EAST BRUNSWICK, NJ - The internet can be a great place to get information, when that information comes from a qualified source. When information gets entangled with reader comments, it is sometimes difficult to discern where the information ends and the interpretation begins.  It can spread, well, like a virus.  TAPinto East Brunswick asked a medical doctor today about what she thinks is important, valid information that people should know about COVID-19 at this time.

"COVID-19 should be taken very seriously.  The Center for Disease Control and the mass media are not 'hyping' this or exaggerating its significance," said Dr. Catherine Schiano, an East Brunswick Family Medicine Specialist who has been practicing for 29 years in the township.  "The hallmarks of this virus are a fever and a dry, unproductive cough.  It is different from the flu, which can also produce body aches, sneezing, and a runny nose.  People with these symptoms are likely victims of a cold or flu, not the coronavirus."

"What is important is to support the elderly or those with compromised immune systems for some other reason like diabetes or hypertension.  Older people are the most at risk and should receive the most attention," said Schiano.  "They should not take trips or be in crowds until this virus season has passed."

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She went on to add that children and young people are not especially sensitive to COVID-19, though they, like everyone else, should be careful and practice good hygiene. "It's making me laugh that we have to keep teaching people how to wash their hands, but I guess we have to."

"However," she added, "Nobody needs to be in a crowd right now, and that includes college students in 200-person Biology lecture halls."  She concurred with New Jersey Governor Philip Murphy's recent statement banning groups larger than 250 people in New Jersey.  "It also doesn't help when hundreds of people run to Costco and put themselves in the middle of large crowds and stand on long lines.  Go to a store, get what you need, and get out."

"Be aware and be conscious of those around you.  If you are a high risk person, stay home," she said.

What if a person thinks that he or she may have COVID-19?  

"If you think you needed to be tested because you have a fever and a cough, call your doctor.  Your doctor may see you or may refer you immediately to the emergency room.  The COVID-19 test involves a nasal swab.  You will be sent home until you get your test results.  If you are positive, you will need to self-quarantine for two weeks.  You will need to be alone, really, using your own bed and bathroom until your symptoms pass.  If you are an elderly person or a person with developmental disabilities who cannot be alone, hospitalization may be required." 

"COVID-19 mutates rapidly.  It is hard to develop a vaccine for a virus that changes so quickly.  Waiting for a vaccine is not the best way to proceed right now.  Mostly, people will be fine if they follow good procedures like eating well, keeping hydrated, and washing hands.  The best procedure is to avoid large crowds for the short term," said Schiano.

Is there any positive news?  

"Yes," said Schiano.  "We have to wait this out really get into the Spring.  This virus may not respond well to warm Spring days and moister air."

"Until then, call your doctor," said Dr. Schiano.