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Cleveland doctor answers questions about coronavirus

What are the symptoms? Should I avoid travel as spring break approaches? Why are schools closing?

CLEVELAND, Ohio (WKYC) — Many of you have questions and concerns about the coronavirus.

We get it.

That's why WKYC brought in Dr. Stephen Sroka from Case Western Reserve University to answer questions — including an extended 20-minute Q&A on Facebook and YouTube live, which you can watch in its entirety here.

Below is a list of his responses to some of the questions.

QUESTION: What symptoms should I watch for?

Dr. Sroka: Not everybody has the same response because they have a different immune system…The big ones, to me, are the fever that’s sustained, a cough and the big one is if you can’t breathe. If you are at home and you can’t breathe, you need to be talking to your provider. We’re suggesting you don’t run to your doctor’s office where other sick people are going to be, but call up your health care provider to get their advice and they can help determine whether or not you need to pursue testing.

QUESTION: When it comes to travel, should I cancel my spring break vacation?

Dr. Sroka: Do you think the virus could be in Florida? You really want to watch your social distance. Getting on a plane is not a good idea. You’re going to be with people from all around the country bringing in their regional viruses…I think it’s a good time to act preventively, proactively. OK, you lost this spring break, but you’ll feel better. If this virus takes off, what would happen if you went to Florida and got sick? Your providers are up here, there’s a lot of things to think about. Let’s be around next year to take that spring break.

QUESTION: What is the benefit of closing K-12 schools at this point?

Dr. Sroka: I think it’s really important to be cautious at this time. Things change fast. The President last night was a different person than he was two days ago. We’ve already shut down schools this year because of the flu. Now we have a disease that Dr. Fauci said is maybe 10 times more lethal than the flu. Although we know many of our kids don’t seem to be impacted, about 80 percent of people who do get this, it’s very mild and an asymptomatic transmission. Theoretically, a child could get it, go home and kiss their grandmother who is an older person that’s compromised. We need to be proactive not reactive. Sometimes it makes sense to do some of these things. We tell people to stay away from crowds, and then we stick our kids in school. What’s the message we’re really going to give them? We know what we need to do: Stay away from people and keep some distance. Schools right now, if they do stay open, it’s a tough decision. We’re suggesting they be at least three feet away from each other. But kids are kids. They’re going to share boogers. They’re going to share hands. They’re going to share food. That’s why we’ve shut down the schools because of the flu. We need to have some common sense. We make our best decisions today on data-driven disease information, and that’s what we’re going to do today. It could all change tomorrow. Why do we want to experiment with an adolescent population?

QUESTION: We’re not supposed to shake hands for now, but is it still safe to do the elbow bump?

Dr. Sroka: Now we’re saying social distancing is huge. The three-foot virtual bump is probably a better way to do it.

QUESTION: When should I go to the doctor?

Dr. Sroka: I ask people, "What would you do if you got the flu?" I think we just need some common sense here. We don’t go out with other people. We don’t try to spread the virus. We take care of ourselves. We don’t go out in large groups, we stay at home. When you get to a place where you really can’t breathe, you’ve got a fever and you’re really coughing, that’s a good time to not go to the emergency room or the hospital, but call your doctor. Let them make a decision. Many of us are going to get sick and have these symptoms, but the big one is the fever.

QUESTION: Why are mass gatherings now being canceled for coronavirus, but not the flu?

Dr. Sroka: The flu has always been a concern, but as we know, this thing changes day by day. This is a data-driven disease. We know with Dr. Fauci saying just yesterday that this disease is probably 10 times more lethal than the flu. He says at this point, it is possibly even more contagious. We have a real heightened awareness now…We need to be prudent. Things change fast.

QUESTION: Will this get worse?

Dr. Sroka: There is no question it’s going to get worse because we’re just starting to test it. We know it’s out there. We have to brace people for it. It will get worse. How worse? We don’t know. We’ll ride it out. We know everything you would do to prevent the flu, and that’s what we should be doing now – but maybe 10 times stronger.

QUESTION: Should we be concerned going into gyms or rec centers?

Dr. Sroka: I think the questions to ask right now is if you go to that gym, what type of ventilation do they have? Do they have disinfecting? Social distancing is pretty big right now. We’re seeing schools be at least three feet away, and others saying at least six feet away. If you’re spotting somebody at the gym and somebody’s breathing down on you, that’s not a good condition. Many people go to the gym when they’re sick because they want to work through that sickness, which can put you at risk. You can take a day or two off and work out in the basement…When you’re in the gym, you’re picking up other peoples’ equipment. Who is wiping it down? You’ve been there. I’ve been there. Many people don’t wipe it down.

QUESTION: We're in flu season as we also deal with coronavirus. What should we keep in mind?

Dr. Sroka: The World Health Organization says we have a pandemic, but we also have another concern out there, which could possibly be even more dangerous, and that’s the panic-demic. People are making decisions based on fear and not facts. We have to have data-driven disease information. We can’t just speculate. I think I can release a lot of fears because we know what we need to do to prevent this…Any one of us can take charge to stop this transmission. This virus can only get into your body one of three ways: Your eyes, your nose, your mouth.