March 17, 2020

From critical blood shortages to protecting your family, Mayo Clinic doctors weigh in on COVID-19

By Susan Murphy

By Mayo Clinic News Network

The COVID-19 pandemic is creating critical blood shortages in the U.S. "It's not due to more COVID-19 patients needing blood products. Rather, it's a lack of donations coming in," says Dr. Justin Kreuter, transfusion medicine specialist with the Mayo Clinic Blood Donor Center.

"Our collections have really plummeted because of the concerns about being out in the community," he explains. "We're used to living at a one-to two-week blood inventory. Now a lot of the country is living at a one-to two-day inventory and it's challenging to look at what our future holds."

Dr. Kreuter says he wants to assure people that there is no risk of getting COVID-19 from donating blood and that it is safe for healthy people to come to a blood donor center. Read more.

Helping kids cope with the COVID-19 pandemic

COVID-19 (coronavirus) has become a source of daily conversation. As a caregiver, you may be wondering how to support your children’s developmental needs and understanding of the coronavirus. 

Jennifer Rodemeyer, manager of the Child Life Program at Mayo Clinic, offers these suggestions to help kids cope through this experience.  

"Kids are hearing about this virus daily. Take the time to sit down with your children to define what coronavirus/COVID-19 is using language that supports their development. Start your conversation by asking your children, 'What do you think coronavirus or COVID-19 is?' This gives you an understanding of what your children know, think they know or how they interpret the illness." Read more.

Mayo Clinic Q&A podcast: Simple steps to protect yourself against COVID-19 (coronavirus)

On the Mayo Clinic Q&A podcast, Dr. Nipunie Rajapakse, a Mayo Clinic pediatric infectious diseases specialist, gives helpful tips to protect yourself from COVID-19. Hand-washing, social distancing and respiratory etiquette all play a part in stopping the spread of coronavirus. Read more.

COVID-19: Flattening the curve

"When we refer to the term, 'flattening, or bending, the curve,' we're talking about preventing a sudden influx of new cases," says Dr. Cowl. "And by keeping those numbers down, we can avoid severe illnesses, deaths and overloading the supply system."

Dr. Cowl says flattening the curve will help maintain resources.

"For the individuals who develop severe disease, we want to make sure to have adequate supplies ⏤ adequate numbers of gowns and masks for our health care providers ⏤ to take care of them so they don't get the illness," says Dr. Cowl. "They need adequate amounts of supplemental oxygen, IV lines, ventilators and things like that." Read more.

Your questions answered

Why are some cases worse than others?

"Coronaviruses, including COVID-19, can create a spectrum of illness, and, so, some people will be very mildly affected and some people can have more severe disease," says Nipunie Rajapakse, M.D., M.P.H., an infectious disease specialist. "So the severity of illness can range from having a cold or a flu-type illness all the way to needing to be hospitalized or be in an intensive care unit."

Will the COVID-19 pandemic end? Is it seasonal?

"We don't know yet. One possibility is that this would become what's called an endemic community transmissible disease," says Dr. Gregory Poland, head of Mayo Clinic's Vaccine Research group. "SARS did not go that way. SARS disappeared and we don't know exactly why.  MERS is one where there continues to be zoonotic transmission and small outbreaks here and there. What this one will do, we don't know. I think what we can say is that coronaviruses are here to stay. We've had three novel coronaviruses in the last 18 years. It will happen again."

What groups of people are at greatest risk from COVID-19?

Illness due to COVID-19 infection is generally mild, especially for children and young adults, according to the World Health Organization. Older people and people with certain underlying health conditions like heart disease, lung disease and diabetes, for example, seem to be at greater risk of serious illness, according the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Will warmer temperatures affect how COVID-19 spreads?

"We know that for Influenza, cases dwindle down in the spring and summer seasons. However, no one can say for sure how it will affect COVID-19. "At this point, we don't know enough about this virus to understand how it's going to behave over time," says Dr. Pritish Tosh, a Mayo Clinic infectious diseases specialist.

Learn More

Check the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website for additional updates on COVID-19. For all your COVID-19 coverage, go to the Mayo Clinic News Network.

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