Source: The News-Enterprise

While Hardin County has been living with the reality of COVID-19 for more than two months since the first diagnosed case, some things about the illness can be confusing.

With many stores and restaurants reopening, local health officials have some reminders about why caution still is necessary.

Dr. Thomas Hustead, medical director of Baptist Health Hardin Medical Group, said COVID-19 still is a new disease and more is learned about it and its symptoms each day.

“What we do know is that it affects different people in different ways with a wide range of symptoms — from mild symptoms to severe illness,” he said. “Some people are nearly asymptomatic and experience little to no symptoms and others experience very mild respiratory symptoms like fever, body aches and cough.”

Others can struggle with more severe respiratory symptoms, he said. These are symptoms such as fever, cough and significant shortness of breath.

Terrie Burgan, public information officer with the Lincoln Trail District Health Department, said the Centers for Disease Control recently increased the symptoms for the virus to include chills, muscle pain, sore throat and new loss of taste or smell.

“Gastrointestinal symptoms are also very common among the clients we interview for contact tracing,” Burgan said.

Hustead said Hardin Memorial encourages patients who have worsening symptoms to call their health care provider or the nurses at the Baptist Health Hardin patient symptom hotline at 270-979-7777. Those sources can help someone know if they need further care or testing.

In some patients, the COVID-19 virus can become severe with significant lung issues causing shortness of breath and a need for supplemental oxygen, Hustead said. The biggest risk factors are for those age 65 and older, and those with underlying heart, lung, kidney, liver and conditions which decrease the immune system.

“Very rarely, in the most critical cases, this virus causes our lungs to fail as well as dysfunction in other organs such as the heart, kidneys and liver,” he said. “It can even cause a syndrome which promotes clotting that can cause clots in our veins and lungs as well as potential heart attacks and stroke which leads to very serious illness and even death.”

Because of the potential for mild or serious illness, caution still is needed, even with the reopening of the community, Burgan said. This is especially true as people gather during Memorial Day.

“It is very important to remember that COVID-19 is still a viable threat,” Burgan said. “People should take every precaution to prevent the spread of COVID-19 among friends and loved ones.”

These precautions continue to include physical distancing, wearing a cloth facial mask and washing hands for at least 20 seconds with warm soap and water, she said.

“This guidance is especially important since restrictions regarding small gatherings of 10 people or less, restaurants, retail, the state travel band and others are being lifted,” Burgan said.