Middle schoolers speak to epidemiologist

| By Beth, 8th grade |

March 2020 … East Norriton Middle School students recently participated in an online conference call with Dr. Robert Sharrar, a physician trained in infectious diseases and epidemiology, about the coronavirus, which causes the respiratory disease COVID-19.

Students ask Dr. Sharrar about the virus.

During the conference call with East Norriton (PA) students, Dr. Sharrar, who describes epidemiology as the study of diseases in a population, said that age and pre-existing medical conditions play a big role in who survives or dies as a result of COVID-19. People older than 65 or those with pre-existing conditions are at greater risk of being seriously ill as a result of the coronavirus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Pre-existing conditions include lung and breathing diseases, heart illnesses, and people whose immune systems are not working well, according to the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases, an organization of infection experts. Smoking is also a risk factor for COVID-19, according to Dr. Sharrar.

Many people who are infected by COVID-19 may get pneumonia and may have to be in the hospital and on a respirator, a machine that helps you breathe, Dr. Sharrar said.  If you don’t have risk factors and get COVID-19, you may only experience cold-like symptoms, Dr. Sharrar said.  However, even people in middle age could get serious disease.

If you are diagnosed with the virus, he recommended you stay hydrated and get plenty of rest. You should seek medical help if you experience shortness of breath.

Dr. Sharrar said businesses and schools had to shut down to reduce the spread of the virus. He said he believes the decision was the right one to make. Dr. Sharrar also agreed that you should isolate yourself or practice social distancing because you can have the virus for up to 14 days without knowing about it and could pass it on to others.

Dr. Sharrar hopes that this virus will be gone by late summer, although it most likely won’t be the last time that we see it. Because the coronavirus may come back, experts are working on a vaccine against it, Dr. Sharrar said. The vaccine may only be ready in about 18 months because time is needed to test it on rats and humans to ensure that it is safe and that it works, Dr. Sharrar added.   


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