What To Expect From COVID-19: A Conversation With An Infectious Disease Specialist
While researchers try to find a treatment for COVID-19, health care professionals already have patients with the illness.
Dr. Rebekah Sensenig from the Riverside hospital system spoke with WHRV’s Mechelle Hankerson about what medical professionals know about treating COVID-19.
Riverside is among WHRO's corporate sponsors.
Listen to their conversation, and find a full transcript below.
Mechelle Hankerson: Hi, Dr. Sensenig. Thanks for talking with us during this busy time.
Dr. Rebekah Sensenig: No problem.
MH: Can you tell us from a medical perspective, what is COVID-19?
RS: So, COVID-19 is is a new, so what we call a novel coronavirus, meaning it's not one that we've ever seen before. And so it's believed to have come from bats and now transferred to humans. And so coronavirus is just in general our family of viruses. Typically they cause the common cold, the normal coronaviruses that we've seen, but they've also caused like the SARS outbreak in the past, in the Middle Eastern respiratory syndrome in the past.
MH: And what happens to people when they get COVID-19 specifically? Is it notably different from those other illnesses?
RS: Some people have no symptoms, they're completely asymptomatic and don't even realize that they have it. Other people will get more mild symptoms like a typical cold so they can have a fever, cough, you know, generalized muscle aches and then the more severe presentations, they go on and they develop a very bad bilateral pneumonia, a viral pneumonia. And that can lead to respiratory failure. People have also had cardiac damage as a result of it.
MH: Based on what doctors know so far, is there any effective treatment for the illness?
RS: Yeah, so there's no good treatment at this point. There's a bunch of different things that we're trying, but so far we don't have a cure at this point. And so, you know, obviously, everyone's heard about the chloroquine and the hydroxychloroquine, that the president had talked about. And so there's some ongoing trials with that and it is being used due to the relative lack of harm with potential benefits.
MH: And are there any medical interventions a patient with COVID-19 can receive?
RS: So if you are discharged home, so if you're not hypoxic, so if your oxygen levels are okay, and you don't have evidence of a severe pneumonia, then you're typically sent home and the recommendations are just rest, lots of fluids, just symptomatic relief. If you are hospitalized and aren't given those medications, then it's the same thing. It's fluids. It's Tylenol for fevers if you need it. It's also oxygen therapy would be what would be used prior to intubation, being put on a ventilator.
MH: Are there any long-term effects of having COVID-19?
RS: We don't really know since we haven't seen it before, but what we're concerned about is the people with severe disease that do recover likely have some damage to their lungs as a result of the COVID-19 infection. And so we might see down the road people with progressive, maybe not progressive, but some lung damage that's, that is persistent after the infection, but we just don't know yet. We haven't had time to really see that.