Ask the WGH medical team

Dr. Keith Price

The Times Observer asked the Warren General Hospital medical team to help us get information out to our readers through the COVID-19 FAQ-3. Weekly, we will pose our questions, and your questions, to the experts.

If you would like the Times Observer to submit a question to the WGH medical team, email jsitler@timesobserver.com and we will forward those questions.

Three questions about the coronavirus outbreak

Answers provided by medical team at Warren General Hospital: Joe Akif, Chief Nursing Officer; Michele Welker, RN, Infection Control Nurse; Beth Anderson, RN, Emergency Preparedness Coordinator; Keith Price, MD,Medical Director.

1. My doctor wants me to have lung function testing, where I will blow into a machine that measures how well my lungs work. With the COVID pandemic, is this something I should do now at WGH, or should I wait until it is safer?

Bethany Anderson

The Pulmonary Lab is open for complete lung function testing. All the precautions for COVID-19 will be followed as the Center for Disease Control recommends, and each exam room and all devices used will be thoroughly disinfected after each case.

In fact, Warren General has now restarted elective surgeries. All WGH departments (physical and occupational therapy at Rehab Works, cardiac stress testing, all radiology and imaging modalities, blood work and other lab testing, North Warren Walk-In Clinic, and the Sleep Clinic are fully available, with all recommended COVID precautions in place to ensure patient and staff safety.

As of this date, WGH has had no COVID inpatients since this pandemic started.

2. I’m a 67-year-old heart patient, and COVID-19 could kill me! I worry about coming into the Emergency Room if I have chest pain. Do you think it is safe in light of the coronavirus?

Of course, our emergency room has been functioning throughout the COVID crisis. Thankfully, Warren County has only had 1 positive case for its residents, and, as stated above, Warren General has had no COVID inpatients to date.

Michele Welker

There are many medical conditions that should be seen urgently… like chest pain, stroke symptoms (slurred speech or mouth droop), numerous infections, bad abdominal pain, etc., where prompt treatment can avoid serious, or even deadly, consequences. In emergency rooms throughout the country, as in WGH, many steps are being taken to try to separate any potential COVID patients from folks with symptoms of other health problems, to try to prevent any chance of contamination.

3. I understand a coronavirus mutation has happened, and this form might be worse than the original form from China. Is this true?

In fact, there have been a number of mutations, or changes in the genetic code, to the COVID-19 virus noted by virus experts. Mutations are quite common in the viral world and often they make little difference in the overall nature of the germ. The one currently most publicized (called “D614G”) is now the most common form in the U.S., being a bit different than the original one out of China. This is thought to slightly change the spikes that stick out from the viral body. These spikes seem to be involved in the virus’ ability to infect lung cells. Some think that this mutation could make the virus more infectious… but it is too early to tell. It does not appear that people are any sicker with this form than with the others. The greatest concern now is that this change could decrease the effectiveness of vaccines being developed to fight the virus. But, again, it is too early to tell.

Joe Akif


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