“The ultimate goal is to slow down the spread and decrease the transmission.”
KBIA’s Rebecca Smith sat down with Dr. Christelle Ilboudo, the Medical Director of Infection Contol and Prevention for MU Health Care, and two individuals from Columbia/Boone County Public Health and Human Services – Medical Director Dr. Ashley Millham and Public Inforamtion Officer Lucio Bitoy – to discuss some of the preparations that are underway to prevent, and if necessary, manage the spread of COVID-19 in Mid-Missouri.
There have been six confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Missouri: two in St. Louis County, three in Greene County, and one in Henry County.
What is COVID-19?
Dr. Christelle Ilboudo, MU Health Care, Medical Director of Infection Control and Prevention:
COVID-19 is the disease that is caused by a virus called SARS-CoV-2, which originated in Wuhan, China… and so, it's a new disease to humans – usually presents with cold, flu-like symptoms, with some people that are at higher risk, ending up getting really sick and in the hospital.
On Planning and Preparation in Columbia
Dr. Ashley Millham, Medical Director, Columbia/Boone County Public Health and Human Services:
With no cases being identified here in Boone County, yet, it's all about preparedness and making sure that we are as prepared as possible to limit the impact on the community… and so, the meetings, so far, have involved figuring out how best to collaborate with MU Healthcare and Boone [Hospital] and the health department, and I know the health systems are really wanting to work together to have the best possible strategy for the entire community.
80 percent of people who contract this illness, most likely will have mild symptoms for which they may not need any medical care at all, and so, really making sure that people are aware that if your symptoms are mild and more similar to a cold and you're not having trouble breathing and if your symptoms are limited to a fever and/or cough and you're able to manage those safely at home, that is the best strategy.
On Virtual Visits
Dr. Christelle Ilboudo: We have virtual visits available. You can download an app, the MU Healthcare Virtual Visit, you can find more information about it on our website, muhealth.org/coronavirus. We actually are offering $10 [visits] if you have coronavirus-specific needs that can be triaged telehealth or virtual visits, and based on whether you meet the criteria or not, then we will direct you to a place where you can come and get formally evaluated and tested.
Those visits actually going to be taken care of by our own providers, and so, I know that some people have concerns about having telehealth… but this is actually going to be staffed by our own MU physicians.
On COVID-19 Testing
Dr. Ashley Millham: I think that it is probably a good idea, until there is an abundance of tests, for it to be triaged, and people who have traveled from a high risk area and have symptoms or have had a known exposure and have symptoms or who are severely ill, critically ill, without another explanation for their illness – it does make sense for those to be prioritized versus someone who does not have symptoms and is “curious.” Perhaps there is a better term for that, but I think that it's important for those tests to be triaged until there's an abundance of testing available.
Dr. Christelle Ilboudo: Because we don't have a clear treatment plan, for those people who have very minimal or mild symptoms, even if they test positive, we are still sending them home to quarantine themselves. So, rather than thinning ourselves out on testing people that we wouldn't otherwise support more... I think that we will also need help from the community to really help us prioritize those that are at high risk and those that are really sick.
So, if they have mild symptoms that can really stay home, as we've been recommending –washing hands, you know, staying away from crowds. So, again, we can really prioritize the sicker patient… knowing again, that 80% or more of people who have it, whether it's confirmed or not, have gotten better and will get better.
On Higher Risk Populations – Healthcare Professionals
Dr. Christelle Ilboudo: I think that we have to think about our own safety first, and so, the message I really have had for our staff at MU Health is learning how to protect ourselves, learning how to properly isolated or properly wear our protective equipment, so that when we do take care of the patients, we are not exposing ourselves and therefore exposing potential other patients that we go and see. So, I think for healthcare workers, it’s self-care, taking care of yourself and really learning how to stay safe, as you are taking care of patients that are sick.
On Higher Risk Populations – Community Members
Dr. Christelle Ilboudo: The people who get the sickest are older people, people who have underlying chronic condition – heart disease, lung disease, immunocompromised conditions, those are the individuals who tend to be sicker and get sicker from it.
So, for example: COPD, diabetes, transplant patients, patients with chronic lung disease, patients on dialysis… that’s just some examples, any patients on any immunosuppressants, so chemotherapy or other immunosuppressing agents, are at potentially higher risk.
Impact of Governor’s Declared State of Emergency:
Dr. Christelle Ilboudo: I think, from the way that I understand it, declaring a state of emergency will allow us to tap into resources so that we would be better prepared. I don't think that the public should necessarily be alarmed. I think it's one of the ways that we can make sure that we have the resources that we need to take care of patients should we get to the point where we start seeing more cases in a community.
Missouri Statewide COVID-19 Hotline: 877-435-8411