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Ask the Expert: COVID-19

Published in Infectious Diseases, For the Health of It Author: Thomas Math,MD

Coronavirus (COVID-19) is everywhere in the media, online and in our conversations. And yet there is so much that is unknown about it.

To help clear up any confusion — a few days ago we sent out a request for COVID-19 questions on our Facebook page. We’ve taken some of the submissions and forwarded them to Thomas Math, MD, an Infectious Disease Specialist with CentraCare.

Read the Q&A below for Dr. Math’s responses. Some of the text below has been edited for length and clarity.

Q: As you have followed COVID-19 and news about it over the past few months, what have you found most surprising?

Dr. Math: I’ve been surprised how willing most people are to accept personal restrictions and follow the rules of social distancing. It’s amazing how much our behavior and routines have changed in just a few weeks. People are taking this illness seriously and responding in kind.

Q: One question submitted via Facebook asks about ibuprofen and COVID-19. Given what we currently know, should people avoid ibuprofen if someone has a fever, body aches or other flu symptoms?

Dr. Math: First, if people have flu symptoms, they should be in contact with their provider or contact our 24/7 nurse line at 320-200-3200 to learn what next steps to take. Each patient’s health history may require an individual approach.

There was some hypothetical concern that Ibuprofen might worsen COVID infection, interfering which the immune response to it. But this has not been proven and there are no patients who did, in fact, get worse because of Ibuprofen.

The World Health Organization has now changed its stance and does not advise against using ibuprofen anymore.

Q: What is the safest way to get groceries in this time of social distancing? Right now, should people opt for picking up their groceries or having them delivered? Instead of shopping inside the stores?

Dr. Math: That’s difficult to say. If groceries can be delivered, I would prefer that. But if one has to go to the grocery store, keep it short, stay away from other people — if possible, consider using the self-checkout line, don’t touch your face and wash your hands before and afterwards. Or if you can’t wash your hands, use a hand sanitizer.

Q: What is known about long the COVID-19 virus live on surfaces? What should people be doing before, after and while using shopping cart handles, gas pumps or any other items that are consistently handled by different people? Can a virus continue to live on a surface if exposed to freezing temperatures?

Dr. Math: It is believed that the virus can live on cardboard for 24 hours, on metal for 48 hours and on plastic for 72 hours. These, of course, are just average estimates.

Yes, in some circumstances a virus can survive in freezing environments. After you touch a surface or item that was potentially touched by another person, you also can use antiseptic wipes. But still wash your hands. Or — again — if you can't, then wash your hands or use a hand sanitizer.

Q: What news sources do you recommend to keep updated on COVID-19?

Dr. Math: I would favor: