Covid-19 is an emerging infection that we are learning more about by the day. It's not something that is going to go away, and some things may permanently change because of it.
I'm an ER nurse, so I've seen this first hand. It's a bizarre disease. It can affect the lungs, heart, kidneys, digestive tract, brain, skin and other organs. New presentations are popping up daily.
At this time, although most kids don't seem to be too badly affected (although quite a few have died), the main issue seems to be that 10 days to 2 weeks after they recover they are developing Kawasaki syndrome.
The most typical presentation is cough and fever, which can progress very quickly to shortness of breath. Noninvasive measures such as Bipap aerosolize the virus and should only be done in negative pressure rooms, which there are not many of. Even nebulizer treatments broadcast the virus, so we have stopped using them on anyone and are giving up to 7 puffs of an albuterol inhaler using a spacer device.
Interestingly enough, there is a second group which does not develop shortness of breath. Never in my career have I ever had a calm conversation with someone whose oxygen saturation was 50% (normal is 98 to 100%). These people don't have a sensation of not getting enough air, they simply don't have enough oxygen in their bloodstream. This is very difficult to treat, because unlike with most severe respiratory infections the problem isn't getting enough oxygen into the lungs, it's that it's not being absorbed from the lungs. The term is "happy hypoxia". These people decompensate very quickly, because they don't feel bad until their other organs are affected by the lack of oxygen. They don't have high CO2 levels, which is usually what triggers the feeling of being short of breath. It's truly bizarre.
The most dangerous time seems to be 7 to 10 days after symptom onset; that's when cytokine storm can occur, which is an overreaction by your body's immune system that attacks organs.
We're seeing a lot of incidental findings of Covid-19 in people who are in the ER for completely unrelated reasons, for example trauma patients who show the typical ground glass opacities in their lungs on CT. People with heart attacks whose xray shows they have it. People with abdominal pain whose CT shows they have it. We have begun to assume that everyone who walks in is infected with coronavirus.
People are also presenting with nausea,vomiting and/or diarrhea; they are presenting with stroke like symptoms, with confusion, with kidney failure, with pericarditis, with rashes; you name it, Covid-19 causes it. Many of them have no respiratory symptoms at all.
Furthermore, the percentage of deaths worldwide seems to be between 2 and 5%. Seasonal flu is 0.1%. But the bigger problem is that recovery takes months, and many people will have permanent damage to lungs, heart, or kidneys. Many young people are winding up not dying, but becoming more or less permanently disabled. Relapses are also fairly common .
Masks are mainly helpful when everyone wears them. They decrease the number of viral particles that are spread when an infected person speaks, coughs or even breathes. Masks (other than respirators) protect other people from you, since you are highly infectious before symptoms start and shed virus for an unknown amount of time after. I wear a mask to protect you, you wear a mask to protect me.
So basically, don't panic, but be careful. Use your mask, social distance, wash or sanitize your hands, stay home if you're sick, and see a doctor if you're really sick.