Coronavirus (COVID19) information:
I wanted to share this test result with my patients and the general population to help explain nuances of testing related to viral infections in light of the novel Coronavirus known as COVID 19. Although no patient name is listed; I am sharing with permission. The test result shown is the same panel we have utilized for many years. These tests can help discern which virus is causing upper respiratory symptoms (cough, congestion, and possibly fever). However; this panel can take up to 5 days to result in our rural location; so I don’t screen every patient unless ordering this test would change interventions/treatment. I may also order this panel if a patient is persistently ill or to better understand what pathogens (bugs) are present in our community.
We test for many viruses each year during upper respiratory infection season. That season ranges from October through April but we have the majority of cases in late January/early February. I’m sharing this information to explain that coronavirus is a common upper respiratory illness during this time of year and has several subtypes. Within the panel seen in the photo, we test for 4 subtypes of coronavirus prevalent this year and in our geographical area. COVID-19 originated in China and is a new, specific strain of the coronavirus family. It is more virulent; which means that it rapidly infects people (seems quite contagious), and may have a higher death rate than other strains. Possibly. We do not have enough numbers yet to verify this as many people could have developed mild symptoms and not presented for testing. We had a comparable situation with the H1N1 influenza strain in 2010, and similar to that widely occurring virus; we expect spreading of COVID-19 throughout the world and even within our area. It appears most people will have minimal symptoms and recover completely.
If you have a fever, cough and/or runny nose; you do not need to immediately report to an ER or clinic for fear of coronavirus strain COVID-19. You may simply be infected with one of these many other seasonal upper respiratory pathogens. Or; if you actually are infected with COVID-19 and your symptoms are mild; there is no need to seek medical attention and risk spreading this infection. In our county and state; you can only receive testing for COVID-19 when it is ordered by a healthcare provider and coordinated with the Wyoming Department of Health. You should only consider this test if you believe you may have been exposed to COVID-19 or if you have travelled to any area considered high risk.
If you are having any evidence of severe respiratory distress or dehydration or other complication; our ER is open 24 hours each day.
Regardless of the type of viral infection; I will still offer supportive guidance such as fever control, cough management; rest and hydration. Antibiotics are not indicated unless there is presence of a secondary bacterial infection, such as an ear infection. I am always glad to offer reassurance to patients or parents of sick children. It is impossible for a patient or parent to know if a fever is driven by a secondary bacterial ear infection, pneumonia or one of these viruses until we examine you. Often patients ask, “What if it’s RSV?” And during our current dilemma, “What if it is coronavirus (COVID19)?”
My answer will be consistent. If you or your child is not having complications such as clinical evidence of respiratory distress, dehydration, prolonged fever or other issue; we offer supportive intervention to control fever and cough and give it time to pass. The most important preventative measures to limit the spread of these viruses; including COVID-19, will be social distancing and hand washing. It’s imperative for people to avoid social contact if they develop symptoms and if the viral infection becomes widespread. That may mean missing school or work or social events but one should always stay home while having a fever. The key to avoiding infection is good hand washing with soap and water. https://www.cdc.gov/handwashing/when-how-handwashing.html
For the most up to date information check the CDC here: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html
For information released from the Wyoming Department of Health: https://health.wyo.gov/publichealth/infectious-disease-epidemiology-unit/disease/novel-coronavirus/
Joleen Falkenburg MD Medical Director Niobrara County Hospital
Kody Nelson, MPHA, LSSGB
Director of Operations
Niobrara County Hospital District