Often referred to as the Spanish Flu, the Influenza of 1918 took a significant toll on Kansas, with 2,639 recorded deaths as a result of influenza out of a total 26,508 deaths across Kansas. That is 10% of the state’s total deaths that year. However, the death toll across the globe was much worse, with estimated deaths varying anywhere from 50 million to 100 million people.
So, what did we learn that can be applied to today’s pandemic with COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus (SARS-CoV2) that is rapidly spreading across the globe?
I posed some questions, that are on the minds of many, to April Boyce, a Registered Nurse who works at the Kansas Medical Center in Andover.
Boyce is known for sharing her thoughts on staying healthy with frequent updates to her Facebook page, those posts are known as “PSA with your Friendly Nurse April.”
This is the greatest public health threat in our lifetime. We hear that the older, and immune compromised, populations are at greatest risk, but looking at the 1918 Influenza pandemic, with obvious parallels, the total number of deaths attributed to the influenza in Kansas during 1918, was 2,639 with the largest number of deaths in the 25-29 year old range.
Deanna: How do you think we can impress upon young people that they could be carrying and spreading the virus without knowing it?
April: My daughter is 20 years old and living in Lawrence, she’s heading home now, I asked her what it would take to get her generation to self quarantine and she said food. It is really sad though, this generation is not taking it seriously, but maybe sending them a care pack and letting them know having a one-week supply of food and staying home could save 3 people’s grandparents.
Deanna: How does COVID-19 compare to the regular flu?
April: Covid-19 does not compare to the common flu. While most will run a temperature and have body aches, that is about the only thing in common. There is unfortunately no vaccination for the Coronavirus like we do for the flu and our body does not have immunity for it and has no way to fight off the virus.
Deanna: What are the symptoms of coronavirus?
April: Signs and symptoms for some, are going to be a fever of 102 or higher, dry cough, difficulty breathing and body aches. Now for those that are healthy, they might have slight symptoms or no symptoms at all.
Deanna: If someone has received the flu immunization this year, are they protected from getting coronavirus?
April: Receiving the flu shot does not protect you against the COVID virus. It only protects you against certain, current strains of the flu the CDC thinks will be most prevalent in the current year.
Deanna: Is there a vaccine for COVID-19?
April: The CDC is currently working on an immunization for COVID-19 and a few brave individuals have received the vaccine but at this time we do not know whether that vaccine works. It will probably be a year before that vaccine is available.
Deanna: Some people have tested positive without showing any symptoms, do we know how long it takes for the onset symptoms once exposed?
April: Onset of signs and symptoms typically come on within 5 days. This can be different for everyone, some start out with the dry cough while others start out with the temperature. That’s why during this time we really pay attention to our bodies.
Deanna: How can we flatten the curve to meet the capacity of the health care system?
April: Helping to flatten the curve is key to keeping our loved ones healthy. Listen to the doctors and nurses. That’s the very first thing I would say. We are not here to put fear into your society. We are doing our research. Italy’s hospitals are overran with patients and we can not have that happen in the United States. Please social distance as much as possible, only go out when you absolutely have too; grocery store, work.
Deanna: Store shelves were left bare in the first few hours following the announcement of the first COVID-19 case in Butler County. Do hospitals have enough supplies? Masks, hand sanitizers, etc.
April: Unfortunately hospitals were not prepared for this epidemic. We have supplies and I know that the State of Kansas has supplies locked up and if needed they will allocate supplies to hospitals. Kansas Medical Center and other hospitals have begun reaching out to local companies to donate N95 masks and they have been amazing in donating them to us.
Deanna: What do you recommend someone do if they think they have symptoms of coronavirus?
April: I urge all people showing any symptoms of COVID-19 or have been around anyone showing any symptoms (or have traveled internationally, or on cruise ships or to California, Florida, New York or Washington) to self quarantine for 2 weeks and keep yourself healthy. Use Tylenol for your fever, new study’s show anti-inflammatories can make symptoms worse. Also drink plenty of fluids, electrolyte drinks are helpful. Call your doctor when you need medical advice. Most people will not be tested unless they are seriously ill, so staying home if you are fairly healthy is your best option. Also, it is really important to stay away from anyone over the age of 65 or have any other health issues like asthma, heart conditions or diabetes.
Deanna: What are the best steps to take in order to prevent exposure to coronavirus?
April: Your best steps to keep yourself healthy is to social distance yourself. Wash your hands, use hands sanitizer as much as possible if you are going out in public. This is a tough one for me because I am such a social person, don’t hug people or shake hands. When you are in a public place, like the grocery store try to stay 6 feet away from people. Also do not touch your face with your hands while you are in public. Remember, this is allergy season in Kansas, so not everyone that has a cough has COVID-19, but if you do have a cough, cough into your elbow.
Thank you, April, for taking the time to answer these questions and for helping to keep the public informed with accurate information through your Facebook posts “PSA with your Friendly Nurse April.”