CDC Provides Patient Updates on Coronavirus

March 24, 2020
Brielle Benyon

The number of coronavirus (COVID-19) cases in the United States continues to grow, which could be extremely stressful for patients with cancer and their loved ones – especially as certain cancer therapies may cause a person to be immunocompromised.

The number of coronavirus (COVID-19) cases in the United States continues to grow, which could be extremely stressful for patients with cancer and their loved ones — especially as certain cancer therapies may cause a person to be immunocompromised.

Dr. Jay C. Butler, the Deputy Director for Infectious Diseases for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), recently hosted a webinar briefing Americans about the disease, as well as the steps they can take to stay safe.

“Be prepared, and don’t be scared,” Butler said, noting that panic does little to help the situation.

Preventing the Spread of COVID-19

However, there are steps that individuals can take that will be helpful in preventing the contraction and/or spread of the virus:

  • Stay 6 feet (or more) apart from others
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces, especially “high-touch” surfaces
  • Wash hands for more than 20 seconds with soap and water. If soap and water is not available, hand sanitizer is a second option

“It appears that the vast majority of infections are transmitted by respiratory droplets,” Butler said. That means that the disease can be given to someone else when an infected person sneezes or coughs around an uninfected person, who then may breathe in the virus particles in the air. “It’s also possible that it can survive on surfaces.”

Butler said that he does not recommend everyone wear a mask, especially since there is a shortage. Those should mainly be reserved for health care professionals.

Additionally, health care institutions are taking steps to mitigate the pandemic, and that might include rearranging appointments and procedures for patients with cancers. “This is how we keep the health care system robust and take care of the people who get sick with COVID-19.”

Next Steps, Treatments, Vaccines

While most people may want the pandemic to end as quickly as possible, Butler actually said that he hopes to spread out the cases of COVID-19 as to not overburden and saturate the health care system.

“In many ways, we want the pandemic to spread out as long as possible. Many people have heard discussions about flattening the curve. This means we want the pandemic to affect as few people as possible at any given time,” Butler said. “When will this end? We’re not sure.”

For now, treatment for coronavirus is symptomatic, Butler said. Researchers are currently working diligently on a vaccine, though it might be a while before it becomes available to the public, which a candidate vaccine trial just starting for humans.

“A vaccine will ultimately be the best way to protect the entire population against this coronavirus,” Butler said. “Unfortunately, this will probably be a year to a year and a half out.”

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