Last week, the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 a global pandemic. We are being bombarded daily with reports of new infections and efforts to prevent its spread. All of which has left me feeling the same way I do after a record snowfall — with a strong desire to call off work and hole up at home.
Balancing concerns with fear
It’s no wonder I feel that way. In the past week, a travel ban was instituted, the NBA, NHL, and MLS all suspended their seasons, and the NCAA canceled March Madness tournaments. Social distancing also became the new norm as well as bans on large public gatherings. Sporting events took place without fans in attendance and television talk shows and game shows aired without live audiences.
For now, I’m squashing the temptation to panic as I continue to rely on hand soap and sanitizer to protect myself just as my doctors have advised.
Keep calm and wash your hands
News of COVID-19 drew my attention due to my pulmonary sarcoidosis diagnosis. I contacted my former pulmonologist, Daniel Culver, to ask for his opinion about the risks.
“The risk from a virus like this falls most heavily on the elderly and those with severe underlying organ damage, such as chronic lung disease with scarring, heart failure, poor liver function etc.,” Culver, director of Cleveland Clinic’s Interstitial Lung Disease Program, explained in an email to me earlier this month.
“I think that, for most individuals, this will manifest as a viral syndrome, annoying but not life-threatening. That does not mean it should not be taken seriously but also implies that the case fatality rate and the risks to most individuals are not remarkably high.”
When coronavirus cases began emerging closer to home, I reached out to my physicians to discuss my increased risk of infection at my part-time job and how to best protect myself. Doing so not only gave me peace of mind, but also kept me from panicking and taking unnecessary measures, such as wearing gloves or masks out of fear. I strongly urge others with concerns to do the same. Your health status and risks differ from mine, and your doctor is best placed to advise you on preventive action.
The cost of panic
Going through life with sarcoidosis can be a struggle at times, but I try not to worry or fear the worst. At every turn, I’m reminded of the cost of panic: lives driven by fear instead of reason. This includes healthy people using masks that don’t protect them from infection, which creates a critical shortage for those who need them most.
It includes store shelves that are empty of products such as hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes, bottled water, toilet paper, paper towels, over-the-counter medication, and food. This is happening despite it being repeated over and over that most people will experience only mild symptoms from the coronavirus.
Living cautiously, not fearfully
I believe the situation will get a lot worse before it gets better. In the past week, I’ve received emails from airlines, retail stores, hotels, banking institutions, and even a storage facility assuring me that they are taking safety measures amid the outbreak.
Organizations such as Medicare, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Foundation for Sarcoidosis Research have posted information and prevention tips online. My recent digital detox helped me end my love affair with my cellphone, which is a magnet for germs.
But I still could get the coronavirus, even with the protective measures I am taking. If things continue to get worse, I may have to make additional changes to how I live my life. But for now, I’ll follow the advice of my physicians, wash my hands, and hope for the best.
Note: Sarcoidosis News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Sarcoidosis News or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to sarcoidosis.
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