Coronavirus just killed commonsense.
I sat, open-mouthed, as I watched in disbelief. A Georgia resident and retiree, Clay Bentley, said he went to the hospital after feeling sick. The only thing they asked was if he'd been out of the country. He hadn't... So in spite of having the signs and symptoms, they sent him home.
Then he got worse.
"You all sent me home to die," he told the hospital staff. Once readmitted, they finally tested him for coronavirus, and he had it – along with double pneumonia.
Here's the worst part: They missed the fact that Clay's wife is a flight attendant. Though she doesn't fly out of the country, airplanes are flying petri dishes. Chances are high that she got it from a passenger and passed it on to Clay.
The next day, I heard from one of our editorial staff, Brady, who returned to the U.S. from vacation in Anzio, just outside Rome.
He said that the airport in Rome was packed tightly, ignoring the "stay one meter apart" rule the Italian government is pushing.
When he arrived in Newark, conditions were even worse. Passengers were packed into tight, snaking lines as they waited for their turn getting through customs.
Officials didn't take Brady's temperature at all… Not by the Italians, not the U.S. Customs agents. And as he entered the U.S., he was only asked three questions:
- How long was your trip?
- Where are you headed?
- Where do you live?
There was zero mention of coronavirus.
This kind of oversight kills me. But that's why, at Retirement Millionaire, I've worked for decades to empower people to take control of their health and wealth.
I'm predicting that with this kind of stupidity, the virus will infect 50% of Americans in the next four weeks.
And that's going to be the hardest part... It will happen quickly. The bad news is that we trusted the government to properly prepare. I've read that there is only a one-day supply of the N95 masks needed for health care workers. The speed at which this virus will spread will overwhelm the hospital and ICU resources. Folks will die because there isn't room in the hospital.
But I don't want you to panic.
I want to encourage you again to remember your commonsense and arm yourself with information. That's why I wrote this simple guide for the coronavirus ("COVID-19").
I want you to read it and share it with everyone you know. It could save your life or the life of a loved one.
What is this COVID-19?
COVID-19 is a new coronavirus – that's a family of viruses that have a "corona" (or outer ring) surrounding the main viral sphere. It's "19" because it first appeared in 2019.
Coronaviruses like this one don't usually afflict humans... only other types of animals. But sometimes viruses jump across species lines. For example, in 2003 there was a severe acute respiratory syndrome ("SARS") and in 2012 there was a Middle East respiratory syndrome ("MERS"). Both were outbreaks which came from viruses that jumped from animals to humans.
This virus is similar to SARS and MERS in that it affects the respiratory system.
What are the symptoms of COVID-19? And how do I know I have this and not the flu or a cold?
The most common symptoms often feel like a cold or the flu. They include fever, coughing (often a dry cough), and shortness of breath. Symptoms can appear anywhere from 2 to 14 days after you're exposed.
You may also get a sore throat, body aches or tiredness. But these are more typical of the flu.
Headaches, runny nose, congestion, sneezing, and nausea are NOT symptoms of COVID-19 – they are symptoms of colds and the flu. If you have any of these, you likely don't have COVID-19. (Cleveland Clinic put together this great graphic of all the symptoms).
How deadly is it?
This is a topic of great debate. Initially, I scoffed at the high numbers. The problem is that, since COVID-19 has symptoms so close to a cold, many folks are undiagnosed. That means the number of infected is likely much, much higher than reported, and much higher than even the so-called "experts" think.
That means the mortality rate is likely lower. I still think the lower rate will be close to the truth, but sadly we have to wait for the final numbers. And between then and now it could get ugly.
With the current data, the death rate is between 1.5% and 3.4%. But remember, that's only officially confirmed cases. Many cases remain unconfirmed. As I said, I'll still wager the percentage is under 1%. (For perspective, the seasonal influenza virus death rate is around 0.1%)
Who is most at risk?
For the most part, it's the same groups most at risk for the flu. That means people 65 and older and those with weak immune systems.
The World Health Organization put together a report with Chinese officials that had these figures:
Individuals at highest risk for severe disease and death include people aged over 60 years and those with underlying conditions such as hypertension, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, chronic respiratory disease and cancer.
Mortality increases with age, with the highest mortality among people over 80 years of age.
This is why many state leaders now urge older Americans to stay home.
In a bit of good news, it seems this virus doesn't affect infants and young children. That's also scientifically interesting and may prove useful in treatments. If infected, they show few, if any, symptoms. But they're still contagious, so take precautions if you've traveled with your child.
Am I likely to get it?
The obvious factor here is traveling to a country where the virus has a major outbreak. That extends now to cities and states in the U.S. too. If you've visited New York City recently, you might consider a self-quarantine given the massive outbreak in New Rochelle.
But there's more to it than your own travel. As Clay mentioned, his wife could have gotten it on a flight. Any travel for you or a loved one now puts you at risk. Even something as simple as having dinner with a friend who flew in from out of town could put you at risk.
If you have any contact with people in public transit or folks visiting from a place with an outbreak, report it to your doctor if you fall ill. No matter how silly it might seem (oh it was just dinner with my friend from Seattle!) – it could make a significant difference.
What should I do if I suspect I have it?
Call your doctor. Let me say that again: Call your doctor. Avoid going to the ERs or Urgent Care centers because, if you are infected, you could spread the virus to everyone there. And if it turns out you're not infected, well, you're much more likely to pick it up in those places.
Be sure to tell your doctor or the triage specialist of all your symptoms and any possible way you may have gotten it. Include the travel and exposure risk of anyone in your household or folks you come in regular contact with.
What should if do if I'm stuck at home with coronavirus?
If you are or someone you live with is sick and either of you needs to stay home, there are three important steps to take: Hydrate, rest, and take Tylenol (if you really need it). And if you're up for it, add a bit of movement via stretching or yoga with a focus on deep and slow breathing.
When you're sick, it's tough to remember to take care of yourself. But if you want to feel better, you must follow these steps. Let's go through them one by one.
Hydration. Whether you're sick or not, hydration is a key to good health. But it's essential when you're sick. Think about some of your symptoms when you're sick... coughing, sneezing, stuffy nose, and even sweating if you have a fever. All of those things dehydrate you, and can dehydrate you quickly. Even over-the-counter pain meds can dehydrate you.
Dehydration takes a toll on your kidneys, raises blood sugar levels, triggers headaches, elevates your blood pressure, and more. I've commonly recommended folks get the amount of water that makes you pee several times a day. You want your urine to be a pale yellow color. If your urine is a dark yellow or you feel thirsty, you're dehydrated. When we're sick, most of us don't feel like eating or drinking. So do what I do and keep a large quart bottle of water nearby at all times and take a swig every few minutes.
Rest. This one seems like commonsense, but I know plenty of folks who just can't seem to relax... even when they're sick. If you're fighting an illness, you need to let your body do what it does best: keep you healthy.
We know with 100% certainty that not getting enough sleep wrecks your immune system. Your chance of getting sick increases when you're not sleeping enough. Getting plenty of rest helps to boost and fine tune your immune system which allows your body to better fight illness.
Of course, when you're sick, sleeping isn't always easy. If you can't get enough sleep, try meditation. Meditation gives similar benefits... It boosts your immune system and reduces inflammation. It's also a natural pain reliever.
Meditation can be intimidating if you've never done it before, and especially hard to learn if you feel like crap... but I promise you it's not difficult. Do what I do and sit quietly in a chair or bed for 15 to 20 minutes. Concentrate on a word, noise, or sound... and your breathing. Let your mind go where it wants, but slowly try to bring it back to your original focus – the word, noise, or sound.
You'll notice the benefits immediately. You'll feel relaxed and peaceful... Often while I meditate, solutions to life's problems come into my "mind's eye." Go try it right now if you've never done it!
And if you want a little guidance, there are free apps to help you. These include Headspace, Insight Timer, and Stop, Breathe & Think.
If you have a bad fever, take some Tylenol... but only if you really need it (and with tons of water). Tylenol is the brand name for acetaminophen. It's a pain reliever and fever reducer that people often take when they're sick. If you have a mild fever, don't reach for it right away. (A low-grade fever is between 98.6 and 100.4). A fever is part of your immune system working, and it gives your immune system more fighting power while you're sick.
But if you're fever is bothersome (or higher than 100.4) or aches and pains are keeping you from resting, go ahead and take a dose. And remember to pay attention to how much you take. Too much Tylenol can lead to liver problems. Try not to take more than what's recommended on the box. Plus, if I felt the need to take the maximum dose for more than a day, I'd head to the doctor's office (after calling first of course).
Finally, we always recommend movement. If you're sick, you won't feel like doing much, but I'd highly recommend taking this time to learn either some simple yoga moves or some simple stretching moves. But however you try to move, focus on breathing slowly and peacefully as you move around on the floor. Controlling your breath helps reduce anxiety, and balances the immune system and your response to colds and viruses.
How worried should I be?
Look, the real problem is that the United States doesn't have enough health care resources to give proper care to everyone if a lot of folks get sick at the same time. With the exponential rate of infections we're seeing, this could get ugly quickly. And to me this looks to be starting... mainly because government leaders have once again claimed to be testing, when in fact, they didn't have tests.
So, people didn't know they actually had coronavirus until they'd already spread it around to many others. But by then, they had already spread it to dozens, if not hundreds, of people. Leaders also allowed health care workers treating quarantined patients to work without proper precautions, and without personal protection equipment ("PPE").
The only way to change that is by YOU and ME shutting down our normal routines for a while to slow the spread of this new virus. Do what I do and plan to not travel anywhere for a few weeks. I've slowly stocked up on staples, like soups, beans, nuts, root vegetables, and cheeses. I will probably not go out to public places for the next few weeks either. Researchers now call this "social distancing" and it makes a lot of sense from a scientific point of view.
The challenge will be to see if others will do the same. For example, spring break is coming up and that will spread the virus around the U.S. like a wildfire. (Sounding like a grumpy old man, I think we should ban the break to prevent the health care system from getting overloaded when kids return.)
Speaking of banning... don't be surprised if Trump comes back on TV, after the number of U.S. infections have suddenly jumped to 150,000, to declare even more bans on schools, gatherings, air travel, and possibly public transportation. Some form of martial law would be next.
I realize that a lot of folks are worried. My research team tells me they've seen empty store shelves as people panic to buy. And yes, it's likely that within two months, most Americans will currently have or will have had the virus. And hopefully this will be a seasonal virus. That means it would burn out this winter or next and not mutate much.
Meanwhile, taking simple commonsense measures will make a big difference. As with most illnesses, prevention is key. That includes washing your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, not sharing utensils, and covering your mouth when you sneeze or cough.
And if you or someone you know is ill, stay home and stay isolated.
This situation is constantly changing. And some of the headlines out there might make you fearful. But my team of researchers and I are monitoring every change. We're wading through the muck of information – and disinformation – out there so you don't have to. We'll keep you updated as we continue to learn more about the coronavirus and the best ways to combat it. So keep your eyes on your inbox.
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