COVID: Call before seeing a doctor, especially the elderly, asthmatic

Those with underlying lung or immune system problems are more at risk for serious complications.

People with underlying medical conditions like asthma and diabetes are more likely to develop deadly complications from the novel coronavirus if they are infected.

The risk also increases with age, especially for those older than 65, said University of Washington’s director of Neighborhood Clinics Peter McGough. And the advice to those feeling sick is now call before you go to a doctor.

Health care providers are recommending people with symptoms, including fever and coughing, should call their primary care doctors. A hotline set up by the state Department of Health appeared to be down on the morning of March 4. This reporter called numerous times, but the hotline disconnected within seconds.

This keeps people from visiting health care centers and emergency rooms unnecessarily, where they could be exposed to the virus.

“For people at high risk, if they get a fever, a productive cough, shortness of breath, contacting one of the nurse lines or contacting your provider initially is a good thing,” McGough said.

Symptoms generally appear mild at first, but for people with underlying health problems, like asthma, other respiratory diseases like COPD, diabetes or HIV infections, COVID-19 can develop into pneumonia or respiratory failure.

There are many reasons for this, but older patients are more prone to damaging inflammation from the virus. For those with diabetes, the immune system isn’t as prepared to fight off COVID-19. People are more likely to get secondary infections, like pneumonia.

“Those can be tough for the body to fight off, and need more medical support,” McGough said.

The same holds true for those with other diseases that reduce the body’s ability to fight off infections. People who have had transplants are also more at risk.

For asthmatics, respiratory illness can trigger bronchial spasms, even relatively minor ones like colds. It triggers the body’s inflammatory response and makes it difficult to breath. Infections further leave them at risk for secondary infections.

Since COVID-19 emerged in Washington state, it appears to be hitting older people hardest. Of the nine dead and dozens sickened by the virus, nearly all of them were older than 40, with the exception of two men in their 20s hospitalized in Issaquah. Ages of those who died range from from their 40s to 80s.

The Life Care Center in Kirkland has been ground zero for the current outbreak locally, but the virus may have been spreading through Western Washington for as long as six weeks.

McGough said it’s especially important for people more susceptible to the diesease to follow public health guidelines. These include frequent hand washing for at least 20 seconds with soap and warm water, staying away from people who are ill and being careful about personal contact. People may have to give up on hugging and kissing for a bit, he said.

As of March 4, the Centers for Disease Control expanded the criteria for who can be tested. It now lets clinicians decide whether someone should receive a COVID-19 test. Previously, only those who had traveled to a country with a known outbreak, or who had come into contact with a known source of transmission, were being tested.

At the same time, the state is working with the University of Washington and other testing facilities to increase the number of tests which can be performed. Until now, the state’s Public Health Lab in Shoreline – with the capacity to fully test around 100 people a day – was the only lab performing tests.

McGough said UW is also looking at setting up one or two “drive-thru” testing facilities, and more details should be available early next week. These could be similar to ones used in South Korea.


Talk to us

Please share your story tips by emailing editor@auburn-reporter.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.auburn-reporter.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) Please keep letters to 300 words or less.

More in News

Courtesy of governor.wa.gov
Inslee extends pause on counties advancing phases to July 28

A spike in cases could cause hospitalizations and deaths to rise soon.

Elected or appointed? King County weighs sheriff options

Voters could be asked to decide in November.

The Red Lion Inn at 1 South Grady Way in Renton is being used as temporary site to relocate individuals experiencing homelessness during the COVID-19 pandemic. Olivia Sullivan/staff photo.
Renton battles King County over temporary shelter at Red Lion Hotel

County officials believe emergency health order will supersede city’s move.

Owner of proposed Enumclaw Recycling Center ordered to close Auburn location

King County has been trying to shutter the Buckley Recycle Center for nearly 15 years, and claims the lack of progress at the Enumclaw site shows the owner has little interest in complying with county regulations.

A train route that would shuttle people between Eastern and Western Washington could tie in with the proposed ultra-high-speed rail between B.C. and Portland. Photo courtesy RobertStafford/Pixabay.com
State receives King County to Spokane rail study

It would take about eight and a half hours to reach the Inland Empire from Puget Sound.

Courtesy of Mountain View Fire and Rescue
Mountain View Fire and Rescue seeks levy on Aug. 4 primary ballot

Service area includes unincorporated King County near the cities of Auburn, Enumclaw and Kent.

Firefighters treat 3 in head-on collision | Fire blotter

Reporter staff Between June 29 and July 5, the Valley Regional Fire… Continue reading

Bret Chiafalo. File photo
Supreme Court says state can punish WA faithless electors

Justices: Presidential electors, including Everett man, must keep pledge to back popular vote winner

Courtesy of the Auburn School District
There will be school this fall in Auburn

The district is working on answering the question: What will it look like?

Most Read