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COVID-19: Separating Fact from Fiction

Lately, it’s hard to turn on the television or open social media without hearing or reading something about the coronavirus or COVID-19. As the pandemic continues to impact the world, there’s a lot of information out there about this new disease.

Joining us now to help separate some of the facts from fiction is Dr. Kurt Kapels, Hospitalist Clinical Director for Columbus Community Hospital.
COVID-19: Separating Fact from Fiction
Kurt Kapels, MD
Dr. Kurt Kapels is the Hospitalist Clinical Director for Columbus Community Hospital. He is a Columbus native and graduate of Lakeview High School. Dr. Kapels completed his undergraduate education at Nebraska Wesleyan, with a Bachelor’s Degree in Biology. He received his medical degree from UNMC where he also completed his Internal Medicine Residency. Prior to joining the Hospitalist Program, Dr. Kapels participated in a research project on TIPS procedure in hepatorenal syndrome at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in the Department of Nephrology. Dr. Kapels is a member of the American Medical Association and the American College of Physicians.

Introduction: This Columbus Community Hospital podcast on COVID-19 recorded on April 10th, 2020. It's another edition of our podcast series, Columbus Community Hospital HealthCast.

Bill Klaproth: Lately it's hard to turn on the television or open social media without hearing or reading something about the Coronavirus or COVID-19. As the pandemic continues to impact the world, there's a lot of information out there about this new disease. So joining us now to help us separate some of the fact from fiction is Dr. Kurt Kapels, Clinical Director of the Hospitalist Program for Columbus Community Hospital. Dr. Kapels, thank you so much for your time. Can we just start off having you give a brief explanation of COVID-19 and what it is?

Dr. Kapels: Sure. Bill, thanks for having me. So COVID-19 stands for Coronavirus disease, 2019. So it's a shortened version of that. And this is the disease process that is caused by this novel strain of Coronavirus. The SARS Covi two virus. So the COVID-19 is the actual disease process itself

Host: And Dr. Kabels, as this virus continues to spread, misinformation is also spreading. So right now let's transition into some true or false questions. All right. Is it true or false that once infected with COVID-19, it can take two to 14 days to show symptoms?

Dr. Kapels: That unfortunately is true. So the incubation period for this particular virus primarily seems to range anywhere from two to 14 days. And that means that it may be that long before you show any symptoms of this illness. If you show any symptoms at all, a large portion of patients will not have any symptoms. And another thing that makes this dangerous is you may still be contagious whether you have symptoms or not, and whether you have yet to display any symptoms. So that unfortunately is true, which makes it all the more than important that people are practicing good hygiene habits, that they're maintaining their social distancing, and that they're really trying to isolate themselves as much as possible in order to try to slow down the spread of this illness.

Host: Right. So you may be talking to a neighbor and they may be experiencing no symptoms, but still they're shedding that virus off.

Dr. Kapels: Correct. And that's how this can spread so easily is you may be spreading it without even knowing it.

Host: And that's why these preventative measures are so important, like proper hand hygiene. So our next true or false hand sanitizer doesn't kill COVID-19 because it's an antibacterial, not an antiviral, true or false?

Dr. Kapels: That appears to be false. So soap and water is still the preferred method of maintaining good hand hygiene. So washing your hands thoroughly with soap and water for at least a minimum of 20 seconds. So scrubbing hard, getting a good lather, maintaining a good wash for at least 20 seconds is preferred. But if that's not available, hand sanitizer, that's at least 60% alcohol would be another good option.

Host: Okay, very good. All right, true or false? Loss of smell or taste is a symptom of COVID-19?

Dr. Kapels: So this one's interesting. This appears to be potentially true. We're noticing more and more across the country that a lot of patients aren't necessarily experiencing just the classic symptoms of COVID. So the most common symptoms being fevers, dry cough, shortness of breath and fatigue. But more and more patients are noticing a loss of smell and nausea is what that's called, or a loss of taste, a Ageusia. So these symptoms are out there. In some cases, these may be the only symptoms that a patient experiences. So if you are noticing those symptoms, call your local provider right away and get some more information about how to move forward.

Host: Right. So fever, dry cough, shortness of breath, those are the big three, right? That we should be watching out for.

Dr. Kapels: Correct. Those appear to be the most common symptoms, but again, there's such a wide spectrum to this illness that it's interesting that people are experiencing anywhere from no symptoms at all to life threatening symptoms. So, when in doubt, call your local provider, we ask that you don't go there in person, go there over the phone and chat with them first and they'll give you some guidance as far as how to move forward.

Host: All right, Dr. Kabels, our next true or false, a vaccine to cure COVID19 is available.

Dr. Kapels: Unfortunately that is false. So as of now, there is no proven vaccine for this Coronavirus disease. Currently there are several vaccines in development. You hear on the news all the time. Companies are working very hard and actually moving very quickly trying to move this process along. But there's a well-documented well-described process for how we make our vaccines, how we give trials to our vaccines, how we assess their efficacy. And so we are just at the beginning stages of that process right now and it could be estimated anywhere from 12 to 18 months before we have an effective vaccine. So it goes back to the importance of social distancing, maintaining good hygiene, limiting your social contacts and limiting contact with other people, hand-washing, all those important things that we've talked about.

Host: Right, absolutely makes sense. So true or false? Because I hear some people say, friends of mine, family going, I'm healthy, we're healthy, we can get together. We don't have to social distance. So true or false, both healthy and sick people should practice social distancing.

Dr. Kapels: That is absolutely true. This is something that everyone should practice. And as we had discussed before, part of what makes this illness so dangerous is you may not have any symptoms, you may feel just fine, but in reality you could be shedding this virus, you could be spreading this to other folks, and even if you are healthy and you don't have any significant symptoms from this, unfortunately the person that you come in contact with may not be so fortunate. And so every person falls on personal responsibility to maintain your social distancing as much as possible and to practice good hygiene.

Host: Absolutely. Makes sense. And we've got to get through this peak, flattening the curve phase and then understand what the recommendations are as we try to re assimilate and get back to some resemblance of a normal life. Correct. Probably not until a vaccine is available. Is that right?

Dr. Kapels: Probably so or until there's some type of proven treatment. And so their studies are underway, testing various types of treatment options. Those are just in the infancy stages right now. So there's a lot of work left to be done. And so we truly are all in this together. This is something that's new for humans. And so we need to be in this together and we need to each take our own responsibility to do our part.

Host: That is right. Okay. True or false children are immune to COVID-19.

Dr. Kapels: That is false. So, there have been plenty of cases unfortunately, described of children who have gotten quite ill and even passed away from this disease. It is a fact that it appears to be, less common in children. So children may have milder symptoms or be less at risk to have severe symptoms, but children unfortunately, can still have severe symptoms and it can become a life threatening process for them.

Host: Right. So children are not immune to COVID-19 parents remember that? Okay. Dr. Kapels true or false, you can boost your immune system and lower your risk of getting COVID-19 by eating sweet potatoes and taking certain vitamins and supplements.

Dr. Kapels: That appears to be false. However, I will say the best way to protect yourself, through any illness really is to maintain a healthy lifestyle. So, it is true that maintaining a healthy weight, maintaining a healthy diet, maintaining healthy blood glucose levels, being active, those are all good things to keep you in good health and drover your chances of becoming ill. But there's been no proven supplements, vitamins, a specific diet plans, those kinds of things that have been shown scientifically to reduce your risk or prevent you from getting this illness.

Host: That's a great point. And there never seems to be a loss for people coming up with these wild ideas. I saw one the other day, people were saying you should do a nasal rinse with salt water to cure COVID-19

Dr. Kapels: And then the age of the internet. They, these things come up quickly.

Host: Yes, that is right. And that's why you're here, Dr. Kapels to help separate fact from fiction. Okay. True or false. The new Coronavirus was deliberately created or released by people.

Dr. Kapels: That is false. There is no evidence that this was manufactured by man or in a lab, that this is any type of bio weapon. Its origins are still being investigated, but it appears that this likely moved from animal species into the human species and most likely from bats it appears. That's being actively investigated as we speak. But there is no evidence that this was created by anyone with any nefarious purpose in mind. That this appears to be a naturally occurring version of this virus.

Host: Right. Who's going to create a virus out of thin air? It just ma. Alright, true or false ordering or buying products shipped from overseas will make a person sick.

Dr. Kapels: That is also false. With the caveat that this illness, this virus can survive on certain surfaces. Some things such as paper and cardboard, it might be more like a day or so, maybe a bit longer. Things like stainless steel or plastics could be a little bit longer, three to five days. So there's different time periods that this virus can survive on different surfaces. But there's been no evidence to show that by ordering something from overseas and it coming in a box that you're at any danger or increased risk of contracting this disease.

Host: Right. And if you do touch something as you've been explaining to us doctor, couples wash your hands, don't touch your face. Easiest way to kill this virus is to wash your hands. And practice good hand hygiene.

Dr. Kapels: Absolutely.

Host: And Dr. Kapels as we wrap up, are there any particular myths that you have heard that you would like to clear the air about?

Dr. Kapels: There's a lot, like we said in the age of the internet, it seems each day there's something new and so as each week comes by I'm sure there'll be new ones. Some of the more interesting ones I've heard lately are you know, the 5G technology connection. That as 5G becomes more prominent, which is basically a way to get faster internet and phone connections, that this is somehow correlated or put you at risk for contracting this illness. There is no evidence whatsoever of that, another one I've seen is drinking tonic water will prevent you from getting this illness. And that's interesting. Tonic water developed as a way for sailors to lower their risk of catching malaria. And it has a chemical called Clymene in it, which is chemically similar to hydroxy chloroquine or chloroquine, which you hear about on the news. Those medications themselves have not been shown, at this point, definitively to help one way or another that's being investigated.

And therefore Clymene doesn't have any evidence to support that. And the amount of that in tonic water is minuscule. And so the amounts of tonic water in theory, if it even did help that you'd have to drink would be by the gallons. And so that would obviously not be advised. And another one that's important is weather, and this maybe isn't so much a rumor, but it's more of speculation. No one knows for sure exactly if warm weather and humidity, how this virus will respond to that. And so it'll be interesting as summer progresses here in the United States. Will that help us to slow this virus as compared to some of its closer cousins, like the original SARS virus. Those were affected somewhat by heat and by humidity. And so we're hopeful that as the weather begins to warm and we start to have more humidity that may help us in our fight against this illness. So those are three of the more common ones I've seen recently. I'm sure there'll be more. But always check your sources, and you know, be in contact with your Doctors, do what you can, do your parts to protect yourself and your family and those around you. And we will get through this together.

Host: That we will. And the perfect way to wrap this up. Dr. Kabels, thank you so much for your time. This has really been informative and thanks for sharing this great information. Thanks again.

Dr. Kapels: Thank you Bill. Appreciate it. Take care.

Host: That's Dr. Kurt Kabels. And for more information about the latest developments with COVID-19, please visit that's And if you found this podcast helpful, please share it on your social channels and check out the entire podcast library for topics of interest to you. This is Columbus Community Hospital Healthcasts from Columbus Community Hospital. I'm Bill Klaproth. Thanks for listening.