There is light at the end of the tunnel — and I don‘t think it‘s a freight training coming at us. A drug has received approval from the FDA for use in patients who are extremely ill with the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes the COVID-19 illness. It‘s a slight improvement over placebo but it‘s definitely a start.
And this is the right way to do things. Rather than rushing out to use something just because it might work based on unproven assumptions, we‘re starting to see the results of properly done studies to guide us in the safest and best direction for treatment. Other anti-viral drugs are being looked at in other studies. We can expect to see those results soon. There are also trials looking at some of the anti-inflammatory medications used for gout, Crohn‘s disease and rheumatoid arthritis. COVID-19 can make us extremely sick on its own but sometimes our body over-reacts — the so called “cytokine storm” — and these medications are aimed at taming that response.
So, as predicted, Canada is slowly coming back to a new normal. Less affected provinces and communities will lead the way. We will watch and learn from their experience as Ontario and Quebec, the two provinces hit the hardest, follow.
Remember that whatever restrictions are lifted, it‘s still a wise policy to maintain social distancing; wash your hands and disinfect commonly touched surfaces on a regular basis. By the way, are you the only person using your cell phone? Something to consider but follow the manufacturer‘s recommendations so you don‘t get into trouble cleaning it.
With respect to masks, I think we can assume that they will become the new norm for now much as they have been in Asia for many years. Remember to avoid touching the mask; wash your hands when you do and after you put the mask on and take it off. Any mask is only as good as the person using it and similarly, wearing a mask doesn’t replace all the other safety precautions.
I would also like to take this opportunity to memorialize the guiding spirit behind emergency medicine as a medical specialty in Canada. Dr. Edmond Monaghan died in his 91st year April 24. Ed was a great surgeon, teacher and mentor. Among the many accomplishments for which he deserves to be remembered is his creation of the first Emergency Medicine Specialty Training program in Canada (and what was either the 2nd or 3rd in all of North America depending on who you ask).
Many of the specialists treating you across Canada and indeed throughout the world are the products of the training program he established. He will be sorely missed but his spirit lives on in those of us who were trained by him. I am looking forward to McGill University honouring his achievements in the way that they deserve.
Dr Mitch Shulman is an Associate Professor in the Department of Emergency Medicine at McGill Medical School as well as an Attending Physician in the Emergency Department of the McGill University Health Centre. He’s also the CJAD AM 800 Medical Consultant.