Coronavirus! Putting the Outbreak in a Different Perspective

01 Apr 2020 Damon Adams, DDS
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As we arrive once again at Oral Cancer Awareness Month, COVID-19 has been absolutely dominating the news cycles at the time of writing this. Here in the United States, actions by the CDC and DHS are being taken in an attempt to stay one step ahead of this new coronavirus as its spread continues throughout the world. This will prove to be a daunting task, considering that the respiratory viruses are so well equipped to move easily and quickly from one host to another. To add to the challenges, the world’s population, with information promulgated by a ratings-driven media that often reports by playing on emotion with sensational headlines, is becoming increasingly fearful.

During this whole ordeal, perhaps we should take the opportunity to look at this outbreak via a different perspective by comparing it to the widespread influenza outbreak or past pandemics involving the Asian flu, Hong Kong flu, or the avian and swine flu viruses. For example, according to the CDC, influenza (in the 2019-2020 flu season) will infect up to 51 million people in the United States alone, with up to 55,000 deaths. Remarkably, this is despite the widespread availability of flu vaccines!

Furthermore, let’s put this COVID-19 outbreak in perspective with debilitating and lethal diseases that are getting absolutely no mainstream media press coverage at this same time. What’s the status of oral cancer and oropharyngeal cancer, which is under our professional care arena? The American Cancer Society’s most recent estimates for oral cavity and oropharyngeal cancers in the United States alone for 2020 are:

• 53,000-plus people will get oral or oropharyngeal cancer.
• An estimated 10,750 people will die as a result of these cancers.

And remember, numbers like these are being reported year after year!

Noteworthy as a positive step in the arena of cancer prevention since my previous Editor’s Page on this topic (April 2019) was Resolution 65H-2019 (passed by the ADA House of Delegates on September 9, 2019) that amended the ADA policy on early detection and prevention of oral cancer to include oropharyngeal cancer and to cover all patients, not just those previously thought to be at an increased risk because of tobacco and alcohol use. The ADA now recommends dentists conduct routine visual and tactile examinations for oral and oropharyngeal cancer for all patients. This, in addition to the availability and proper use of the 3 currently available HPV vaccines, are actions that will save lives! We have so much more to do though, starting with the need to get 100% compliance with the implementation of thorough cancer screenings and cancer prevention counseling by properly trained dental clinicians.

Please enjoy this informative issue of Dentistry Today!

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Last modified on Tuesday, 31 March 2020 16:12
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