Doctors learn from first positive COVID-19 case

Local News

MATTOON, Ill. (WCIA) — Despite those lingering COVID-19 concerns, everyone is adapting to a new normal.

The first positive Coronavirus case in central Illinois was reported at Sarah Bush Lincoln Health Center in Mattoon, and doctors say they were prepared as they could ever be to handle the situation.

“For those of you who played football as a kid, that first hit you get in a football game makes you feel like the tension drains out of you, like the anxiety drains out of you; and now we’re just here to do a job, and it felt a little bit like that to me,” Dr. James Hildebrandt said.

Sarah Bush Lincoln administrator Dr. James Hildebrandt said he expressed a sense of relief, knowing his medical staff was as prepared as they could ever be to keep the virus from spreading.

They got the call in the middle of March that someone was coming in to be tested, a plan was already in place, and extra precautions were taken to ensure the virus wouldn’t spread any further to patients or staff members.

Five months later, the United States has confirmed more than 5,000,000 cases.

Compare that to more than 12,000 people killed and 274,000 hospitalized from H1N1 from 2009 to 2010.

At least 100,000 people were killed from the flu pandemic in 1968, and a third of the world’s population was infected by the flu pandemic with 675,000 killed in 1918.

Dr. Hildebrandt says current COVID-19 restrictions are certainly justified to saving lives and curbing the spread.

“Last year we had about 34,000 people that there were estimated to die from Influenza. During the 2009 pandemic, the numbers were significantly higher than that, but still aren’t approaching what we’re seeing in a few months of COVID. So, the overall impacts is much higher,” Dr. Hildebrandt said.

Sarah Busch Lincoln is one of the first health care facilities in central Illinois to report a positive COVID-19 test, and since then, people have been stopping by testing sites every day to get checked. One of the biggest takeaways in the last few months is that masks work to preventing the spread.

“When I wear a mask, it’s really a statement of my respect for you and the other people around me, more so than it is to protect myself. It does both. It does protect me and protect you,” Dr. Hildebrandt said.

Dr. Hildebrandt said medical experts at Sarah Bush are learning more about the virus daily, including those long-term effects like: fever, vision problems, burning skin, exhaustion, hair loss, brain fog and even shortness of breath.

Dr. Hildebrandt confirms that new studies have even indicated the Coronavirus is affecting men differently than women.

“Men are definitely more affected. I’m not sure if they get infected more often. I think the case attack rates were pretty similar for each gender, but they get sicker and they die more often than females do,” Dr. Hildebrandt said.

Doctors have learned so much in the last few months about COVID-19, but many of those questions remain unanswered as medical experts investigate new information daily, like whether we’re immune from the virus after recovering.

“It’s still an area of investigation and controversy, but your best evidence is that you’re probably protected from Coronavirus after you have it and you recover, at least for a few months,” Dr. Hildebrandt said.

Many areas are starting to see an uptick in cases while some regions are remaining stable. If you’d like to track an area’s progress, you can visit the Illinois Department of Health’s website by clicking here.

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