Experts are currently estimating that about half of all the people in the world will get coronavirus this year…. Think about it like this: That’s either you or your lab partner.Kerry McGee, MD
I’ve been hearing a lot of teens saying “I’m healthy, low risk, and young. If I get the coronavirus, I’ll be fine. I don’t need to worry!”
Teenagers, what you do right now matters. And I want you to understand why. I’m a pediatrician and this is what I think you should know about coronavirus (COVID-19).
You can spread the virus to more vulnerable people
Fortunately yes, you’ll probably be fine. When you catch it you might not even notice. Most people with coronavirus don’t get super sick. In fact, some people, especially young people, get infected and don’t feel a thing. A sigh of relief, right? Sorry, no.
When you catch coronavirus, it uses you to reproduce. The virus turns your body into a virus-making machine. You’ll spread it without even knowing it.
This isn’t about you. This is mostly about older people: Your grandma, your friend’s grandma, the nice lady at the coffee shop that makes your chai latte. It’s also about people with health concerns like asthma, high blood pressure, or diabetes. When these folks get coronavirus, it’s much more likely to turn into severe pneumonia. The infection goes to their lungs and then gets worse until they can’t breathe.
It’s highly contagious
Coronavirus is contagious. It spreads like the common cold, or worse. It lives in snot and spit. It can live on metal or plastic surfaces like your phone case, public railings, and countertops for days.
There’s a good chance you’ll catch it. Experts are currently estimating that about half of all the people in the world will get coronavirus this year. People, that’s 1 in 2. Think about it like this: That’s either you or your lab partner.
Plus, it’s deadly. About 2.3% of all people who get it die. In case being out of the classroom has your math skills slipping, that’s more than 2 in 100 people.
There’s still a lot we don’t know
It’s new. This strain of coronavirus, which causes a cold that can lead to pneumonia, didn’t exist before this winter. This is important because it means no one is immune.
This disease took us by surprise. Doctors need time to figure out the best ways to treat this. We’re kicking it into gear now, but we need time. And what you do right now to slow the spread of the disease helps buy us that time.
Hospital capacity is an issue
Hospitals can help many who become ill because of coronavirus. But here’s the thing: Hospitals can’t help if everyone gets sick at the same time.
There literally isn’t enough room. There aren’t enough beds, nurses, tests, medicines, ventilators, or oxygen tanks to go around. There aren’t enough masks, gloves, and protective equipment to keep healthcare professionals safe as they care for sick patients.
If everyone gets sick at the same time, we’re in big trouble.
This is how you can help
So, this is how you help: Slow it down. Stay away from people. Don’t go places where germs hang out. Don’t touch things. Wash your hands. Don’t let the virus use you! Literally, stay in your house so you don’t become a walking virus reproduction center.
Staying home won’t stop the virus since you’re going to have to leave the house eventually. But if we slow it down we can catch up. Do your part, buy us some time. People, do you hear me? I’m giving you the best excuse ever to stay home and do nothing. If there were ever a time to rock your introvert side, it’s now. Do that, and save lives.
Kerry McGee, MD
Board-Certified Pediatrician, Writer, Good Rx
Physician with a medical degree from the University of Virginia and a graduate degree in experimental psychology from Washington University in St. Louis.