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Protecting Your Health in Erie, PA | Erie County Medical Society


The Erie County Medical Society is a voluntary, non-profit professional organization of physicians, both MD and DO, in Erie, PA, founded in 1828. Our mission is to advance the standards of medical care, to uphold the ethics of the medical profession, and to serve the public with important and reliable health information.



1:04 PM
May 13th, 2020

Protect Yourself from COVID-19

Protect Yourself and Others from COVID-19


Here are the simple steps to take for protection from COVID-19.


    1. Wash hands frequently, especially after sneezing, coughing, blowing the nose, or touching common surfaces as door handles, keyboards, public touch screens, etc.
    2. When possible, sneeze or cough into a tissue and dispose of it safely and immediately.
    3. Wear disposable gloves and change them frequently if there is a need to frequently touch common surfaces.
    4. Avoid coming within six feet of others. 
    5. Use disinfectant wipes often on any frequently touched surfaces.
    6. Those over 65 years old should stay at home if there is an epidemic.
    7. According to the CDC, everyone should wear a face mask when out in public. Exceptions are children under age 2, anyone having trouble breathing, anyone unconscious, incapacitated, or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance. 
  • While it may not be possible to guarantee invulnerability, following these precautions, will greatly increase safety from COVID-19.


    Thomas Falasca, DO

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Hand Sanitizing in the Time of COVID

Hand Sanitizing and Washing in the Time of COVID and Flu ...See More

Hand Sanitizing in the Time of COVID


Hand Sanitizing and Washing in the Time of COVID and Flu


Now, in the time of COVID and flu, hand sanitizing and washing is more important than ever. These simple measures, done frequently and effectively, help prevent COVID and flu as well as many other infections. However, their use is not so intuitive as imagined. Let’s examine the why, when, and how.


Why Sanitize or Wash?


Many infectious diseases have no reliable vaccination or treatment. Even for treatable infectious diseases, the better way to deal with them is not to have them. Prevention is the purpose of hand sanitizing and washing.


People who are infectious, whether or not they are sick, understandably contaminate their hands with the germs. Then our hands touch their hands or surfaces they have touched. We then touch our hands to our faces, in fact, according to some studies, an average of 20 times per hour. But the mucous membranes of eyes, nose, and mouth provide easy access to the body for germs, especially for viruses because of virus’ small size. We should keep our hands away from our faces as much as possible, even when the hands appear clean. However, still we touch, mostly inadvertently. Doing so, we become infected.


Sanitizing Hands or Washing Them


Hand sanitizer is a potent hygienic weapon during the frequent circumstances when hand washing is not available. While hand washing removes germs and harmful chemicals, hand sanitizers inactivate a large number of the germs without removing. They accomplish this because sanitizers containing at least 60% ethyl alcohol denature the proteins of bacteria and viruses in only about 15 seconds.


Hand sanitizers are less effective when hands are visibly dirty or greasy as the dirt can protect the germs from complete contact with the sanitizer. Of course, it is senseless to use sanitizer to smear dirt more widely when removal by washing is an option.


Children should use hand sanitizers under adult supervision as swallowing hand sanitizers can cause alcohol poisoning. Children may be more likely to swallow hand sanitizers that are scented, brightly colored, or attractively packaged. Hand sanitizers should be stored out of the reach of young children.


Disposable Gloves


Disposable gloves may create a false sense of security. Certainly, they shield the skin of the hands from contamination, but the gloves become contaminated and must either be treated with hand sanitizer or disposed of. Further, in removing the contaminated gloves for disposal, the previously clean hands may become contaminated.


When to Sanitize or Wash Hands


The most obvious time to sanitize or wash is after contact such as

     • After touching high-hand-contact surfaces such as public touch screens, door handles, elevator buttons,      handrails, and poles or handles on public transportation.
     • Touching the outside of a face mask.
     • Touching money.
     - Tying shoes.
     - Coughing, sneezing, or blowing the nose.
     - Touching a sick person,
     - Touching an animal, animal feed, animal waste, or garbage.
     - Using the bathroom or changing diapers.
     - Treating a cut or wound


Important also is sanitizing or washing before

  •      - Touching face.
  •      - Eating, drinking, or tooth brushing.
  •      - Preparing food.
  •      - Touching a sick person.
  •      - Treating a cut or wound.
  •      - Finally, stores or venues may require sanitizer use before entering to reduce contamination on their merchandise or facilities.


How to Sanitize Hands


Using a small hand sanitizer is easy and convenient.

  •         - Choose a sanitizer with at least 60% ethyl alcohol.
  •      - Keep the sanitizer easily accessible. This negates the temptation to skip it. It also avoids germs on hands from contaminating the insides of pockets and handbags while rooting around for the sanitizer.
  •      - Use only enough sanitizer to contact germs on all hand surfaces. The idea is to kill germs by contact with the sanitizer, not to wash germs away.
  •      - Spread the sanitizer to contact all surfaces of the hands and fingers, including under the fingernails and the outside of the sanitizer bottle.
  •      - The sanitizer does its work within 15 seconds of contact.
  •      - Here is the illustration.

Hand Sanitizer



How to Wash Hands


Hand washing may not be always intuitive.  

     - Use plenty of warm, running water and sufficient soap. At faucet temperature, the warmth of the water does not kill germs, However, warmer water and soap improves the dissolution of any dirt protecting the germs and reduces the germs’ adherence to the skin.

     -  Rub hands together with sufficient pressure. The idea is not to kill germs, but to remove them. Sufficient pressure and a sufficient volume of water improve the liklihood of dislodging germs and carrying them away.

     - Wash front and back of hands, all fingers, between the fingers, and under the nails for at least 20 seconds. Twenty seconds is about the time it takes to hum two repetitions of the Happy Birthday Song.

     - Avoid drying hands with cloth towels since this may transfer other people’s germs. Better are electric hand dryers as found in public rest rooms. Be sure to press the dryer’s on-off switch with your elbow. Finally, paper towels, although the least ecological hand-drying option, are the most hygienic. Additionally, use a dry paper towel to turn off the faucet and to touch the door handle when leaving a public rest room. If there is no used-paper-towel depository by the door, let the paper drop to the floor, the public rest room maintainers will get the message to provide a depository.




Now, in the time of COVID and flu, hand sanitizing and washing is more important than ever. Above are the why, when, and how. Remaining is only the do … and the do is up to me and you!


Thomas Falasca, DO


Thomas Falasca, DO









COVID-19 Vaccines on the Horizon

Learn about the COVID-19 Vaccines on the Hori ...See More

COVID-19 Vaccines on the Horizon

COVID-19 Vaccines on the Horizon

June 15, 2020




Is the day at hand when COVID-19 will be a preventable disease? Is a vaccine possible? Is it achievable in the foreseeable future? We endeavor here to shed some light on these questions.



Vaccine Testing


New vaccines pass through several phases. Preclinical testing consists in inoculating animals with the vaccine to determine if it produces an immune response. Phase 1 Safety trials consist of using on a small number of people to determine safety and dosage and to confirm stimulation of immunity. Phase 2 Expandedtrials involve hundreds of people divided into different groups to determine if the vaccine acts differentially. Phase 3 Efficacy trials involve thousands of people to compare the vaccine to an inactive placebo. Approvalis granted by regulators based on the vaccine’s performance in these trials. However, Emergency Use Authorization may be granted before final approval in extenuating circumstances. [1]


To reduce delays, Anthony Fauci, MD, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has indicated that manufacturers will begin producing COVID-19 vaccine in anticipation of approval so that if a product gets the okay for usage, distribution can begin quickly. [2]



Number of Vaccines


Scientists worldwide are working on vaccine development. There may currently be more than 140 COVID-10 vaccines in progress, according to the World Health Organization. Here are some of the vaccine candidates farthest along in their development. [1]




This is a promising candidate being developed by Moderna. The Phase 1 trial involved 45 people divided into groups that received doses of 25, 100, and 250 micrograms. According to Moderna, all subjects developed antibodies, but the eight who received 25 or 100 micrograms developed more COVID-19 antibodies than people who actually recovered from the disease. The data has not been peer-reviewed or journal-published. As of this writing, this vaccine is in Phase 2 trials. [3]




The AZD1222 vaccine was developed by Oxford University’s Jenner Institute, for production by Astra Zeneca. It is based on a chimpanzee adenovirus. It would be administered in one dose and would not replicate. The vaccine is reported to have performed well in a Phase 1 trial with 320 people. It is currently in Phase 2/3 trials in England and Brazil. [4]




Ad5-nCoV vaccine is the product of a collaboration between a Chinese biologics company and Canada’s Precision NanoSystems. It utilizes a platform the Chinese company developed for its vaccine against Ebola. When the vaccine’s Phase 1 trial on 108 subjects was published in The Lancet, it became the first clinical study of a vaccine to be published in a peer-reviewed journal. Ad5-nCoV was found to be tolerable and immunogenic at 28 days post-vaccination and is now in Phase 2. [5]




NVX‑CoV2373 is a vaccine developed by Novavax using its proprietary nanoparticle technology carrying fragments of corona virus proteins along with its proprietary adjuvant Matrix-MTM, which stimulates higher levels of neutralizing antibodies. Phase 1 has enrolled 130 healthy subjects at two sites in Australia to assess doses of 5 and 25 micrograms, with and without Matrix-M. It is currently in Phase 1/2. [6]




CoronaVac is an inactivated virus vaccine created by the Chinese company Sinovac Biotech. Phase 1 testing has included 143 volunteers while Phase 2 has had 600 volunteers. The Phase 2 trial has shown neutralizing antibodies produced 14 days after vaccination and a seroconversion rate of 90%. Phase 3 clinical studies are projected in collaboration with Instituto Butantan in Brazil. [7]


Sinopharm Vaccine


The state-owned Chinese company Sinopharm has produced an inactivated virus vaccine initially tested in 96 subjects in a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial during which it reportedly evidenced a good safety profile. The current Phase 2 trial focuses on the vaccination procedure. [8]


These last two vaccines, CoronaVac and Sinopharm Vaccine, are based on an existing whole-virus technology. The advantage is that, as such, they are more familiar to produce. The disadvantage is that they may require multiple doses or act more slowly to produce immunity.


It is important that one or more of these vaccines succeed in order to produce individual as well as herd immunity to end the threat of COVID-19. Hopefully it will soon join polio, smallpox, and other diseases that have been eradicated.


Thomas Falasca, DO






[1] Coronavirus Vaccine Tracker, New York Times,

By Jonathan Corum and Carl Zimmer June 10, 2020


[2] Medscape Medical News

Fauci: US Poised to Produce a COVID-19 Vaccine

Gregory Twachtman

May 12, 2020


[3] Medscape, First COVID-19 Vaccine Tested on Humans Shows Early Promise,

Ralph Ellis May 18, 2020


[4] AstraZeneca advances response to global COVID-19 challenge as it receives first commitments for Oxford’s potential new vaccine, Adrian Kemp 



[5] CanSino Publishes Phase I Data for COVID-19 Vaccine Candidate, Moves into Phase II

Published: May 22, 2020 By Alex Keown


[6] Novavax Initiates Phase 1/2 Clinical Trial of COVID-19 Vaccine, Novavax Press release, GAITHERSBURG, Md., May 25, 2020


[7] Sinovac Announces Positive Preliminary Results of Phase I/II Clinical Trials for Inactivated Vaccine Candidate Against COVID-19, June 13, 2020 01:45 PM Eastern Daylight Time



27 APRIL 2020 NEWS, China approves clinical trials of third Covid-19 vaccine candidate


Vaping and Lung Damage

Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have warned  ...See More

Vaping and Lung Damage


Vaping and Lung Damage


On September 6, 2019, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a clear warning about lung toxicity related to e cigarette use. They along with state and local health departments are investigating the cause or causes of this potentially life-threatening disease. The investigation stems from a study of 53 patients from the states of Illinois and Wisconsin who presented to the hospital with lung and gastrointestinal symptoms. A third of those patients required mechanical ventilation and one death were reported in this study. The median age was 19 years.


E-cigarette, or more colloquially vaping, usage especially among adolescents has increased exponentially. Recent studies from Monitoring the Future, a 44 year old study, show that the increased prevalence of vaping represents the largest increase in risky behaviors since the initiation of monitoring.  Although used as a means to transition from cigarettes, use of the nicotine still carries with it the risk of addiction.


Investigations into the cause of lung toxicity are ongoing, but there are several clues at this juncture. The presence of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) usage by users and use of black market devices and flavorants appear to be the focus of current investigations. More information will be forthcoming. For now, despite the use as a means of tobacco cessation, it is wise to avoid vaping until investigators have clarified more clearly the cause or causes of lung toxicity. At the same time it is important to continue to remain tobacco-free given the heart, lung and stroke risks which are clearly present.


Jeff McGovern, MD

Jeffrey McGovern, MD, FCCP, FAASM

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