Dr. Swetnam’s thoughts on COVID-19

Jeff Swetnam M.D. — My unofficial thoughts on our current situation in Northwest Arkansas 

Hi all, I hope everyone is healthy, both physically and emotionally. It is important to take care of yourself during these trying times. We are here to help our patients as we all navigate these unprecedented times which can lead to high levels of stress as well. Please take healthy breaks away from the news and focus on things that bring you peace. It is a time to stay close to family and friends, and in a safe manner. 

While I am not an epidemiologist, I am a medical doctor and have always had a high interest in science. I have read every article I can find on the Coronavirus/Covid-19 and am trying to stay educated. As most of you know, the amount of information is rapid fire and ever changing, therefore difficult to keep up with at times. A day can seem like a month and a month a year these days. It appears we, as physicians, along with government don’t know what to do and often give mixed messages. This is true on many levels because this is a brand-new problem not dealt with before. 

What we know as of right now is substantial and increases daily. What we don’t know is substantial but decreases every day. We know that anyone can get this illness and it can be severe at any age. We know that those over 65 are more susceptible to bad outcomes and especially those with co-morbidities such as heart or lung disease, obesity, etc. We know the disease spreads via aerosolized particles when we sneeze or cough. We also know it can live in the air for hours and on some surfaces for many hours, possibly days. So if you touch one of those surfaces and then your nose or mouth, you can be exposing yourself to live virus and get infected. 

Good hand-washing and keeping your hands away from your face is not just good practice but may save your life. Most sanitizers for exposed surfaces work. What we use in my office is a weak bleach solution which kills pretty much everything, (1/3 cup bleach per gallon of water) is cheap and effective. Staying away from people is the best way to protect yourself. Unfortunately, people who have no symptoms are going out and unknowingly spreading the disease. Staying clear of everyone is the best strategy for avoiding infection. There is some data to suggest the virus does not do well with heat and humidity so we may get a reprieve this summer. We know there is no cure or vaccine for this disease YET. There is some promise with existing medications that are being tested on infected populations now. There are vaccines in clinical trials and other antivirals that are being created and or tested. This is a slow process, the reason being, we do not want the cure to be worse than the disease. With some vaccines in the past, they have made the situation worse or had no effect, for this to be avoided requires testing and time. We think that many, if not most of us will get this over the next year or so, we just don’t want everyone getting it all at once. If we keep it at a trickle, we can care for everyone and our health system is not overburdened. 

So, this is an incomplete summary of what we know that is ever changing. What do I think? I am not an expert in this area of medicine, but I have been very diligent in reviewing information to form my opinions. I can look at data and give an opinion. I think this is a disease we will be living with for now, the near future, and possibly from now on. I think we will eventually have treatments and vaccines that will make it much less scary with outcomes equivalent to other, recurring infectious diseases. I think and hope testing will rapidly become cheaper, immediate (like strep or flu) and readily available. This will help to know where to isolate and contain. As we gain more information, we will be more capable of rapid testing and have treatments. We currently are using very precise measures to deal with this problem. 

If you feel ill, go and get a flu, strep, and covid-19 swab, so you know what you have quickly. If you are the first in your community infected, public health can quarantine your community, search for how you were exposed, treat contacts, etc. instead of quarantining the entire country. Hopefully we will be there soon. 

I do have hope, even confidence that in the next month or so we will, for the most part, resume our lives. I believe in our country and we do have the best health system in the world. Precautions will be recommended and possibly enforced. Certain age groups may be required to stay in quarantine. Nursing homes will remain off limits and other measures will be taken to protect the most vulnerable. Remember, the infections today were initiated 2 weeks ago. The thinking is that in the next week or so, if this quarantine period is successful, the numbers will level and hopefully begin to drop. Soon, life will go on with some differences, we may not shake hands as much, individuals who are sick will be sent home sooner, we will wash our hands more, we will get another shot along with our flu shot, but we will hopefully have a rapid test and effective treatments that decrease the severity of the illness. 

I really want to be available for our patients during this difficult time. What we are doing at Swetnam Cosmetic Surgery is expanding your ability to have a consult without coming into the office using HIPAA compliant, secure software. We have seen patients remotely, from other states, for some time. We are now and will continue to expand these telemedicine capabilities for local patients too. If you would like to schedule a virtual consultation, call our office to schedule a convenient time. 

I know many of our patients have their dedicated skin care routine and want to maintain that. We will remain open to answer phone calls or handle orders via our online store. Our team is even working on some post Corona discounts on all spa services (we’re all going to need a HydraFacial!), Fillers, and even Cosmetic Surgical procedures. Call 479-966-4174 to schedule your virtual consult and find out about specials now. Be safe and we look forward to seeing you. 

Jeff Swetnam, MD, FACS, FAACS 

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