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Guest Column

Coronavirus or Flu?

Tips for staying healthy this winter

By Guisou Mahmoud, MD, FACEP

Medical Director for the Sue and Bill Gross Emergency Department at

Mission Hospital Laguna Beach

Coronavirus or doctor

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Guisou Mahmoud, MD, FACEP

For the last several weeks, people living throughout Southern California have been hearing about the coronavirus through friends, family, and even the media. Since there isn’t a lot of information about the coronavirus, many local residents might not know enough about the symptoms or when to seek medical care. 

The good news is that there is no need to panic. First, only two of the coronavirus cases in the U.S. have been confirmed in California – those diagnosed with the virus recently returned from trips to the city of Wuhan in central China, the epicenter of the outbreak. 

Secondly, while coronavirus is a scary thought, you are more likely catch the flu. For South Orange County residents, the flu is much more serious than the coronavirus. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 13 million Americans have already caught the flu this season, resulting in about 120,000 hospitalizations and 6,600 deaths. 

Residents of Laguna Beach and our coastal communities can protect themselves from the coronavirus and flu by knowing symptoms along with signs of when to see a doctor. 

Symptoms can range from fever, cough, sneezing, shortness of breath, severe body aches, sore throat, fatigue, vomiting, and diarrhea. Typical flu symptoms usually develop abruptly and tend to be severe. 

While symptoms of any viral respiratory infection, including coronavirus, influenza, and the common cold are similar, anyone who has respiratory symptoms and has traveled to China in the last two weeks is at higher risk for coronavirus and should seek medical care. 

Remember, you can help protect yourself and loved ones from getting sick by following these tips: 

--Regularly wash your hands in warm water with soap and water for at least 20 seconds 

--Remember to sneeze and cough into your elbow 

--If a loved one is sick, clean all “high-touch” surfaces, such as counters, tabletops, doorknobs, bathroom fixtures, phones, keyboards, tablets, and bedside tables with a disinfecting solution or wipes 

--Stay home when you are sick 

--Avoid touching your face with unwashed hands 

--Avoid close contact with people who are sick 

--Make sure to get a flu shot – it’s not too late!

If you are healthy, your symptoms are not severe, and you are able to manage them at home by drinking plenty of fluids and getting lots of rest, you likely won’t need to visit the doctor. 

If you are unable to hold down any fluids or food, are disoriented or confused, have severe body aches, or are having difficulty breathing, seek immediate medical attention. Those considered high risk, including children under the age of five, adults 65 or older, pregnant women, and those with compromised immune strength (e.g. people with asthma, lung, heart, kidney or liver disease, or any immune disease) should also see a doctor right away.

Guisou Mahmoud, MD, FACEP is director of emergency medicine at Mission Hospital Laguna Beach, part of Providence St. Joseph Health, a not-for-profit provider of integrated health care.

 

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