Doctors in Nakusp are warning residents to protect themselves from the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
While there’s no sign of the virus in the Arrow Lakes area yet, they say it won’t take much for the system here to get overloaded when it does arrive.
Nakusp, says one doctor, has limited resources to manage the virus’ spread.
“The virus is out there, it is going to spread, it is going to go through our communities,” says Dr. Craig Courchesne, a doctor with the Saddle Mountain Medical Clinic. “The key thing now is preventing a very rapid spike in cases that will overwhelm our medical system.”
Courchesne and the village’s other doctors issued a joint statement on Facebook Monday, asking residents not to run to the doctor if they simply feel ill from a flu.
While there is increasing concern about the virus, the doctors say not everyone is going to get tested if they are stuffed up or have a headache.
“The only people we are testing now are people sick enough that they need to be hospitalized, health care workers and people in residential facilities,” he says. “We don’t want anyone coming to the clinic or hospital for testing if they are having minor respiratory symptoms because that will put more people at risk.”
Local treatment limited
Courchesne notes that testing doesn’t really help control or stop the spread of the virus on the ground.
“Right now it is purely academic,” he notes. “It doesn’t change the course of action of the virus, and it doesn’t change what we can do for people. It just gives data of where the virus is.
“So for our community, they’re not doing any favours for themselves or others to come in and have testing done.”
Courchesne also points out there’s no treatment for the illness, especially for mild or moderate cases.
Should there be a case of the virus that requires medical treatment, Courchesne says it’s most likely the patient would be medevaced to Trail, Kelowna or another major centre.
“And even in Trail, we have seven ICU beds, so I can tell you how quickly those will fill up,” he says.
Courchesne points out Arrow Lakes Hospital is already working under reduced capacity.
“Because of our construction we have very limited capacity,” he says. “We are not able to put anyone on ventilators… and I think we have two open in-patient beds at the hospital right now. Overwhelming us would be incredibly easy to do.”
His advice for anyone concerned: isolate yourself.
“Do not congregate in groups, don’t visit anyone or have visitors,” he says. His biggest concern is for seniors.
“There’s no immunity to this virus right now,” he says. “It will spread around, and it’s a problem in the over-70 population where the mortality is higher.”
But, Courchesne emphasizes, there is no need for panic.
“People need to be aware of things that put them at risk, and things that are safe to do,” he says.
You can find more information on what’s safe at the BC Centre for Disease Control’s website.
Locally, Courchesne’s clinic has begun taking phone appointments to keep as many people at home as possible.