Doctor on coronavirus: 'You will probably not die but still can become very sick'

Many of us have wondered what to expect if we're infected with COVID-19.

Tanner Health System infectious disease physician Laura Larson says she is seeing a range of symptoms in her system's West Georgia and East Alabama hospitals, from people with a mild flu-like illness to people with life-threatening complications.

The more Dr. Larson sees, she says, the more concerned she is about the expected surge in infections in Georgia in late April.

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On a scale of 1 to 10, Larson says, her level of concern is a "10."

"It’s because of the unknown," the Carrollton physician says.  "I guess the big thing for me is I grew up in this town.  So, this is very personal for me.”

Dr. Larson says some patients feel like they have a bad cold or flu.

Others, she says, are ending up in the ICU, on a mechanical breathing machine known as a ventilator, because their lungs have shut down.

“The most devastating cases are the elderly that come into our ICU and develop fulminant (severe or sudden-onset) respiratory failure and are on the ventilator and die within five or six days,” Dr. Larson says. “We've had two of those.”

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Some of their patients are recovering, Larson says, and are able to come off a ventilator and breathe on their own.

But, she says, some of them now need kidney dialysis or have heart complications.

"I have had a patient experience a stroke, and we think that it is related to this disease," Dr. Larson says. "This disease causes a lot of inflammation, because of cardiac conditions. That isn’t being talked about a lot.”

Then, there are the younger people getting infected.

She says some of them tell her this virus is "the worst thing that's ever happened to them."

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They may not be considered at higher risk for complications, she says, but COVID-10 takes a toll on some of them.

"While they didn't die, they've lost 20 pounds," she says.  "They're febrile and unable to sleep, except for two to three hours a day.”

Larson likens this virus to the seasonal flu.

But, instead of a few bad days, you may be facing up to two weeks of misery.

"We’re seeing real disease, worse than we expected in young people," Larson says. "I feel like people shouldn't take that for granted that, even though you are young. You will probably not die, but you can still become very sick."

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That is why she’s urging people to stay home and practice social distancing.

You can be infected with this virus without even realizing it.

Dr. Larson says you don't want to bring COVID-19 home to your family.

Know how the COVID-19 outbreak is impacting Georgia

Best prevention measures:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and warm water for at least twenty seconds.
  • If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces


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