On Tuesday March 10th, Shannon Health in San Angelo issued a press release regarding the Coronavirus (COVID-19). The press release states that Shannon Health will be offering a free telemedicine visit with a physician for anyone who suspects that they have the Coronavirus:

“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have released recommendations for using telemedicine to initially assess patients for exposure to COVID-19 and to help direct patients to the appropriate site of care, allowing patients to remain in their homes and minimize the risk of spreading the virus or coming into contact with others who may be symptomatic. Shannon’s telemedicine platform, Shannon On Demand, is equipped with providers utilizing the CDC’s guidelines to assess individuals who are worried they may have been exposed to the virus and are suffering from mild to moderate flu-like symptoms.

There are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the Concho Valley. In a proactive and collaborative effort to help curtail fear among patients, prevent potential spread within our communities, and reduce the burden on our regional resources, Shannon is offering individuals the ability to receive a free assessment for COVID-19 symptoms from their homes through Shannon On Demand. The service is available online 24/7 at www.ShannonOnDemand.com.”

The World Health Organization has officially labeled the virus as a pandemic.

Dr. Dough Schultz is a highly respected physician at Shannon Clinic and the Chief Medical Officer of the clinic. Schultz said that the Shannon On Demand app will help with screening people, “The person will have a face-to-face, visit, via the app, with a physician.” Schultz said that Shannon is offering the normally $50 visit free of charge. Schultz also commented on the virus, “We haven’t had any positive cases in this area. Very few people will probably be sent to the ER or Urgent Care. The few that do will be given instructions and the staff at the clinic, ER or Urgent Care will be made aware that the patient is coming in.”

The virus is still new and almost every day the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) are issuing new information regarding the virus. Dr. Schultz said that the majority of the cases probably wouldn’t be severe, “From what we can tell, only a very small percentage will become severe. 95% of those who come down with the virus will be mildly ill. Older people who get this virus are at higher risk for developing severe symptoms. The over-60 age group is a higher risk and the over-80 age group is an even higher risk than the over-60 age group.” Dr. Schultz said that one interesting aspect of the virus thus far is that it hasn’t affected a certain age group, “Children have been spared, for the most part, and they don’t know why.” Dr. Schultz said that there are several theories being researched, including the theory that children may have somehow been exposed to a similar virus and built up immunity.

The public response is now verging on hysteria, with people clearing the store shelves of toilet paper and hand sanitizer, even here in the Concho Valley. Schultz says that there are simple precautions that people can take if they must go out in public, “Wash your hands if you touch any surface. This includes the shopping cart and any items in the store. You also want to try and stay 6’ away from others. It’s been shown that the virus can’t travel more than 3’ so maintain that 6’ distance. You also want to keep your hands away from your face and ears. If you are over 60, avoid going to places with a lot of people. Don’t take cruises, don’t take long flights anywhere.”

Schultz said that Shannon Health is also keeping in contact with other institutions in the community, “We’re taking t a common sense approach. We have regular meetings with the health department, Goodfellow Air Force Base, Angelo State University and others. It’s a fluid situation so keep watching for updates.”

According to Schultz the flu remains in full effect in this area, “We are still in flu season. It’s still rampant in this area and most of the people we have that are sick have the flu.”

Shannon Health has more information on the Coronavirus on their homepage, www.ShannonHealth.com. Other information from the CDC and WHO say that the flu and the Coronavirus are similar and they are both respiratory illnesses, although, they are caused by different viruses. Both viruses cause fever, cough, body aches, fatigue and sometimes vomiting and diarrhea. The Coronavirus can result in pneumonia.

The Johns Hopkins Health website (www.HopkinsMedicine.org) states that neither virus is treatable with antibiotics because antibiotics only work on bacterial infections. The website says that the Coronavirus may be treated by addressing symptoms, such as reducing fever and that severe cases may require hospitalization and support such as mechanical ventilation. Antiviral medications are currently being tested to see if they can address symptoms.

One report from a physician in Italy stated that they suspect that places such as Italy and China have already peaked and that they expect to see the number of cases drop. Schultz said that China is a good example, “China has dropped off drastically. They took a lot of precautions.”

As mentioned above by Dr. Schultz, the situation is fluid, with updates and new information coming out daily. Not everything is known about the Coronavirus and even with no reported cases in the area, precautions should still be taken to lower your risk of contracting the virus. Studies and treatment research are ongoing and you can stay updated by going to the Shannon Health website or by going to the CDC and WHO websites.