Brook is committed to bringing you up-to-date and accurate info about COVID-19. Brook Health Director Heather King interviewed Dr. Bryant Lin (virtually of course!) to answer some common questions and concerns about the current pandemic.
Bryant Lin, MD, Clinical Associate Professor, Stanford University, Primary Care Doctor at Stanford Internal Medicine Clinic, and member of Brook’s Medical Advisory Board
Thanks for speaking with me today, Dr. Lin. This certainly is a different world than it was just a couple of weeks ago.
Everything is changing very quickly, including our understanding of COVID-19 and how to manage both the disease and the pandemic.
What questions are your own patients asking you about COVID-19 right now?
I am still seeing patients daily, only now we are using telehealth appointments. Many patients are asking about testing – should they get tested, and what should they do if they think they might be sick with the coronavirus.
I recommend testing if someone has fever or shortness of breath. But please, please call your doctor or clinic BEFORE coming in. Most clinics are offering a nurse hotline to field these questions right now. They will help you figure out if you actually need to be tested. They will also provide guidelines for how you should come into the clinic without putting other people at risk for infection.
What about wearing a mask for protection?
A lot of my patients are also asking about masks. Masks are not recommended for prevention outside the hospital or clinic. If you do have symptoms, however, a mask may keep other people around you from becoming exposed. However, if you have symptoms, your first order of business should be to call your clinic or doctor, not to focus on getting a mask.
What is one recommendation you would offer to all of your patients right now?
It’s never too late to get your flu (influenza) vaccine, so if you don’t have one, please go and get one. The flu vaccine doesn’t prevent COVID-19, but the flu virus is still going strong right now, and the vaccine can help you avoid the flu.
Interestingly, we are seeing up to a 20% co-infection rate between the flu and other respiratory infections and COVID-19, which means that up to 1 in 5 people with COVID-19 also have influenza. We don’t have a vaccine for COVID-19 yet, but we do have one for the flu, so please protect yourself.
Also, wash your hands. Really well. Then wash them again.
Are there any other vaccines you recommend right now?
Adults should check out the recommendations for the pneumovax (pneumonia vaccine), and talk to their doctor if they are eligible for the vaccine but have not received one. Here are the pneumovax recommendations from the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention): https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vpd/pneumo/index.html
What about cleaning your home? It seems like antiviral cleaning supplies are in short supply.
One interesting thing about viruses and bacteria is that they are likely susceptible to friction. Studies have shown that hand washing with soap and water with good friction for twenty seconds is much more effective than washing for a short time with running water and soap. The same is true for cleaning your home – you can use any cleaning product even simple soap and water. Every wipe of a surface results in an extra 10 to 30 times reduction in the number of viruses and bacteria. Extra “elbow grease” will significantly reduce risk of viruses staying on a surface and thus transmitting an infection.
Do you have any special advice for people with chronic diseases, such as diabetes?
My number one piece of advice is to continue to have regular interaction with your doctor. Most docs and clinics are providing telehealth options right now, so you don’t even need to leave home to check in with them. Call your clinic for more information on this option.
If you have diabetes, it is more important than ever to maintain really good blood sugar control. Based on what we know about how most infections affect people with diabetes, poor blood control likely increases your risk for having poorer outcomes from COVID-19 if you do end up contracting the disease.
So, again, keep in contact with your doctor, and practice good daily habits to maintain your blood sugar control.
Speaking of all of those daily habits, how do you see Brook helping out with that right now?
Maintaining contact with support systems is so important for people right now. Brook offers current, vetted health information that its members can rely on, as well as live support every day. Trust is important right now, since there is so much information and advice out there right now, and not all of it is sound. Brook is an important go-to resource for members during this time.
We appreciate you taking the time to share your knowledge and recommendations with all of us, Dr. Lin. Thank you, and please take good care.
You are most welcome. Thank you for doing what you are doing to help people out, and you stay safe as well.
Responses were edited for length and clarity.
We understand that there’s a lot of information and, unfortunately, misinformation going around right now. Google and Facebook can be a scary place. Brook’s medical board and team of health experts are working to sift through the information to bring you what’s pertinent, important, and true.
Reach out to our team of Experts any day of the week for questions or support.
Interview done by Heather King, MS, RDN, CDE
on March 20, 2020. Heather is a Certified Diabetes Educator, has been a Registered Dietitian for over 12 years and is Brook's Health Director.