April 8, 2020

Mayo Clinic experts offer advise and tips on coping with COVID-19

By Susan Murphy

By Mayo Clinic News Network

Mayo Clinic doctors and researchers are providing daily updates and information to help keep people healthy and safe. 

Mayo Clinic Q&A podcast: Cardiac risks of off-label drugs to treat COVID-19

A study published recently in Mayo Clinic Proceedings details information about potential cardiac side effects when using off-label drugs to treat COVID-19. Off-label means the drug has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration to treat a different condition. Some of the off-label drugs being used to treat COVID-19 have a risk of sudden cardiac arrest and death.

On the Mayo Clinic Q&A podcast, Dr. Michael Ackerman, a Mayo Clinic genetic cardiologist and director of the  Windland Smith Rice Sudden Death Genomics Laboratory, explains how heart monitoring is important to identify at-risk patients. Read more.

Tips for people with neurologic issues, such as epilepsy and seizure disorders

Though patients with chronic neurologic conditions like epilepsy are not at increased risk to contract COVID-19, they are more susceptible to increased seizures as a result of growing stress and anxiety over the pandemic.

"We know that stress increases the environment for seizures to occur," says Dr. Joseph Sirven, a Mayo Clinic neurologist. "So with all that's going on in the world, one can be at increased risk for seizures."

Dr. Sirven shares three recommendations to help patients with epilepsy or seizure disorders:

  1. Reduce stress.
    To reduce stress, Dr. Sirven advises limiting news to twice daily and taking time for relaxation.
  2. Create a seizure action plan.
    "I suggest that you talk to your neurologist or other provider, and develop a seizure action plan," says Dr. Sirven. "That means figuring out in advance when should you call 911, when should you call the physician or provider about it, and when should you worry?"
  3. Have all your medication on hand ― both what you need for daily use and to aid in reducing stress.
    "This may be the time to do the three-month prescription refill plan so that you have plenty of medication regardless and you don't have to call anyone for any urgent refills of those prescriptions." Read more.

Convalescent Plasma: A Therapy for COVID-19?

To develop a treatment for patients with COVID-19, researchers around the world are steadfastly exploring numerous angles, including testing existing antiviral drugs and new compounds. One potential treatment that has garnered attention is known as convalescent plasma therapy. The approach involves giving patients an infusion of antibody-rich plasma from people who have recovered from an infection with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

"Mayo Clinic has mobilized quickly to advance convalescent plasma in a scientific way," says anesthesiologist Michael J. Joyner, M.D., principal investigator of the Convalescent Plasma Expanded Access Program.

Mayo Clinic is the lead institution providing coordinated access to investigational convalescent plasma for hospitalized patients with severe or life-threatening COVID-19, or those at high risk of progression to severe or life-threatening disease. This national effort will collect plasma from donors who meet several criteria established by the Food and Drug Administration. Read more.

Your questions answered

How does the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 enter the body?

"COVID-19 disease is spread through respiratory droplets. So what that means is that if someone with the infection coughs or sneezes, they generate droplets. These are generally large droplets so they can spread about 3-6 feet from the person that generates them. That's pretty close contact that's required. If those droplets land on a surface and you touch that surface and  then you touch your eyes, nose or mouth, then you are at risk of becoming infected as well," says Dr. Nipunie Rajapakse, a Mayo Clinic infectious diseases specialist.

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

According to the Centers for Disease Control, reported illnesses have ranged from mild symptoms to severe illness and death.

The following symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure.*

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath

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.

Check the CDC website for additional updates on COVID-19.
For more information and all your COVID-19 coverage, go to the Mayo Clinic News Network and mayoclinic.org.

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Tags: covid-19, education, Research, Uncategorized

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