Thus far, children are not being seriously affected.
A huge encouraging statistic as a pediatrician is that no children under 10 years of age have died from the COVID-19 to date and, for unclear reasons few children are developing severe symptoms. This pattern is similar to what was seen during the outbreaks of SARS and MERS.
Children are at similar risk as the rest of the population in terms of becoming infected; so it is imperative to consider them as vectors of the virus, especially since they are less symptomatic and thus more ambulatory, and less prone to prudent hygiene habits.
Healthy people 60 years and younger are at much lower risk.
Although there are some fatalities in nearly every age demographic, the vast majority of deaths are occurring in individuals 60 years and older. Further, people who have a severe chronic medical condition affecting their heart, lungs or kidneys are also at greater risk. This follows a similar pattern to influenza and most severe respiratory viruses.
So, if there is a silver lining in any of this, those who are under 60 years of age without significant health problems have an excellent prognosis should they become infected with COVID-19.
Further encouraging is that about 80% of people who contract COVID-19 recover without needing special treatment.
But the fact remains that as of the writing of this blog, the CFR is likely higher than the seasonal flu and possibly significantly higher. Intensive Care Units and hospitals in China and in South Korea, particularly near the epicenters of the outbreaks are overwhelmed.
If these two countries are a peek into the future for the rest of the world, this is going to be a long and difficult battle and it will have to start with grassroots efforts. We as a society will need to be vigilant in following the directives of our public health officials and practicing a high level of personal hygiene habits.
The CDC has an excellent list:
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
- Stay home when you are sick.
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
- Facemasks: CDC does NOT recommend that people who are well wear a facemask. Those who are showing symptoms should wear them to prevent the spread of disease. Health care workers and caregivers should also wear them when taking care of those who are infected.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
For the sake of those who are most vulnerable, we must band together to slow the spread of this disease. By slowing transmission, hopefully hospitals will not be overwhelmed with a tsunami of cases leading to a likely depletion of important resources such as ICU beds, ventilators, and healthcare workers.
Additionally, there is hope that by this time next year a vaccine will be available. As more research is published and experience gained, the medical community will develop a better understanding of which combination of antiviral medications and treatments work best.
And if COVID-19 mimics other respiratory viruses, the upcoming warmer weather may provide a temporary reprieve, giving the world a chance to catch its collective breath before the battle begins anew in the upcoming fall and winter.
Based on current epidemiological data, it is likely that the COVID-19 virus is not going away anytime soon. But the human race is strong and resourceful and we have more weapons at our fingertips than ever before.
Now, more than ever, for the sake of the elderly and those with fragile health, it is imperative that we do the small things like washing our hands and staying at home when sick.
When we stand together, there is nothing too strong or too deadly that the human spirit cannot overcome.