The COVID-19 crisis has grown into a worldwide emergency in the past few months. Given the widespread media attention, you may understandably feel worried about the spread of this coronavirus. We think it's important for our community to be armed with the most up-to-date information.
The potential global health threat posed by the current coronavirus (COVID-19) is extremely high. On March 11, the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus outbreak to be a pandemic. The coronavirus outbreak has now spread to 49 states. As of March 15th 2020, the virus has been reported in more than 2,700 people, and at least 58 patients have died. The only state not reporting cases is West Virginia. Here’s a full map of U.S. cases.
There are many coronaviruses; it’s the virus that causes a common cold and upper respiratory infections. COVID-19 (like MERS and SARS), however, is a coronavirus that can infiltrate the lower respiratory system (the lungs). Therefore, those who are infected can develop pneumonia. Viral pneumonia is harder to treat because it doesn’t respond to antibiotics, which only fights against bacteria.
Globally, we are still learning about the cause, spread, and treatment of COVID-19. This virus originated in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China, linked originally to a live animal market. However, now the virus is spreading person-to-person.
The CDC believes that the virus spreads between people who are in close contact with one another (within about six feet). This spread happens via respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.
Confirmed coronavirus illnesses range from mild symptoms to severe illness or death. Symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure, and include:
If you develop symptoms, have close contact with a person known to have COVID-19, or recently traveled from an area with ongoing transmission of COVID-19, contact your doctor immediately.
It doesn't appear that anyone is naturally immune to COVID-19. Some otherwise healthy people seem to get more sick from this infection than expected. Current information indicates that older adults and people who are immunocompromised or who have serious chronic medical conditions, like heart disease, diabetes, and lung disease, are at higher risk of getting very sick from this illness.
If you have Hashimoto's thyroiditis, your are not necessarily immunocompromised, and there is currently no reason to believe that people with thyroid conditions are at heightened risk of contracting this novel coronavirus. Nevertheless, anyone with a chronic illness or autoimmune disease should take every precaution to protect themselves against COVID-19.
Take this quiz to check your level of risk:
Research believes that both genetic and environmental factors are responsible for the development of autoimmune conditions, like Hashimoto's thyroiditis. Viral infections (like rubella, mumps, or Epstein Barr virus) are one such environmental factor that may induce an autoimmune response.
There are a few explanations for what causes virus-induced autoimmunity:
Every cell in your body has markers (called antigens) that specifically identify you as being you. Traditional research suggests that viruses carry antigens that are structurally similar to those that are already part of your cells. These antigens activate lymphatic cells and lead to a cross-reactive response against both self- and non-self antigens.
Sometimes an overactive immune response releases self-antigens and causes inflammation. Immune cells take up these self-antigens, which activate extra lymphocytes, leading to tissue destruction.
When there is a persistent viral infection, tissue damage continues, and new self-antigens continue to release. Immune cells take these self-antigens and activate lymphocytes. This lymphocyte response then spreads to other auto-reactive cells.
On the other hand, while infections may cause an autoimmune response, some research suggests that multiple viral exposures actually protect the immune system to different infections. These numerous exposures allow the immune system to grow smarter to control autoimmune responses better.
Host, viral, or environmental factors likely direct the two opposing reactions to viral infections. More research is needed to understand the specific mechanism that connects viral infections to autoimmune responses.
While this outbreak is undoubtedly a cause for awareness and concern, there are steps you can take to protect and prepare yourself with the information currently available.
During an outbreak in your community, protect yourself and others by:
Take the same steps you take to protect yourself from getting or spreading influenza, to prevent catching or spreading coronavirus:
It may be advisable to stock up on your thyroid (or other) medications in case you become limited by travel restrictions or product shortages.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HSS) warns of potential shortages for products that come from China - particularly finished pharmaceutical products or active pharmaceutical ingredients. As of March 2, 2020, no drug manufacturers have reported anticipating shortages of particular drugs due to the coronavirus, but the FDA and HSS are paying close attention to the potential challenges.
So, while there is no reason to panic, now is a good time to prepare in case you are advised to shelter-in-place. We recommend 2-3 extra months of prescriptions. You may need to pay out-of-pocket before you are due with your insurance. You can go to free services like SingleCare or GoodRx to find the best self-pay price for your medication in your area, or by mail order.
You can schedule a live video visit with a Paloma Health thyroid doctor to get necessary refill prescriptions.
To increase access to reliable information, the World Health Organization has partnered with WhatsApp and Facebook to launch a Health Alert messaging service. This service provides the latest news and information on COVID-19, including details on symptoms and how people can protect themselves. To access the service, send the word "hi" to the number +41 798 931 892 on WhatsApp.
Your safety and well-being are of utmost importance to us. We are working hard to keep all of our services operational. Extra steps are being taken to make sure our offices, labs, and warehouse are diligently and frequently disinfected and sanitized. If you need hypothyroid care while you stay home to protect yourself and others, all of our services are built to be used from the comfort of your home.
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