At 4:00 pm Friday, March 6th, IE University organized a conference with Dr.Blanca Gutierrez Parres, an emergency physician from H.U. Puerta de Hierro Majadonda hospital in Madrid. The conference covered IE’s three objectives in taking care of the health of its faculty, staff, and students from the recent outbreak of coronavirus worldwide, as well as transparency in communication, and educational content regarding hygiene and medical aid.
The doctor had worked in the emergency room for over 11 years, managing outbreaks of the swine flu in 2009, Ebola in 2014, and the recent COVID-19 virus this February. Dr.Parres emphasized that to successfully manage and contain an outbreak, the public has to trust the information provided by the Public Health Authorities, as the entire sanitary community relies on it.
Dr.Parres reiterated some of the points and questions raised on a global level about coronavirus. Unlike conventional flu, coronavirus is a new virus with its own characteristics. The current information on the disease is provided by the research of similar viruses as well as information gathered from infected patients. New knowledge is learned about it and updates are managed on a daily basis. At the moment, there are no successful vaccines. What makes coronavirus interesting, however, is that no-one in the human population has pre-existing antibodies, making everyone susceptible to the danger of infection. Finally, the sanitary community still has insufficient information to appropriately understand it.
So what is the coronavirus? Dr.Parres explained that COVID-19 is, first of all, a large virus that can be found in animals. It has a natural reservoir of virus precedents like SARS and MERS. The virus had originally started in December 2019 in the Wuhan province of China, where a large number of people suddenly had developed pneumonia in a short span of time. It then spread to Hubei province, most likely through the wholesale seafood, fish and live animal markets, a common denominator found in the majority of the infected patients at the epicenter of the outbreak.
After the Wuhan and Hubei outbreaks in China, it eventually reached to other Asian countries, such as Japan, South Korea. Gradually, it made its way to the Middle East, finally reaching Europe at the end of February, hitting Italy the most, closely following Germany, France, and Spain. The WHO commission that traveled to Wuhan and Hubei, however, informed that despite its ability to spread quickly, one of its most severe symptoms, pneumonia, was lethal to patients with low immunity protection.
The doctor also explained that coronavirus spreads mostly through person-to-person contact within 1 meter in the form of respiratory droplets. A person can be infected very quickly if the droplets land on another one’s mouth, eyes or nose. The quickest way to get infected, however, is through inhaling. It is also unknown how long does the virus survive on the surface, thus creating risks for surface infection (touch surface, touch mouth).
In terms of major symptoms, the most common symptoms of coronavirus start showing after 5-6 days after infection with a range of 1-14 days. A person tends to experience a fever, fatigue, a dry cough and shortness of breath. The disease tends to be moderate in the majority of cases, however, poses a high risk for people over 60 years, or that have diabetes, CVD, PCD, or cancer.
It is important to remember that very few cases are lethal. Most of the cases have recovered successfully. To prevent potential infection, a person must regularly wash their hands with soap and water for over 20 seconds. Surgical masks do decrease the risk of infecting others, however, should be used only if the person has already been infected. Although there’s no evidence that the face masks help you, they do provide a false sense of security despite increasing a person’s need to touch their face.
In general, the sanitary community recommends to have individual social distance – avoid kissing, shaking hands or using public transport or attending large gatherings. Traveling is not recommended either, especially to China, South Korea, Hong Kong, Japan or Italy.
If a person does not experience any symptoms, then the sanitary authorities recommend to carry on with their lives. If a person had traveled to a country at risk, then it is recommended to observe themselves, and if there are any signs of symptoms mentioned above, call 112 in Madrid or use the Segovia phone line provided by the university.
Dr.Parres encourages people to understand the situation. Although the health risks for the majority of the people are not as severe, it is important to follow the recommendations provided by the doctors. Coronavirus remains a very new disease, and it is classified as a highly contagious. Additionally, the doctor emphasizes that the public trusts its health authorities. The data has been gathered from confirmed cases, analyzed by world-class professionals and compiled into recommendations.