Know Your Enemy

Like other lethal viruses in our history, it’s gonna take a while to figure out COVID

Wise words from Facebook —

Food for thought:

Chickenpox is a virus. Lots of people have had it, and probably don’t think about it much once the initial illness has passed. But it stays in your body and lives there forever, and maybe when you’re older, you have debilitatingly painful outbreaks of shingles. You don’t just get over this virus in a few weeks, never to have another health effect. We know this because it’s been around for years and has been studied medically for years.

Herpes is a virus. And once someone has it, it stays in your body and lives there forever, and anytime they get a little run down or stressed-out they’re going to have an outbreak. Maybe every time you have a big event coming up (school pictures, job interview, big date) you’re going to get a cold sore. For the rest of your life. You don’t just get over it in a few weeks. We know this because it’s been around for years and been studied medically for years.

HIV is a virus. It attacks the immune system and makes the carrier far more vulnerable to other illnesses. It has a list of symptoms and negative health impacts that goes on and on. It was decades before viable treatments were developed that allowed people to live with a reasonable quality of life. Once you have it, it lives in your body forever and there is no cure.

Over time, that takes a toll on the body, putting people living with HIV at greater risk for health conditions such as cardiovascular disease, kidney disease, diabetes, bone disease, liver disease, cognitive disorders, and some types of cancer. We know this because it has been around for years and had been studied medically for years.

Now with COVID-19, we have a novel virus that spreads rapidly and easily. The full spectrum of symptoms and health effects is only just beginning to be cataloged, much less understood. So far the symptoms may include:

• Fever
• Fatigue
• Coughing
• Pneumonia
• Chills/Trembling
• Acute respiratory distress
• Lung damage (potentially permanent)
• Loss of taste (a neurological symptom)
• Sore throat
• Headaches
• Difficulty breathing
• Mental confusion
• Diarrhea
• Nausea or vomiting
• Loss of appetite
Strokes have also been reported in some people who have COVID-19 (even in the relatively young)
• Swollen eyes
• Blood clots
• Seizures
• Liver damage
• Kidney damage
• Rash

People testing positive for COVID have been documented to be sick even after 60 days. Many people are sick for weeks, get better, and then experience a rapid and sudden flare up and get sick all over again. A man in Seattle was hospitalized for 62 days, and while well enough to be released, still has a long road of recovery ahead of him. Not to mention a $1.1 million medical bill.

Then there is multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C), a condition that that is caused by the COVID virus. Children with MIS-C may have a fever and various symptoms, including abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, neck pain, rash, bloodshot eyes, or feeling extra tired. Different body parts can become inflamed, including the heart, lungs, kidneys, brain, skin, eyes, or gastrointestinal organs. While rare, it has caused deaths.

Too Early to Tell
COVID has not been around for years. It has basically been about 8 months. No one knows yet the long-term health effects, or how it may present itself years down the road for people who have been exposed. We literally *do not know* what we do not know.

While medical science catches up (and hopefully creates a vaccine), all we can do is take baseline precautions to protect ourselves, our families, and our neighbors:

• Frequent hand washing
• Physical distancing
• Reduced social/public contact or interaction
• Mask wearing
• Covering your cough or sneeze
• Avoiding touching your face
• Sanitizing frequently touched surfaces

The more things we can all do to mitigate our risk of exposure, the better off we all are. Not only does it flatten the curve and allow health care providers to maintain levels of service that aren’t immediately and catastrophically overwhelmed; it also reduces unnecessary suffering and deaths, and buys time for the scientific community to study the virus in order to come to a more full understanding of the breadth of its impacts in both the short and long term.

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