A rapidly evolving health story broke out in late December 2019, when a novel illness originating in Wuhan City, China made the news. Reports of the number of infected people (with now called 2019 Coronavirus, or 2019-nCoV) swiftly rose, and isolated cases of this new virus have appeared in several countries, including the United States due to international travel. As of today, it has caused over 17,000 cases of confirmed cases and 362 deaths. Eleven cases and no deaths have been reported in the US. Fortunately, public health officials in many countries, including the US, have put measures in place to help prevent further spread of the virus.
With information changing so quickly and every news report about the virus seeming to raise the stakes, you may be wondering how likely it is that you or a loved one will become ill.
It’s convenient to turn to the internet for various links to information online. But there’s a lot of misinformation out there as well. The purpose of this writing is to provide you with some useful information on what we should know about this virus and what it may mean for you.
What is a Coronavirus?
Coronaviruses are a common cause of colds and other upper respiratory tract infections. These viruses infect certain animals and spread from one animal to another. However, they can also spread to humans, particularly if the virus mutates and becomes wide spread. Chinese authorities reported some cases of viral Pneumonia to the World Health Organization (WHO) in December 2019. Many of the ill people had come in contact with a seafood and animal market in Wuhan, a large city in eastern China. Since then, it has become clear that the virus can spread from person to person.
What are the symptoms of Coronavirus?
Coronavirus can cause flu- like symptoms, including cough, fever and shortness of breath. There are some early reports of non-respiratory symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting or diarrhea. Many people recover within a few days. However, some people, especially the very young, elderly, or people with weak immune system may develop a more serious infection, such as bronchitis or pneumonia.
How is it treated?
Scientists are working hard to understand the virus, and Chinese health authorities have posted its full genome in international database. Currently, there are no approved antivirals or vaccines for this particular Coronavirus (2019-nCoV). Treatment is only limited to symptom relief and prevention of secondary infection at this time.
Should you worry about catching this virus?
Unless you have been in close contact with an infected person, meaning a traveler from Wuhan City, China who actually has the Coronavirus, you are likely to be safe.
How to prevent this infection?
While we don’t understand the complete particulars of how this virus spreads, Coronavirus can spread through respiratory droplets caused by cough and sneeze from an infected person. Basic infectious disease principles are key to curbing the spread of this virus. Wash your hands regularly, and cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue or your inner elbow. Stay home from school or work if you have a fever. Avoid close contact with people who have signs of a respiratory infection, such as runny nose, coughing, sneezing or shortness of breath.
In the US, the average person is at extremely low risk of catching this virus at this time. In fact, we are much more likely to get the Flu than any other virus this winter. Approximately one in 10 people suffer from Influenza each flu season. According to the CDC, there have already been around 15 million cases of flu in the US this year, leading to numerous hospitalizations and thousands of deaths. And this flu season has not been particularly severe yet, unlike the past few years. Therefore, it’s still not too late to get a flu shot, an easy and highly recommended step (by CDC) toward avoiding the flu. Even if you do get the flu despite having gotten the vaccine, studies show that severe illness, hospitalization, ICU admission, and death are less likely to occur.
The Bottom Line:
Amid the current spread and the complexity of international travel, the number of cases and deaths attributed to Coronavirus will likely continue to climb. However, there is no need to panic. As more information becomes available, public health organizations like CDC and WHO will be sharing key information and strategies to deal with this threat.
While gathering information online may be the easiest initial option, contact your health care provider if you have symptoms of infection such as fever, cough or shortness of breath. Please be skeptical of any fake news, conspiracy theories and unfounded claims on the social media about Coronavirus. Addressing the concerns surrounding 2019-nCoV requires accessible, reliable and updated information from the experts whose mission is to protect public health.
Dr. Tariq M. Vora
Regional Medical Director
Medco ER, Plano & Frisco, Texas
Airplanes have been grounded, flights canceled, travel bans are commonplace and whole cities have come to a standstill. This is the reality for much of China today, due to the widespread outbreak of the novel coronavirus. This virus, labeled a “Public Health Emergency of International Concern” by the World Health Organization (WHO), has infected 20,000 people and has caused over 400 deaths, according to latest estimates reported by CNN1.
“The coronavirus has raised a lot of concern internationally,” said Medco ER & Urgent Care’s Regional Medical Director, Dr. Tariq Vora. “Thanks to the fast response of healthcare workers, it has been quickly identified and risks have been reduced. However, it is good to educate ourselves and to take preventative measures to retain our health during this outbreak.”
A cousin to well-known animal-borne viruses, such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), the novel coronavirus has medical researchers around the world scrambling to develop an effective treatment. Most agree that the best treatment at this point is prevention.
What is coronavirus?
First discovered in a group of people with pneumonia symptoms in the city of Wuhan in central China, the coronavirus quickly spread to other people. Patients with this virus can develop a respiratory symptoms similar to pneumonia or bronchitis, which can deteriorate to the point of death. However, the percentage of people affected with the coronavirus resulting in death is very low—approximately 3%—according to current data from WHO2.
What are the symptoms?
The symptoms include respiratory concerns such as shortness of breath or breathing difficulties. A fever and cough are also common symptoms of the virus. “In more severe cases, infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death,” according to the World Health Organization2.
Who is at risk?
Since the coronavirus was identified by health officials in Wuhan and the genetic makeup was shared internationally, the spread has been reasonably contained. Healthcare workers have the ability to identify which strain of coronavirus or other virus is affecting a patient, which has also helped contain the spread. However, each person should consider his or her own risk factors to determine how to best protect themselves.
The highest risk factor includes travel to China. International travel to any of the 20 other countries reporting cases of coronavirus can also be a risk factor.
How does it spread?
The coronavirus originally came from animals and spread to humans. After that, it has spread from people to people who were in close proximity to each other. Individuals can be exposed to the virus by being near an infected person.
To contain the spread, China has quarantined the city of Wuhan and other cities and has issued a travel ban. The U.S. has been screening arriving international passengers for symptoms at major points of entry. At this time, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) considers the United States at low risk3.
What can I do to protect myself?
Continue using safe public health practices such as washing your hands frequently and sanitizing them. Avoid touching door handles and handrails, if possible. Sneeze into your elbow. Use a tissue and throw it away immediately.
If you’re sick, stay home. If you have a cough, congestion or difficulty breathing, seek medical attention. Any difficulty breathing should receive immediate medical care.
“Just pay attention to how often you are washing your hands and increase that number,” said Dr. Vora. “But most importantly, any time you are having breathing difficulties, come to Medco ER & Urgent Care right away. Don’t wait.”
Finally, since the coronavirus originated from animals, WHO is advising people to thoroughly cook meat and eggs before eating.
What are the treatments?
As suggested by the name, the coronavirus is a virus, so antibiotics aren’t effective in treating it. Currently, research is being conducted worldwide to discover an effective treatment. However, if a patient with coronavirus develops a secondary infection, such as a respiratory infection, that may be able to be treated with antibiotics or other medications.
What should I do if I think I may have the virus?
If you suspect you have a virus or are not feeling well, or if you are suffering from breathing difficulties, come immediately to Medco ER & Urgent Care. As you do, try to limit your exposure to other people. Wear a medical mask if possible and keep your hands washed.
Medco ER & Urgent Care has two facilities where our qualified physicians are ready 24/7 to take excellent care of you.
- In Frisco, come to 5600 Eldorado Parkway across from McDonald’s and Costco. Call us @ 469-392-4100.
- In Plano, visit us at 3960 Legacy Drive on the corner of Legacy and Coit Road. Call us @ 469-392-4000.
It’s that time of year. If the flu or a cold hasn’t gotten to you yet, seasonal allergies likely have. But what do you do when that cough you developed from the sniffles just won’t go away? It’s possible that your illness or allergies could have developed into bronchitis.
What is Bronchitis?
Bronchitis occurs when the respiratory tract is triggered either by an irritant or preexisting condition, causing your bronchial tubes to become inflamed. Because your bronchial tubes carry air to your lungs, those with bronchitis often suffer from a cough that brings up mucus, shortness of breath, wheezing, chest tightness, and even a low-grade fever. If you experience this condition over an extended length of time or the condition recurs, you might be suffering from chronic bronchitis, a type of COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)
What are the symptoms?
Those who are suffering from bronchitis can have symptoms varying in severity over a varied amount of time. Those who experience symptoms for at least three months or more and experience recurring bouts are typically diagnosed with chronic, rather than acute, bronchitis.
Symptoms of Acute Bronchitis:
- Chest Congestion or tightness
- Cough that brings up thick, hard to break up, clear, yellow or green mucus
- Shortness of breath
- Sore throat
- Runny nose
- Body aches
Those suffering from acute bronchitis will often present symptoms similar to a cold or the flu at first before developing a cough. Most acute bronchitis symptoms last less than ten days, but the cough might linger for several weeks.
Symptoms of Chronic Bronchitis:
- Cough that brings up thick, hard to break up, clear, yellow or green mucus
- Cough that lasts longer than three months
- Shortness of breath
- Difficulty Breathing
- Chest tightness
- Body aches
You may have chronic bronchitis if your acute bronchitis symptoms worsen and your cough persists for longer than three months. If left untreated, chronic bronchitis can develop into much more severe conditions like pneumonia and peripheral edema.
What causes bronchitis?
Acute bronchitis can be caused by a virus, bacteria or an airborne irritant. The most common cause of acute bronchitis is a contagious virus such as a cold or the flu. Still, the condition can be triggered by environmental factors such as pollution, allergens, smoke, fumes, dust and vapors. The most common cause of chronic bronchitis is smoking, but not everyone who suffers from chronic bronchitis is a smoker. Other factors such as asthma, allergies, air quality, genetics, a history of respiratory disease, or a history of gastroesophageal reflux disease, may make you more likely to develop acute or chronic bronchitis.
When should I get help?
If you think you may be experiencing chronic bronchitis, you must seek treatment as prolonged irritation can cause lung and airway tissue damage and even develop into pneumonia or other conditions such as emphysema. Because chronic bronchitis restricts airflow to the lungs when left untreated, the condition causes low oxygen levels in the blood leading to complications such as peripheral edema.
If you are experiencing the following symptoms, you should seek emergency medical help immediately.
- Extreme changes in body temperature dipping below 95°F or rising above 104°F
- Rapid heart rate
- Rapid breathing
- Nails and lips begin turning grey or blue
- Difficulty breathing
- Dizziness or Confusion
- Coughing up blood or blood in your mucus
- Inability to swallow
- Chest pain
- Swelling of the feet or hands (peripheral edema)
If you think you might have bronchitis of any severity or you think you might be experiencing a complication related to your bronchitis, come to a Medco ER & Urgent Care for treatment. Our advanced technology, board-certified physicians, and highly trained nurses make Medco ER & Urgent Care the best place to treat anything from acute to chronic bronchitis and even breathing emergencies. Our locations in Plano and Frisco are open 24 hours a day seven days a week for all urgent care and emergency services. With little to no wait time and no appointment needed, you won’t have to wait to start feeling better. If you have any questions, please contact us or visit one of our locations in Plano or Frisco.
Allergies and allergic reactions are very common, often drastically ranging in symptoms and severity based on the allergen, genetics and your body’s natural response. When you are exposed to an allergen that your immune system sees as a threat, your body will react to protect you from what it thinks is harming you, causing allergic reaction symptoms. These allergens could be pollen, pets, foods, chemicals, or even medications. Knowing the signs of an allergic reaction and when it’s time to seek medical help is very important and could potentially save your life or that of someone you love. If you are unsure if you might be allergic to a substance, consider making an appointment with a local allergist who can help you identify your triggers safely and provide you with treatment options.
What are the different types of allergic reactions?
Depending on the substance the individual has been exposed to, allergic reaction symptoms can develop in many forms and affect different areas of the body. In severe cases, allergens can trigger a life-threatening reaction known as anaphylaxis.
What is Anaphylaxis?
Anaphylaxis is a rare, life-threatening reaction to an allergen to which the body has become hypersensitive. Most allergic reactions don’t result in anaphylaxis, but it’s important to know the signs, as this condition can be fatal. An anaphylactic reaction can occur within seconds or minutes of exposure to something to which an individual is highly allergic. When anaphylaxis begins, the brain releases a flood of chemicals that start to shut down the body’s natural processes and can cause the sufferer to go into shock very rapidly.
Because anaphylaxis is rapid and life-threatening, an injection of epinephrine is essential to relax the constricted muscles around the airways and in the lungs. This injection prevents the airway from closing for a short time until the individual can be transported to an emergency room for further care. It is important to seek emergency medical care after receiving the injection because it’s possible for the recipient to have a second severe allergic reaction after the medication has worn off. If you do not have an emergency epinephrine injection, seek emergency medical help or call 911 immediately.
Symptoms of Anaphylaxis include:
- Skin reactions, including hives, itching and flushing or pale skin
- Low blood pressure (hypotension)
- Constriction of airways
- A weak and rapid pulse
- Wheezing and trouble breathing caused by a swollen tongue or throat
- Severe shortness of breath
- Nausea, vomiting or diarrhea
- Dizziness or fainting
- Loss of consciousness
If you think you or someone you know is experiencing anaphylaxis administer an epinephrine injection and seek emergency medical help immediately.
Often referred to as seasonal allergies or Hay Fever, allergic rhinitis occurs when the immune system overacts to allergens in the air, such as dust, pollen, dander and mold. This allergic reaction is widespread and affects more than 50 million Americans each year.
Symptoms of Hay Fever include:
- Itchy nose, eyes, or roof of the mouth
- Runny, stuffy nose
- Watery, red or swollen eyes (conjunctivitis)
Hay Fever can typically be treated with over-the-counter allergy medications, but if your symptoms become more severe, or if you have a child suffering from Hay Fever, you should see your doctor about additional or alternative treatment options.
Food allergies are caused by the overreaction of the immune system to certain foods it identifies as a threat. While triggers, symptoms and the severity of the reaction can vary from person to person, allergic reactions can sometimes be triggered by exposure to only a small amount of the food allergen. While some may experience mild or uncomfortable symptoms, others may have an allergic reaction that is far more frightening, painful and even life-threatening.
Common symptoms of a Food Allergy include:
- Tingling or itching in the mouth
- Hives, itching or eczema
- Swelling of the lips, face, tongue and throat or other parts of the body
- Wheezing, nasal congestion or trouble breathing
- Abdominal pain, diarrhea, nausea or vomiting
- Dizziness, lightheadedness or fainting
Some mild food reactions can be treated with an over-the-counter antihistamine. If the symptoms are more moderate than mild, avoid exposure to the food that triggered the response and make an appointment with your doctor. If your symptoms begin to worsen or become severe, try to stay calm and seek medical help immediately.
Insect Sting Allergy:
While it’s normal for the body to react to insect stings, there is a distinct difference between a normal insect sting reaction and an allergic insect sting reaction. The most common insect stings in the United States come from wasps, yellow jackets, hornets, honeybees and in the southern US, red and black fire ants. A typical reaction will result in pain, swelling, redness and itching confined to the sting site while an allergic reaction will cause symptoms outside of or include an extensive area around or near the sting site. A typical insect sting on the arm should not produce severe pain and swelling of the whole limb.
Common symptoms of an insect sting allergy include:
- Swelling (in are of sting and sometimes beyond)
Although many insect sting allergic reaction symptoms can be treated with over-the-counter topical and oral medications, it’s vital that you seek medical help if you are experiencing any severe symptoms or believe you may be experiencing anaphylaxis.
Any medication, including over-the-counter, prescription, oral, topical or herbal is capable of triggering a drug allergy. A drug allergy is not the same as a drug side effect or drug toxicity. Drug side effects are known possible reactions and can be found listed on the drug label; an overdose of the medication causes drug toxicity; and a drug allergy is the body’s immune system overacting to the medication.
Common symptoms of a drug allergy include:
- Skin Rash
- Shortness of breath
- Runny nose
- Itchy, watery eyes
If you think you may be having an allergic reaction to a medication, stop taking the medication immediately and call your doctor. If your symptoms worsen or become severe, seek emergency medical help immediately.
Allergic reactions of any severity can happen at any time. Medco ER & Urgent Care is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week and patients can usually be seen by a physician within minutes. With facilities in Plano and Frisco, you can rest assured that help is right around the corner should an allergic reaction occur. Our board-certified physicians and highly-trained nurses are prepared to help you in any situation at any time. If you think you may be having an allergic reaction, please call our Frisco location at 469.392.4100, our Plano location at 469.392.4000, or walk-in at any time.
One of the most common illnesses we treat at Medco ER & Urgent Care is influenza (the flu). While it’s possible to contract the flu year-round, it’s more common to see an increase in those infected with the illness during the fall and winter. As we head into flu season, we believe it’s essential to be knowledgeable about the virus, its symptoms, and how to protect yourself from contracting and spreading the flu. These are the most frequently asked questions we often see regarding influenza.
What are the symptoms?
- Fever of over 100.4° F (38° C)
- Aching muscles
- Chills and sweats
- Dry, persistent cough
- Fatigue and weakness
- Nasal congestion
- Sore throat
How do I know if I have a cold or the flu?
While the symptoms of influenza and the common cold are very similar, those with a cold are less likely to experience a fever, chills, and headaches. Those suffering from a cold are more likely to experience gradual symptoms rather than the abrupt, more severe symptoms of the flu. If you think that you may have the flu, its important that you promptly see a doctor to help prevent the spread of the virus. After a physical, assessing your symptoms and performing tests, your doctor will be able to more accurately tell if you are suffering from a common cold or the flu and treat your condition properly.
How long will I be contagious?
After exposure to the influenza virus, it may take between 1 and 4 days for you to develop symptoms. If a healthy adult has contracted the virus, they will be the most contagious in the first three or four days of developing symptoms but can be contagious 1 day before the appearance of symptoms and up to 7 of being sick. Children and those with a compromised immune system may be contagious for longer than 7 days.
Can the flu be treated at home?
If you are only experiencing minor flu-like symptoms, it is possible to treat and soothe flu symptoms at home with over the counter medication. However, a physician has the ability to more accurately diagnose your condition and prescribe the appropriate antiviral or related prescription medication.
When should I see a doctor for the flu?
If you think that you are experiencing severe flu-like symptoms or are in a high-risk group such as children under the age of 12, those over the age of 65, and individuals with chronic illness or a compromised immune system, it is essential you are seen by a physician. High-risk groups are more likely to develop complications related to the flu, such as pneumonia, sinus infections, bronchitis, and in some rare cases, hospitalization or death. Even in healthy adults, flu-like symptoms are shared by many other, often life-threatening conditions that may require immediate attention, such as a heart attack.
When should I go to the ER for flu-like symptoms?
You should go to the nearest emergency room or seek emergency medical help if you are in a high-risk group or are experiencing:
- A fever of 103° F or higher
- Trouble breathing or shortness of breath while at rest
- Pain or pressure in the chest
- Abdominal pain or pressure
- Sudden dizziness
- Severe vomiting
You should take your child to the emergency room or seek emergency medical help if they are experiencing:
- Any of the above symptoms
- Difficulty breathing or breathing fast
- A bluish tone to the skin
- A fever with a rash
- Limited liquid intake
What can I do to prevent the flu?
The best way to prevent contraction of the flu is to get a flu vaccination each year. Visit Medco ER & Urgent Care in Plano or Frisco, at any time 24/7 to have you and your family vaccinated before flu season begins.
Wash your hands:
To help protect yourself from getting sick or spread of the virus, regularly wash your hands with soap and water or use hand sanitizer.
Cover your mouth:
Cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing and avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
Avoid those who are sick:
Avoid exposure to the virus by limiting close contact with those who are sick. If you are caring for someone who has the flu, its best to limit the number of people who have contact with the sick individual, keep surfaces around the home disinfected, and make sure that all who are in the home are following the flu prevention measures listed above.
If you’re sick stay home:
While sometimes the contraction of influenza is unavoidable, it is imperative to stay home if you to become sick. Unless you are going to see your doctor, it’s recommended that those who are infected with the flu avoid public spaces to reduce the spread of the virus.
Why do I need to get a flu shot every year?
The first line of defense against the flu is getting vaccinated, but unlike other illnesses, there are many different strains of the influenza virus. This constant change in the virus, coupled with the body’s natural decline in immunity over time, makes it essential to get a new flu vaccination each year before the flu season starts.
Can I contract the flu from a flu shot?
This is a common misconception. You cannot contract influenza from the flu vaccine. However, the flu vaccine does not work right away. It takes about two weeks for your body to develop the proper antibodies to protect against the flu. Therefore the CDC recommends vaccination before the flu begins to spread through your community.
If you think you or a loved one might have the flu come to see us at one of our locations in Plano or Frisco. Each Medco ER & Urgent Care facility is equipped to diagnose, test, and treat minor to severe flu-like symptoms and related conditions under one roof, 24 hours a day 7 days a week.