February 2020

In response to hundreds of questions and visits with concerns on the coronavirus epidemic from China, Clinica Medica Familiar would like to put the following alert out to our patients and community at large.

The coronavirus is not new; it has long been known to be a wintertime bug that causes symptoms similar to the common cold and possibly a walking pneumonia. It typically is not serious except in the very young and the elderly, and is not a disease for which testing is routine.

However the current strain appears to be quite aggressive with a very high percentage of cases causing pneumonia and possibly death, even in relatively young and healthy patients.

The epidemic started in Wuhan, China, and is quickly spreading over the globe.  People may not realize that Wuhan is a city of 11 million people and is currently on shut down.  It is now spreading across the globe with at least five documented cases here in the US. More worrisome, two are here in Southern California, with one in Orange County. She had flown in from China and is reportedly recovering in a Kaiser hospital.

The coronavirus can be spread between humans by coughing, kissing, or any contact with saliva. Symptoms frequently start as a simple common cold but can quickly settle into a serious pneumonia with severe hacking cough and high fevers.

The incubation period is relatively long for this type of virus, approximately 14 days, and the patient is infectious while they have the symptoms as well as during the incubation period. This means if a patient is exposed today, they would not necessarily show symptoms for two weeks, however, could spread the virus.

It is possible the high death rate in China is due to the poor medical care available.  As of this writing, the patient cases in the United States are all recovering and doing well. Testing of their close contacts by the CDC revealed no apparent spread.

Testing for coronavirus is complex thus it should be performed by the health department. If you would like to be tested, I advise contacting your local health department.  There is no treatment for the virus. Bedrest, adequate hydration, and fever control are the main treatments.  Obviously, isolation would be critical.

As Chief Medical Officer at Clinica Medica Familiar, Dr. Ruiz asks you to please review the following recommendations:

  • Avoid close contact with any persons who you know, or suspect has been in China during the month of January 2020.
  • Seriously consider postponing all travel to China and Hong Kong until the epidemic is contained. This is sage advice even if your travels are not going to be near Wuhan. 
  • If you have symptoms of the common cold including cough, do not ignore them. Obviously, it will be impossible to reassure via an email or a call. Consider scheduling a visit with your healthcare practitioner to discuss the case.
  • For optimum protection, especially for senior patients and young children, consider wearing a face mask if you are going to an airport or train station. A face mask may also be appropriate where large crowds congregate such as at a sporting event, auditorium or theme park.
  • Because we are seeing an unusually high number of influenza B cases, which can be difficult to distinguish from coronavirus on symptoms alone, consider asking for an influenza test.