus page
- Coronavirus dashboard map at Johns Hopkins (as of 3-9-2020, locations on this map have disappeared, even though confirmed elsewhere)
- List of “best Coronavirus maps“
- HealthMap compiled map
- Very detailed Covid-19 active case map
- Information about the Covid-19 test itself, and how it works
Letter from Dr. James Robb, MD FCAP
Dear Family and Friends, as some of you may recall, when I was a professor of pathology at the University of California San Diego, I was one of the first molecular virologists in the world to work on coronaviruses (the 1970s). I was the first to demonstrate the number of genes the virus contained. Since then, I have kept up with the coronavirus field and its multiple clinical transfers into the human population (e.g., SARS, MERS), from different animal sources.
The current projections for its expansion in the US are only probable, due to continued insufficient worldwide data, but it is most likely to be widespread by mid to late March and April.
Here is what I have done and the precautions that I take and will take. These are the same precautions I currently use during our influenza seasons, except for the mask and gloves.:
1) NO HANDSHAKING! Use a fist bump, slight bow, elbow bump, etc.
2) Use ONLY your knuckle to touch light switches. elevator buttons, etc.. Lift the gasoline dispenser with a paper towel or use a disposable glove.
3) Open doors with your closed fist or hip – do not grasp the handle with your hand, unless there is no other way to open the door. Especially important on bathroom and post office/commercial doors.
4) Use disinfectant wipes at the stores when they are available, including wiping the handle and child seat in grocery carts.
5) Wash your hands with soap for 10-20 seconds and/or use a greater than 60% alcohol-based hand sanitizer whenever you return home from ANY activity that involves locations where other people have been.
6) Keep a bottle of sanitizer available at each of your home’s entrances. AND in your car for use after getting gas or touching other contaminated objects when you can’t immediately wash your hands.
7) If possible, cough or sneeze into a disposable tissue and discard. Use your elbow only if you have to. The clothing on your elbow will contain infectious virus that can be passed on for up to a week or more!
What I have stocked in preparation for the pandemic spread to the US:
1) Latex or nitrile latex disposable gloves for use when going shopping, using the gasoline pump, and all other outside activity when you come in contact with contaminated areas.
Note: This virus is spread in large droplets by coughing and sneezing. This means that the air will not infect you! BUT all the surfaces where these droplets land are infectious for about a week on average – everything that is associated with infected people will be contaminated and potentially infectious. The virus is on surfaces and you will not be infected unless your unprotected face is directly coughed or sneezed upon. This virus only has cell receptors for lung cells (it only infects your lungs). The only way for the virus to infect you is through your nose or mouth via your hands or an infected cough or sneeze onto or into your nose or mouth.
2) Stock up now with disposable surgical masks and use them to prevent you from touching your nose and/or mouth (We touch our nose/mouth 90X/day without knowing it!). This is the only way this virus can infect you – it is lung-specific. The mask will not prevent the virus in a direct sneeze from getting into your nose or mouth – it is only to keep you from touching your nose or mouth.
3) Stock up now with hand sanitizers and latex/nitrile gloves (get the appropriate sizes for your family). The hand sanitizers must be alcohol-based and greater than 60% alcohol to be effective.
4) Stock up now with zinc lozenges. These lozenges have been proven to be effective in blocking coronavirus (and most other viruses) from multiplying in your throat and nasopharynx. Use as directed several times each day when you begin to feel ANY “cold-like” symptoms beginning. It is best to lie down and let the lozenge dissolve in the back of your throat and nasopharynx. Cold-Eeze lozenges is one brand available, but there are other brands available.
I, as many others do, hope that this pandemic will be reasonably contained, BUT I personally do not think it will be. Humans have never seen this snake-associated virus before and have no internal defense against it. Tremendous worldwide efforts are being made to understand the molecular and clinical virology of this virus. Unbelievable molecular knowledge about the genomics, structure, and virulence of this virus has already been achieved. BUT, there will be NO drugs or vaccines available this year to protect us or limit the infection within us. Only symptomatic support is available.
I hope these personal thoughts will be helpful during this potentially catastrophic pandemic. Good luck to all of us,
James Robb, MD FCAP
There is NO Rewind
Once it’s too late, you can’t go back for a do-over, so please don’t think this advice is for “everyone else.” It’s for everyone, including you and me. Yes, I know it’s inconvenient, but it’s also critically important.
Major conferences are cancelling as are events that bring people into close contact. These cancellations have huge economic impacts on the sponsors and attendees, meaning this is not a decision the organizers take lightly. If they are willing to forgo this opportunity and suffer the economic consequences in order to keep attendees safe, even if the virus isn’t known to be found in that location – yet – please heed that example and do the same, even if something you had planned to do hasn’t yet cancelled. All I can say is that I’m glad RootsTech was last week instead of next week – because I wouldn’t be there.
If you minimize your own chances of exposure, you also minimize infecting others before you know you’ve been exposed. Remember, people are contagious as much as 2 weeks both before and after they are actually ill, if they manifest symptoms at all.
Once the damage is done, there no going back and “I’m sorry” matters not to dead people or their grieving families. Back in 1920, Dode and Margaret were sharing a gourd dipper for drinking well water and attending church with their neighbors who were doing the same. They didn’t understand about germs and contagion. We do and we have the opportunity, and responsibility, to prevent that same outcome.
Take a look around you – those people you love are the people you are saving by NOT taking a chance of getting infected yourself.
Introvert, stay home, wash your hands and do some genealogy.
As Dr. Robb said, “good luck to all of us.”
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