The Benefits of Concierge Medicine in the age of COVID-19

Concierge medicine allows patients to build strong relationships with their doctor through extended visits and more personalized care. Having a doctor who truly knows you, and who you can call on when you need them may have seemed like a luxury in the past. With the COVID-19 pandemic having become a ‘normal’ part of our lives, it has never been more important for patients to have easy access to trusted care when they need it the most. 

Across the country, medical facilities and doctors offices are playing catch-up in order to bring patients back up to date on routine checkups and preventive screening.  During the peak of the pandemic, healthcare providers were spread thin with regard to time and resources. In addition, patients were less likely to go for routine medical services due to social distancing, quarantine and isolation requirements. As a result, there is still a backlog of patients that are behind on basic medical care including sick visits, regular annual checkups, and preventive screenings. Healthcare practices are continuously making adjustments in order to ensure that these patient’s needs are being met.  Implementation of new technologies in the healthcare systems such as telemedicine have helped but that’s not enough. Clearly the pandemic has demonstrated that concierge medical practices, as early adopters of telemedicine technology and as providers that eliminate barriers to communication, are able to meet patients’ needs in a more efficient manner. The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the benefits of having a personalized relationship with your physician.  During a crisis such as the pandemic, research has shown that concierge medicine reduces hospitalization rates and produces better clinical outcomes.

 

Benefits of Concierge Medicine during the age of COVID-19

 Fewer Patients, Longer Appointment Times

According to the American Academy of Private Physicians (AAPP), estimates have shown that a traditional primary care physician in the United States maintains between 2,000 – 4,000 patients. On a daily basis a GP sees 25 patients or more, giving approximately 15 minutes per patient. Practically speaking, this isn’t feasible with the given time constraints, patients queries are left unanswered, resulting in an unsatisfied patient experience. This is why concierge practices are different.

 In comparison, AAPP notes that since concierge practitioners have a smaller group of patients (around 600 patients) it allows them to dedicate more time to individual patients. This helps in establishing a rapport between the doctor and patients which goes much deeper than the normal screening or even a checkup routine.

 Avoid Crowded Areas

Nobody wants to spend time in a crowded wait room with the looming thought of contracting the COVID-19 virus. Even before the pandemic, concierge medical practices focused on keeping practice sizes small, eliminating the concept of a busy waiting room. 

 24/7 Access to your Physician

The data is clear that patients with multiple comorbid conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease or respiratory illness are at higher risk for complications associated with COVID-19 infections.  Having 24-7 access to your concierge provider will certainly be beneficial and likely improve overall clinical outcomes in these patients, as acute illness or worsening chronic conditions will be addressed more quickly and efficiently. In many cases clinical concerns can be answered by cell phone or telemedicine encounters, from the comfort of your own home.

Looking to Concierge Practices for a Solution

Based on the current interest and demand for concierge physicians, particularly during the pandemic and as we move out of the pandemic, we now know that concierge medical practices will continue to thrive long after the pandemic comes to an end.  It is clear that patients now see the value and benefits of this type of doctor-patient relationship and see concierge medicine as a solution to the limitations of the current state of medical care. To become part of our concierge practice and take full advantage of the benefits of concierge medicine in Atlanta, Georgia, book an online appointment for a consultation with our doctors at Buckhead Medicine. Follow us on Instagram and Facebook for more insightful updates and posts. 

Why are Obese People at a Higher Risk for COVID-19?

It is common knowledge that the pandemic has contributed to a significant number of people gaining weight. With several lockdowns, self-isolating and working from home many people have begun stress eating, having minimal to no exercise and erratic sleep schedules. Additionally, self-isolation is prompting many to rely on processed food with longer shelf life instead of fresh produce, and canned food, which increases the intake of sodium. All these factors inevitably contribute to weight gain and although you may not have COVID-19, factors like these can make you sick.

While gaining a few extra pounds is completely normal and mostly doesn’t affect your health, excessive weight gain can have the opposite effect. A recent survey conducted by the American Psychological Association showed that 42% of US adults have experienced undesired weight gain during the pandemic, with an average gain of 29 pounds. However, did you know that obesity-related conditions seem to put people at a higher risk for COVID-19? 

The Impact of Obesity on COVID-19

There have been several reports and studies conducted indicating obesity to be a strong factor for becoming seriously ill with COVID-19. A study in France conducted on 124 patients admitted to the ICU said that 75.8% of the patients were obese and indicated a high incidence of obesity among patients admitted for COVID-19. These patients also required invasive mechanical ventilation (IMV), which is meant to assist or replace breathing in patients due to their inability to do so. Additionally, further studies concluded that obesity was a major risk factor for the severity of COVID-19 in a group of patient’s metabolic associated fatty liver disease (MAFLD). 

A study from Rhode Island, USA showed that there is a strong association between obesity and disease severity. The study was conducted on 103 adult patients who were admitted with COVID-19 to the hospital. It was concluded that patients with extreme obesity, those with a body mass index (BMI) greater than 35kg, are at a high risk of severe COVID-19. 

A similar study was conducted by New York University health center on 3615 COVID-19 patients. The study showed that younger, positive symptomatic patients (below the age of 60 with a BMI greater than 30kg) who visited the hospital were more than twice likely to be admitted and develop critical illness compared to patients with a BMI less than 30kg. The likelihood of admission to ICU increased to 3.6 times in patients with severe obesity. It was concluded that after age, obesity was the single most important factor for hospitalized patients with COVID-19. Similarly, many other studies were conducted to signify the increased threat of COVID-19 on people with obesity. Some even go to say that obesity increases the risk of mortality in patients. Now, with the increase in state and worldwide vaccinations taking place, it is advised to get vaccinated at the earliest. Are you confused about the many vaccines available? Read Which COVID-19 vaccine is the best on our blog. 

What Can You do to Keep Your Weight in Check?

As opposed to the past, obesity is now not recognized as a lifestyle choice but it is recognized in medicine and globally as a chronic disease. When a patient is diagnosed with a disease or a chronic condition, they are advised to seek out professional medical help. Similarly, people struggling with weight issues or obesity should do the same. Getting the appropriate care and support is as important as following a strict and structured diet. 

In simpler cases, all you need to do is take a step back and assess the lifestyle changes that you wish to make during this stressful time. You can pre-plan meals, eat a lot of fruits, vegetables, cut down on starch, eat lean protein and produce. It is also important to have plenty of water and stay hydrated. A glass of water before a meal and 30 minutes after a meal, can greatly take the edge off your hunger. Following such a diet and sticking to it could make you feel full and help prevent cravings and unnecessary eating. 

Following other simple principles could greatly benefit you as well. For example, before grocery shopping, make a list of all your necessities and stick to it. It also helps if you go shopping on a full stomach so that you are not tempted to unnecessarily splurge. Impulse buying can lead to binge eating and other unhealthy habits. A very handy trick to tell the difference between genuine hunger and cravings is that hunger builds gradually while cravings are specific and often spontaneous.

There are many nutritionists and professionals you can visit to gain knowledge on the appropriate diets, exercise, surgeries and medication you can take. At Buckhead Medicine, our healthcare professionals can assist with your weight loss strategies to ensure they are safe and effective. You can reach out to our office to secure an appointment that suits your schedule. We will guide you through your fitness journey to ensure you remain healthy. We tackle all the arena’s of weight loss from diet, exercise, implementing good habits and even prescribing FDA approved medication that can help you lose weight. To book an online consultation with doctors in Atlanta, Georgia, contact Buckhead Medicine. You can also schedule an appointment and visit our medical practice for routine check-ups, to know more about our weight loss program. Follow us on Facebook and Instagram to know more about how our team of doctors can help. 

What you need to know about the Allergic Reactions to the COVID-19 Vaccine

Individuals all over the globe are in the process of currently getting their dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. While these various types of authorized vaccines are a breakthrough in a bid to control the spread of the infection, there have been reported side effects. While this is an expected occurrence, a small percentage of people have also witnessed allergic reactions. We help rectify your doubts about these side effects and what distinguishes them from allergic reactions based on the information we are acquainted with today.

The usual side effects that arise

To begin with, the basic objective of a vaccine involves getting your body to build immunity so that it can identify the targeted virus and produce antibodies to fight it. During this process, it is normal for an individual to experience minor side effects. These side effects have a tendency to affect your everyday activities and can include fever and fatigue. However, they usually disappear after a few days. 

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), mild side effects such as pain, swelling, irritation or redness at the site of the injection are common. Fever is also a resulting side effect. Other than this, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that you can also feel nausea, fatigue, tiredness, muscle pain, headache and chills. 

Severe allergic reactions 

Allergic reactions do not just vanish like minor side effects. If you suffer an immediate allergic reaction (within four hours of getting vaccinated), discuss this reaction with your doctor before moving forward with the second vaccine, even if the initial reaction was mild and did not need prompt medical care. This is because there is a small possibility that an individual can have more severe side effects. There is every likelihood that these side effects may actually be a severe allergy. The reaction could be a result of either one or more of the ingredients present in the vaccine. The allergic reactions can cause hives or other kinds of skin rash, respiratory symptoms, wheezing, lip or tongue swelling and throat swelling. 

Reports suggest that allergic reactions are more frequently reported in women than men. A study by CDC researchers state that 78.7% of adverse event reports submitted through the first month of U.S vaccination included women. In fact, anaphylaxis is more common in women than men. However, regardless of gender, if the side effects you experience do not subside after a few days, it is imperative to get in touch with a medical professional. Furthermore, if the redness or tenderness where you are injected gets worse after 24 hours, consult your doctor. 

Anaphylaxis: A severe allergic reaction 

A small number of people are also found to develop a severe allergic reaction known as anaphylaxis. This very rare side effect can cause difficulty in breathing, low blood pressure and nausea. If you get a severe reaction after the first shot, do not get the second one. 

Successful mRNA vaccines (either Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech) come with a chemical known as polyethylene glycol (PEG) which can trigger anaphylaxis. This ingredient has never before been used in a vaccine so it is vital to seek medical assistance in case you have an allergy. You can classify an allergic reaction as severe if an individual needs to head to the hospital or has to be treated with an EpiPen or epinephrine. 

What you need to know

While you do your research on the best type of Covid-19 vaccine, make certain that the vaccine is administered in a health care setup that makes treating anaphylaxis possible. After getting an injection, the individual needs to be put under observation for at least 15-30 minutes to analyze whether there is a link between allergies and coronavirus vaccines. If you have a recognized history of a severe allergic reaction to a component in a vaccine, do not take the mRNA and adenovirus vaccine. There is a component present in the Johnson & Johnson vaccine known as Polysorbate 80. This component can also be a leading factor that results in anaphylaxis. Polysorbate 80  also has the potential to cross react with polyethylene glycol (PEG) which can also be responsible for the severe allergic reaction. 

Patients with allergic reactions to polyethylene glycol (PEG) can be considered for the adenovirus vector vaccine. CDC states that the adenovirus vector vaccine can be an alternative rather than going in for a second dose of an mRNA vaccine. People with common allergies to insects, inhalants, latex, medications and foods need to be informed about the potential side effects the vaccine can cause although they are not more likely than the general public to experience allergies. 

On the whole, the vaccine is safe for administration as long as it is performed by the right professionals that can help you in case a medical emergency does arise. If you do need immediate assistance with regards to the COVID-19 vaccine or are looking for further information about side effects and allergic reactions, get in touch with us. We are currently offering COVID vaccines for new and existing patients in Georgia, Atlanta.

You May Not Have COVID, but is the Pandemic Making You Sick?

Since the pandemic has been in existence for over a year, most of us have become used to the ‘new normal.’ For some, that means working and studying from home, with research showing that people now clock in more hours of work than ever before!

With work-life balance being interrupted, outdoor activities being limited, fatigue and chronic stress issues on the rise, and lack of contact with the people and activities that bring us joy, a lot of us are knowingly or unknowingly falling victim to the pandemic, even though we may not have contacted COVID-19.

Ripple Effects of the Pandemic

To add to some of the issues we’ve faced on a personal level, many of us have had to deal with socio-economic crises  as well – with job losses, loss of the lives of people we’ve known, political tensions, recession and more. Here are some of the ways in which COVID-19 has impacted our lives, whether we’ve realised it or not.

Mental health:

We all know how difficult it can be, being confined in the same house for months on end. Feelings of isolation, fear, anger, sadness, worry, numbness and frustration are completely normal, however, over time, it can have a significant impact on mental health. Difficulty concentrating, physical symptoms such as headaches and stomach problems, and the use of alcohol and tobacco, all contribute to declining mental wellbeing. Issues at home such as clashes with family members and domestic violence with no possibility of escape are all important contributors.

Additionally, with children being home for most of the pandemic, it is an additional stress to home-school them and make sure they attend all of their online classes, while also finishing housework and professional commitments. Now with some schools re-opening, the stress hasn’t reduced with the constant worry for your child’s safety. These, and several other problems leaves you feeling tired, irritable, confused, anxious and stressed, with no time to recuperate.

For older adults, living alone for months on end is a matter of personal safety. The deprivation of companionship often triggers anxiety and leaves one feeling lonely and depressed. It is common knowledge that mental stressors manifest in physical symptoms too, like hairfall, disturbed sleep, elevated blood pressure and heart palpitations. 

Physical Health

All through the pandemic, gyms, stadiums, pools, dance and fitness studios, parks etc have been off-limits. Individuals, therefore, haven’t been able to participate in regular physical activity outside of their homes. This has led to adopting a much more sedentary lifestyle, with more screen time, irregular sleep patterns, and unhealthy diets leading to cholesterol problems, high blood pressure, diabetes, coronary heart disease and weight gain. All these have had an impact on our immune systems by exacerbating existing diseases that have their roots in a sedentary lifestyle. To combat some of the issues brought about by weight gain, Buckhead Medicine’s weight loss program takes into account your condition and prescribes FDA approved medications which may help reduce weight for some patients.

How to Improve Your Mental and Physical Health

  • Stay active: It is essential to get at least an hour or more of exercise daily. It not only helps you maintain your physical health and prevent chronic illnesses, but it also helps improve your mental health by reducing anxiety, depression and negative mood by improving self-esteem and cognitive function. For those whose home life can involve long periods of sitting, there may be options to be more active during the day, for example by stretching, doing housework, climbing stairs or dancing to music. 
  • Eat healthy: It is important to have a nutritious diet, consisting of fruits and vegetables equally. Drinking plenty of water and getting a good night’s sleep is also vital.
  • Find a new routine: If your old routine doesn’t work anymore, find something that does. It will provide you and your family with a sense of normalcy and help alleviate some of the stress.
  • Limit your exposure to the  news: It is important to stay in the loop of the current situation and be informed, but listening and reading too much about COVID-19 can increase your anxiety and stress. 
  • Schedule some family time: Set aside some time at the end of the day to introspect with your loved ones, watch movies or play board games. This can help your family bond better, give you better peace of mind and offer comfort. 
  • Schedule some ‘me’ time: Take some time to yourself before your hectic day begins or after a long night.
  • Seek help: It is better to let your troubles out than to bottle them up. Talking to a friend or a medical professional can do you wonders, especially if you are facing disorders like depression, or you are a victim of domestic abuse. 
  • Don’t miss your routine check-ups – You may be a little apprehensive to visit doctors during this time, however don’t delay your regular check-ups as it is more vital than ever to detect and treat health issues caused at early stages, given the new normal. 

To book an online consultation with doctors in Atlanta, Georgia, contact Buckhead Medicine. You can also schedule an appointment and visit our medical practice for routine check ups, to know more about our weight loss program and to get COVID tested before travelling.

Which Covid-19 Tests are required for International Travel?

It’s common knowledge that a person’s vulnerability to contacting the COVID-19 increases due to the number of people he may come in contact with. When it comes to travel, coming into close quarters with fellow travelers while standing in queues, boarding flights and during the journey are unavoidable, just as much as touching commonly used surfaces. That’s why getting tested before and after your travel along with measures such as social distancing, wearing a mask and washing your hands frequently, are crucial to keeping you safe. It is important to know how to protect yourself, and which tests are needed and what other requirements need to be met before international travel, to and from the U.S. 

Traveling to the US:

The United States government requires you to get tested with a viral test 1-3 days before your flight back to the US. A viral test looks for current infection and checks specimens from your nose or your mouth to find out if you are currently infected with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Two types of viral tests can be used:

  • Nucleic acid amplification tests (NAATs) or more specifically RT- PCR and Rapid Molecular tests detect the virus’s genetic material. RT-PCR is the most commonly used in laboratories and is the most accurate test. However, sometimes this test takes longer to process than the others. Read our blog to know when to get tested before flying.
  • Antigen tests detect viral proteins and are generally not as sensitive as NAATs. If you have a positive or negative antigen test, your healthcare provider may need to confirm the test result with a NAAT. Tests like the Rapid Antigen Test are the most commonly used at airports and other testing sites due to its turnaround time of about 15 minutes. However, to be more impervious to the virus, the RT-PCR test would be recommended.

Travelling from the US:

It is vital to check the respective guidelines of the country you wish to travel to as they may all differ. Check if your airline requires any health information, testing, or other documents. Some destinations require testing before travel and/or after arrival. However, for your safety, it is highly recommended that irrespective of the guidelines, you get yourself tested to limit the spread of the virus. Do not travel if your test results are positive. If your results are negative, it could mean that you did not have COVID-19 at the time of testing, or that your sample was collected too early on in the infection. You could still pass on the virus to other people or be an asymptomatic carrier. Therefore, it is better to get tested before and after your trip.

With either test, the U.S. requires you to have printed or electronic proof of a negative result from a medical laboratory. We at Buckhead Medicine provide all of the above COVID-19 tests required by the U.S. government before travel in Atlanta, Georgia.

Post-travel if you get tested for COVID-19, it is recommended that you stay at home, or isolate for at least 7 days as recommended by the CDC. If you don’t get tested, stay home and self-quarantine for 10 days after travel. Avoid being around people who are at increased risk for severe illness for 14 days, whether you get tested or not. If you are eligible, get fully vaccinated for COVID-19. Wait 2 weeks after getting your second vaccine dose to travel as it takes time for your body to build protection after any vaccination. Read our blog to get some insight into the mRNA COVID-19 vaccine

Airports all over the world have been doing their best to maintain all the necessary safety guidelines. However, with the increase in the number of flights, there is only so much they can do. It would be advised to limit travelling on a whole, unless absolutely necessary. Read our blog or follow us on Instagram and Facebook for more insightful posts and facts.

Everything You Need to Know About the New Covid-19 Virus Strain

Just like life in general, the Coronavirus pandemic seems to have its ups and downs. While on one hand, vaccine programs are being rolled out the world over, on the other, new COVID-19 strains have been emerging. In December 2020, it was reported that a new variant of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, was identified in the United Kingdom. Since then, other variants have been identified elsewhere and are under investigation as well. The new UK strain, which was rumoured to be deadlier and more transmissible began to raise a lot of questions and rightfully so. It is vital to know and be aware of the dangers you may face. Will you be at a greater risk of catching the virus? Will the COVID-19 vaccines work? Is there anything new or different you can do to keep you and your family safe? 

Here is everything you need to know about the new virus. 

How do variants emerge?

Coronaviruses have their genetic material in something called RNA (ribonucleic acid). When it infects us, they attach themselves to our cells, get inside them and make copies of their RNA to help them spread. Sometimes, copying mistakes occur and the RNA gets changed. These random accidents are called mutations, and it is a normal part of what happens to multiplying viruses. 

What is Different About the UK Virus Strain?

The mutation found in the UK virus strain is hardly “new”, as it was discovered in September 2020. The coronavirus mutations were first found in both a South African variant (B.1.351) and a Brazilian variant (P.1). It was later found in a UK variant as well (B.1.1.7), which has accounted for about 70% of COVID-19 cases in the UK since December 2020. This newly discovered variant saw a huge spike in cases in south-east England and London. 

The variant is said to spread about 70% faster and easier than COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2). In January 2021, experts reported that this variant may be associated with an increased risk of death compared to other variant viruses, but more studies are needed to confirm this finding. Scientists have put all of their efforts into studying the various mutations occurring. One such mutation that requires concern is the E484K mutation in the spike protein. This mutation occurs specifically in the Receptor Binding Domain (RBD) section of the coronavirus. This section helps the virus latch onto our cells and infect us. Mutations in the RBD can make the virus more infectious by helping it to bind more tightly to our cells. 

How Does This Strain Affect the COVID-19 Vaccine?

One of the key factors in taking the COVID-19 vaccine is that we develop immunity to the coronavirus. This is also true for patients who have got the virus already. This immunity is mainly due to the development of antibodies that bind to the Receptor Binding Domain. A mutation of COVID-19 affecting this domain would make the new vaccine ineffectual by evading these antibodies. E484K is one such mutation. There has been growing speculation that this mutation may affect the vaccine as it continues to mutate, however, this has yet to be confirmed by experts. The vaccine may need to be reworked and several booster shots may be required. 

As of February 2021, there have been 11 cases of this mutation. Studies are still underway, therefore there is very limited information available. But the minimal cases that are being seen in the UK with the E484K mutation could be an indication that the increased immunity that the COVID-19 vaccine provides, is working. The World Health Organization (WHO) says laboratory studies are ongoing to determine whether the new virus has different biological properties or could alter vaccine efficacy. Read our blog for an insight into the mRNA COVID-19 vaccine.

How are Officials Tracking the New Strain?

Officials in the UK continue to conduct various epidemiological and virological investigations to determine whether the variant causes people to become sicker, whether it can re-infect people who previously had Covid-19 and what kind of antibody response it prompts. They are also conducting genomic surveillance to understand the scope of spread of the new variant across the country and have placed affected areas under tier 4 restrictions, the strongest Covid rules in the country.

In the United States, the CDC states that the new strain could already be among the country. The CDC launched a new program in November, the National SARS-CoV-2 Strain Surveillance program, to sequence more virus samples. Each state in the US is expected to send the CDC at least 10 samples every other week for sequencing and further study.

What Can You Do To Keep Yourself Safe?

According to the CDC, the new strains of the virus can still be detected by the original COVID-19 tests. It would therefore be advised to get tested for the COVID-19 virus if you have any of the following symptoms; cough, cold, fever, breathlessness, etc. We at Buckhead Medicine provide the required COVID-19 testing in Georgia, Atlanta. Getting tested before and after travelling to and from the US is also vital. Read our blog on which COVID-19 tests are required for international travel (Will attach the link when the blog is live) to know more. 

Studies are yet to show whether the new variants render the vaccine ineffective. Studies have shown, however, that the new variants still respond to the COVID-19 medication that is being used to treat infected people. After you get tested for the virus, ensure that you get in touch with your healthcare provider to follow up on your condition and administer the right medications. 

Got a question about the Coronavirus? Drop us a comment or connect with us on Instagram and Facebook.

Which COVID-19 Vaccine is the best? Moderna, Pfizer or Johnson & Johnson

Vaccines that prevent the COVID-19 infection are our best hope for ending the pandemic. But with so much information online about the various vaccines, their benefits, possible side-effects, distribution, safety precautions and more, it is easy to become overwhelmed. Some of the questions we’ve been getting at Buckhead Medicine, in addition to the above, are what happens if one has an underlying condition? Is there anyone who shouldn’t get the vaccine? Should one get the vaccine if one is breastfeeding, if they’ve already had COVID-19 or if they have a history of allergic reactions?

Let’s break it down for you before moving on to the various types of COVID vaccines available in the USA today.

Why should you get the COVID-19 vaccine?

The most obvious reason is that it will prevent you from being exposed to the virus, passing it on to someone else, and possibly becoming seriously ill or dying due to the virus. Secondly, when more people are protected by the vaccine, it makes it harder for the virus to spread. When we prevent the virus from spreading, we essentially also prevent it from replicating, mutating and becoming potentially resistant to vaccines.

What are the various types of COVID-19 vaccines available?

While there are several vaccines undergoing trials at the moment, only 3 of them have been approved by the FDA for administering to patients. Here are the vaccines that have been approved:

Pfizer BioNTech COVID Vaccine – The Pfizer Vaccine is 95% effective in preventing COVID-19 with symptoms. It can be administered to anyone aged 16 and older. The injections are given in 2 doses, 21 days apart.

Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine – The Moderna Vaccine is similar to the Pfizer one in terms of efficacy. At 94% effective, it is given to people aged 18 and above in two doses, 28 days apart.

Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 Vaccine – As per clinical trials, this vaccine was 72% effective in preventing COVID-19 as of 14 days after vaccination. Administered to those who are 18 years or older, it is given in one dose.

How are the vaccines different?

Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines use the messenger RNA (mRNA). You’ve probably seen pictures of the Corona Virus with small spikes on the surface. This is called an S protein and the COVID-19 virus uses these spikes to enter human cells. The mRNA vaccine gives cells instructions to make harmless pieces of the S-protein. After vaccination, your cells start making this protein and displaying them on cell surfaces. In this way, your immune system recognizes that the S-protein doesn’t belong there and the body begins building an immune response by making antibodies.

On the other hand, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is a vector vaccine. To create this vaccine, a harmless virus (also called a viral vector) was taken and a small part of its genetic structure was replaced with COVID-19 genes from the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein. When this modified virus is injected into someone’s arm, it enters their cells and the immune system notices these foreign proteins that will protect the person if they are exposed to COVID-19 in the future.

Which Vaccine is the best?

It can be confusing to understand why public health officials advise us to take whatever vaccine your Primary Medical Centre is offering, when there are some vaccines that are said to be better than others. Naturally, people would want to take the best vaccine available. One issue with this is that the numbers that are focussed upon the most is ‘efficacy.’ What is more important is protection against hospitalization and death – something that all 3 vaccines do equally well. Currently, there is no data to confirm that vaccination will reduce the number of people who get mildly ill, are asymptomatic and thereby reduce transmission.

As we’ve explained above, the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines work the same way (mRNA messenger) while Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine works differently (using DNA which is transported into the nucleus of cells with a different kind of virus and modified so it can’t replicate itself). All the vaccines are safe and help the body retain a memory of the COVID-virus in order to attack it.

We hope you found this blog post informational! To know more, follow Buckhead Medicine on Facebook and Instagram.

 

How is the Flu Season Different During the COVID-19 Pandemic?

The flu season peaks annually from December to February. This year has seen a marked decrease in seasonal infections even as the COVID-19 pandemic surges on. Influenza and COVID-19 are both severe and contagious respiratory illnesses, which affect your lungs and breathing. Even though they both present very similar symptoms, they are caused by two entirely different viruses. 

A Decrease in Influenza Rates

The COVID-19 virus has taken the lives of approximately 1.5 million people and affected 67 million people worldwide. Tackling the COVID-19 virus and the influenza virus simultaneously was proving to be a topic of great discourse and marked fear. Usually, when December arrives, so does the annual flu season. However, this year there has been a marked decrease in the flu rates, dropping to a historically low percentage in the US. 

Health care workers and other specialists say that this decline in flu rates could be attributed to the decline of people coming to clinics to get themselves tested. Other reasons could be the stringent rules being in effects such as several lockdowns, social distancing and wearing masks in public spaces. The fear of the COVID-19 virus, being far deadlier than the influenza virus made people take extra precautions and sanitary measures leading to the decline of the flu. It is important, however, to know the similarities and differences between COVID-19 and the flu, to further protect yourself. 

Similarities Between COVID-19 and the Flu

Symptoms:

  • Both of the illnesses can cause symptoms such as body ache, headache, sore throat, coughs and sometimes even vomiting and diarrhoea, especially in children. 
  • They can be mild, severe and even fatal if the diseases progress further without medical intervention.
  •  A person can be an asymptomatic carrier, meaning they show none of the above symptoms but can still transmit the disease unknowingly. 

The Spread of the Virus:

  • They spread similarly with droplets or smaller particles of the virus transmitting from a sick person to other people nearby. Some of the particles may even linger in the air, and another person may inhale them and become infected.
  • It can also spread by people touching infected surfaces and then touching their eyes, nose and mouth. 
  • It is possible to spread the virus at least one day before experiencing symptoms.

Treatment and Prevention:

  • The diseases are not treatable with antibiotics, which only work on bacterial infections.
  • Since there is no immediate cure, they are both treated by addressing symptoms, such as reducing fever, headaches and body aches. Severe cases may require hospitalization and the person may need a ventilator.
  • Antiviral medications are prescribed which may shorten the duration of both illnesses.
  • The diseases can be prevented by wearing a mask, frequent and thorough hand washing, covering of the mouth while coughing, staying home when sick and limiting contact with people who are infected, and social distancing.

Vaccines:

  • The FDA has approved a couple of Flu shots to be taken by individuals aged 6 months and older. It is advised to take these shots as it helps strengthen your body’s immune system to be able to fight the virus. 
  • A COVID-19 vaccine which was in the works has also been recently made available for those wishing to take it. Our earlier blog post talks about the mRNA vaccine in more detail.

Differences Between COVID-19 and the Flu

Cause:

  • COVID-19  is caused by the novel coronavirus also known as SARS-CoV-2 whereas Influenza is caused by the influenza virus, which could be of a variety of types.  

The Spread of the Virus:

  • While both of the viruses spread similarly, COVID-19 has proven to spread more among certain age groups and populations as compared to the flu.
  • COVID-19: A person can spread the virus for about 2 days before experiencing symptoms and remaining contagious for 10 days post their first symptoms.
  • Influenza: Most people with the flu are contagious for about 1 day before they start showing any symptoms. 

Treatment and Prevention:

COVID-19: Antiviral drugs are being administered to most patients, with other treatments being tested out to see if they can improve the symptoms and shorten the duration of the illness. 

Influenza: Oral antiviral drugs approved by the FDA are administered to patients. 

If you get sick with the flu or COVID-19, it is best to get checked at the earliest, especially for certain people with high-risk complications such as young children, people 65 and older, pregnant women and people with certain medical conditions. Get tested for COVID-19 at Buckhead Medicine at the earliest. You can even schedule routine check-ups at our medical practice, book online appointments or avail our concierge services. We at Buckhead Medicine do our best to ensure our patients’ safety. Follow us on Facebook and Instagram for more updates. 

INSIGHT INTO THE mRNA COVID-19 VACCINE

Vaccines save millions of lives every year. They work by training the body’s immune system to recognize and ward off viruses and bacteria. With the COVID-19 vaccine spreading around the globe, people have expressed mixed emotions about the vaccine. While most were elated with the news and had high hopes for it, others were a little skeptical. The average person does not understand how the vaccine will work on our bodies or how our bodies will react to it. However, a lot of information is now available about how and when research began, the technology used, how it works in our body and the side effects.  

HOW IT BEGAN 

Synthetic messenger RNA (mRNA), is an ingenious variation on the natural substance that provides instructions or serves as a blueprint for protein production in cells throughout the body. By making precise modifications to synthetic mRNA and injecting people with this blueprint, any cell in the body could be transformed into an on-demand drug factory. Before this was a multibillion-dollar idea, it was a scientific backwater. Katalin Kariko, a Hungarian biochemist, specializes in RNA-mediated mechanisms. She dedicated her work attempting to harness the power of mRNA to fight disease. However, she was faced with rejections and didn’t receive any support in the form of government grants, corporate funding or even support from her colleagues. After partnering with Drew Weissman and tweaking her current work, they discovered a solution to the existing mRNA research. Today, Moderna and Pfizer, have used this mRNA research that started three decades ago in an attempt to end this global pandemic and save lives. 

HOW DOES IT WORK

Most vaccines introduce weakened or inactive versions of the virus in the body for it to make antibodies. The COVID-19 vaccine has strands of genetic material called mRNA inside a special coating. That coating protects the mRNA from enzymes in the body that would otherwise break it down once it entered the body. mRNA can most easily be described as instructions for the cell on how to make a piece of the “spike protein” that is unique to SARS-CoV-2. Since only part of the protein is made, it does not do any harm to the person vaccinated. After the piece of the spike protein is made, the cell breaks down the mRNA strands and disposes of them using enzymes in the cell. Once displayed on the cell surface, the protein causes the immune system to begin producing antibodies and activating T-cells to fight off what it thinks is an infection. These antibodies are specific to the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which means the immune system is primed to protect you against future infection.

SIDE EFFECTS OF THE VACCINE

Patients considering vaccination may worry about the short-term and long-term side effects of taking the vaccine. The most common side effect of the vaccine is pain/soreness at the injection site. Other commonly reported side effects include fever, fatigue, muscle aches or headache, but these are usually mild and resolve in a few days. Serious reactions are uncommon and include rare cases of severe allergic reactions. Caution is advised for anyone who has a history of serious allergic reactions to vaccines or injections in the past. The mRNA does not enter the cell nucleus so it cannot alter or affect your DNA. it has also not been linked to infertility or miscarriage as suggested by many rumours.

WHO WILL BE VACCINATED?

The delivery of the COVID-19 vaccine will be prioritized since it is limited in terms of quantity at the moment. The CDC has recommended phases in which different groups of people should receive the vaccine, but currently it is up to individual States to set exact criteria for who is included in these phases. For the State of Georgia, this link provides updates on current phases.  As the vaccine becomes more readily available, additional groups will be vaccinated. 

Buckhead Medicine is a premier concierge medicine practice in Atlanta. We provide quality, attentive and personalized medical care to people with physician access 24/7. We have also been approved for international testing and offer COVID-19 tests like the COVID-19 RT-PCR Test, COVID-19 Rapid Molecular Test, COVID-19 Rapid Antigen Test and the COVID-19 IgG Serum Antibody Test. check out our website for information. Visit our page to find out about COVID-19 testing in Atlanta. Read our blogs for more information about the COVID-19 vaccination and how long you have to isolate for if you were exposed to COVID-19

PCR TEST- WHEN TO GET TESTED BEFORE FLYING

International travel requires meeting stringent country specific criteria for testing before travel. There are two tests that are widely used for testing before you travel. One is the Antigen Test, also called the Rapid Test, and the other is the PCR test. The Antigen test detects protein fragments specific to the Coronavirus while the PCR test detects Ribonucleic Acid (RNA) that is specific to the virus. The PCR test uses nasal or throat swabs from the person with or without symptoms. The wait time for results is longer and it also has higher accuracy as well.

 After the test has been taken, the sample is sent to a lab where it converts the virus’s RNA into DNA. It then makes millions of copies of the DNA, which allows for the identification of the organism. This process can take hours as it is typically done one sample at a time. Although it is a time consuming process, it delivers results that are almost 100% accurate.

Testing before and after travel can reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19. Testing does not eliminate all risk. However, when paired with a period of staying at home and everyday precautions like wearing masks and social distancing, it can make travel safer.

Mandatory pre-departure testing for all passengers is key to restoring global air travel connectivity. This will give governments the confidence to open borders fully and possibly eliminate the need to quarantine arrivals. With all this information, when is the right time to get tested for Covid-19 before traveling? 

According to the CDC, here’s what you need to do: 

  • Get tested 1-3 days before your flight.
  • Get tested 3-5 days after travel and stay home for 7 days after travel.
  • Even if you test negative, stay home for the full 7 days.
  • If you don’t get tested, it’s safest to stay home for 10 days after travel.
  • Delay your travel if you are waiting for test results.
  • A negative test does not mean that you were not exposed or that you will not develop COVID-19. Make sure to wear a mask, stay at least 6 feet from others, wash your hands, and watch your health for signs of illness while traveling.

On average, symptoms of the virus develop five to six days post exposure, but the incubation period can be as long as 14 days. Some people never develop noticeable symptoms, hence the recommendation to self-quarantine and self-monitor for a full two weeks after any likely exposure.

Travelers with a known exposure to COVID-19 should delay travel, quarantine themselves from other people, get tested, and monitor their health. You may have been exposed to COVID-19 on your travels. You may feel well and not have any symptoms, but you can be contagious without symptoms and spread the virus to others. You and your travel companions (including children) pose a risk to your family, friends, and community for 14 days after you were exposed to the virus.

Watch your health, look for symptoms of COVID-19, and check your temperature if you feel sick.

https://www.calculator.net/ is a useful link to calculate when you need to be tested to meet international travel criteria for Covid-19 PCR testing.

CDC has listed some Covid-19 travel recommendations by destination for those who are planning a holiday. It recommends that people can travel to places where the Covid-19 infection rate is very low like Cayman Islands, Fiji, Vietnam, Singapore, Thailand and a few others. Most countries have reported very high rates of Covid-19, hence travel to them should be avoided. Since the U.S. is currently the most affected country in the world, you need to find out which countries are welcoming U.S. tourists. At the moment, travel destinations like The Bahamas, Aruba, Dubai, Jamaica, The Maldives, Mexico and a few others are open to welcoming U.S. tourists. The U.S. Department of State has also issued Covid-19 traveller information to those who want to travel abroad or those who are already outside the U.S. Some of the information includes reading guidelines for prevention, travel restrictions and how to keep workplaces, homes, schools and commercial establishments safe.

Check the Buckhead Medicine website and read our blogs for more information about Covid-19. Read our blog on how long you need to isolate if you are exposed to Covid-19 and about insurance coverage for Covid-19 testing.