How Seniors Can Prepare for the Coronavirus

April 2, 2020

With much still unknown about the new coronavirus —and COVID-19, the disease it causes — it’s more important than ever to replace fears with facts and anxieties with real answers. Here’s what health officials know thus far about the coronavirus, and what seniors can do to minimize their risk.

What is the coronavirus?

The official name is severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2, or Sars-CoV-2. The name of the illness caused by SARS-CoV-2 is called COVID-19, short for “coronavirus disease 2019.” The general coronavirus term takes its name from the crown-like spikes appearing on the surfaces of the virus.

This new coronavirus belongs to the same family as the common cold. But unlike coronavirus strains associated with the common cold, which use humans as their primary hosts, Sars-CoV-2 shares the lion’s share of its genetic material with coronaviruses that infect bats.* This animal-to-human transmission, however, is not exclusive to the coronavirus. The MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome) virus, for example, spread from infected camels to humans.

Although it would seem logical to think of the new coronavirus as an offshoot of the flu or the common cold, it is neither. It is a new respiratory infection that is still revealing its unique characteristics. About 81% of people who are infected with the coronavirus have mild cases of COVID-19, according to a study published Feb. 18 by the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention. About 13.8% report severe illness, meaning they have shortness of breath, or require supplemental oxygen, and about 4.7% are critical, meaning they face respiratory failure, multi-organ failure or septic shock. The data thus far suggests that only around 2.3% of people infected with COVID-19 die from the virus.

How does the coronavirus spread?

It is thought the virus spreads through close contact, traveling through tiny droplets and secretions when a carrier coughs, sneezes or breathes. This makes the most common viral portal of entry usually the nose, mouth, and eyes. Consequently, touching your own nose, eyes, or lips may facilitate the virus transmission, especially after an individual has touched a surface contaminated with the coronavirus.

What are the symptoms of the coronavirus and how do you know if you have it?

The virus infects the lower respiratory tract. Patients initially develop a fever, cough, and aches, and can progress to shortness of breath and complications from pneumonia, according to case reports. Other reported symptoms include fatigue, sore throat, headache, and nausea, with vomiting and diarrhea. Some people become only mildly ill, or are infected but don’t get sick. Others are mildly ill for a few days, then rapidly develop more severe symptoms of pneumonia.

Some patients haven’t had a fever initially or might develop “walking pneumonia,” meaning they might spread their infection to others because they aren’t sick enough to be in a hospital and they don’t realize they’re contagious or otherwise fail to isolate themselves from others.

Who is at the greatest risk of coronavirus?

Data collection and analysis are ongoing but those at greatest risk of hospital admission, critical care/ICU treatment or death have been the elderly who have underlying medical conditions and also may be immune-compromised. While much remains unknown about the virus, the death rate among those over age 80 appears to be around 14%. Based on current information, the death rate among patients in their 70s appears to be around 8%. Seniors living in close quarters in nursing homes, assisted living facilities and boarding care facilities are more at risk due to both their vulnerability of living in close-quarters facilities and overall chronic health issues related to aging. The CDC has identified older adults and people who have severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung, or kidney disease as having an elevated risk of contracting COVID-19.

What measures can be taken to protect against getting the virus?

The best way to prevent the illness is to avoid being exposed to the virus. This prevention strategy has given rise to new terms like “self-quarantining” or “social distancing,” the idea being that the best way to avoid the virus is not to come into contact with it in the first place.

For seniors, with severe underlying health conditions or compromised immune systems, isolating yourself may seem extreme, but if you live in a region of the country where the virus has been reported, this kind of caution may be common sense. When in doubt, avoid crowds and public events. Also, check with regional public health officials for their most current alerts and advisories.

Ways to limit exposure to the coronavirus

What can people do to further assist and protect older adults in their care?

Many older adults depend on services and support provided in their homes or in the community to maintain their health and independence. The CDC recommends that family members, neighbors, and caregivers:

  • Know the older person’s medications, making sure sufficient back-up supplies exist
  • Keep sufficient non-perishable food items on hand to limit your outside trips to the store
  • If the person you care for is living in a care facility, ask the attending supervisor/nurse about any updates, new developments or changing conditions that could affect the resident’s care, treatment or recovery.
  • Stress hand washing and clean areas like door knobs, telephones, counter-tops, and television remotes frequently.
  • Be sure to observe all health and hygiene protocols during your visits, be ready to wear gloves, a gown, mask or other protective gear as directed
  • Limit unnecessary touching on your visits

Are there coronavirus scams now making the rounds?

The FTC and FDA have jointly issued warning letters to seven sellers of unapproved and misbranded products, claiming they can treat or prevent the coronavirus. The companies’ products include teas, essential oils, and colloidal silver.

The FTC says the companies have no evidence to back up their claims — as required by law. The FDA says there are no approved vaccines, drugs or investigational products currently available to treat or prevent the virus.

Here are some tips to help you keep the scammers at bay:

  • Don’t click on links from sources you don’t know. They could download viruses onto your computer or device.
  • Watch for emails claiming to be from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or experts saying that have information about the virus. For the most up-to-date information about the Coronavirus, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO).
  • Ignore online offers for vaccinations. There currently are no vaccines, pills, potions, lotions, lozenges or other prescription or over-the-counter products available to treat or cure Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) — online or in stores.
  • Do your homework when it comes to donations, whether through charities or crowdfunding sites. Don’t let anyone rush you into making a donation. If someone wants donations in cash, by gift card, or by wiring money, don’t do it. If you receive an email asking you to donate to a nonprofit that is fighting the coronavirus, make sure to research the organization first through an independent charity rating service such as Charity Navigator.

What has been the financial impact of the coronavirus?

Countries have sealed their borders, cruise ships have been idled, and airlines have drastically reduced their daily number of flights to name a few actions that have been taken to try to limit the spread of the coronavirus. The exact economic fallout from the coronavirus may not be determined for months, but its toll is likely to be enormous.

On a personal level, as with any emergency or upheaval in how services are delivered or how you go about your daily business, it’s always a good idea to have cash on hand.

Another back-up plan worth investigating is opening an emergency line of credit.  You may never have to use it, but it could prove a source of real emotional and financial comfort in case you do!

In some areas of the world, coronavirus cases have already peaked. In other parts, cases are still climbing. Although the virus will run its course, you can mitigate its impact, not by fearing it, but by following the facts and using your good common sense.

Mitigate the impact of the coronavirus by following the facts

AAG is not a medical or health-related company. The information presented here came from resources provided below.

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/downloads/genomic-characterization-of-2019-nCoV-Lancet-1-29-2020.pdf

www.ocregister.com/2020/03/06/heres-how-seniors-can-prepare-for-the-new-coronavirus/

https://www.livescience.com/coronavirus-myths.html

https://www.wsj.com/articles/what-we-know-about-the-wuhan-virus-11579716128

https://www.care.com/c/stories/16670/coronavirus-families-caregivers-faq/

https://medlineplus.gov/ency/patientinstructions/000448.htm

What is the coronavirus?

The official name is severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2, or Sars-CoV-2. The name of the illness caused by SARS-CoV-2 is called COVID-19, short for “coronavirus disease 2019.” The general coronavirus term takes its name from the crown-like spikes appearing on the surfaces of the virus.

How does the coronavirus spread?

It is thought the virus spreads through close contact, traveling through tiny droplets and secretions when a carrier coughs, sneezes or breathes. This makes the most common viral portal of entry usually the nose, mouth, and eyes. Consequently, touching your own nose, eyes, or lips may facilitate the virus transmission, especially after an individual has touched a surface contaminated with the coronavirus.

What are the symptoms of the coronavirus and how do you know if you have it?

The virus infects the lower respiratory tract. Patients initially develop a fever, cough, and aches, and can progress to shortness of breath and complications from pneumonia, according to case reports. Other reported symptoms include fatigue, sore throat, headache, and nausea, with vomiting and diarrhea. Some people become only mildly ill, or are infected but don’t get sick. Others are mildly ill for a few days, then rapidly develop more severe symptoms of pneumonia.


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