COVID-19 surge strains hospitals; Flu Season still to come

The COVID-19 virus is a new strain of the influenza A type. This year it has been responsible for a significant increase in hospitalizations, and is expected to peak in January or February. The Centers for Disease Control recommends that people take precautions against both COVID-19 and seasonal flu strains by getting vaccinated as soon as possible. Issues of hygiene, such as hand washing and avoiding contact with sick people, are especially important to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

The first cases were recorded in June 2018. They all appeared in New England, but since November the disease has reached California and several other states on the west coast. The virus is expected to reach most areas of the country within six to eight weeks.

The virus is transmitted by aerosolized respiratory secretions and direct contact with contaminated material such as used tissues. Transmission can occur via coughing or sneezing, but also less directly if people touch their face after coming into contact with an infected surface. The disease has a relatively long incubation period of two to three days.

The disease is highly contagious. It has an infection rate of up to 33%. Symptoms include fever, chills, muscle aches, lightheadedness and increased heart rate. As many as 94% of cases are reported in people with pre-existing medical conditions such as asthma, COPD or cardiovascular disease. There is no vaccine against the COVID-19 strain. The existing seasonal flu vaccines, however, can also offer some protection against COVID-19.

The virus is nearly identical to the milder COVID-10 strain that appeared in 2015 and affected only a handful of people.

This year’s version appears to be more complex and dangerous than its predecessor. According to the CDC, hospitalization rates for COVID-19 are more than double those of COVID-10 in most age groups. For example, more than four people out of 100,000 over the age of 50 have had to be put into intensive care units. These rates are significantly higher than seasonal flu numbers, which are 1.4 per 100,000 for people over 50. Even more worrisome is that since the virus has been around only a few months, its full potential has not been measured yet.

The CDC urges people to get vaccinated as soon as possible and follow standard public health procedures such as washing hands frequently and staying away from sick people. So far, the virus has not mutated and no resistance to antiviral drugs such as Tamiflu, Relenza or Rapivab is known.

COVID-19 is a strain of the influenza A virus. It causes fever, muscle aches and chills, lightheadedness and increased heart rate. As of November 2018 it has been reported in 20 states on the west coast. It is highly contagious among people with pre-existing medical conditions such as asthma, COPD or cardiovascular disease. The virus is nearly identical to COVID-10 which appeared in 2015 but was not as dangerous. This year’s version appears to be more complex and there are no known vaccines against it yet. People are urged to get vaccinated as soon as possible and follow standard public health procedures such as washing hands frequently and staying away from sick people. The virus has not mutated and no resistance to antiviral drugs such as Tamiflu, Relenza or Rapivab is known.