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Monday, January 18, 2021

COVID-19: HOW TO KEEP SAFE DURING THIS GLOBAL CRISIS (Series 2)

“…if you live with any vulnerable individual e.g. elderly or those with co-morbidities, if possible, they should consider moving out to stay with friends or family for the duration of the home isolation period. If this is not possible, stay away from them as much as possible…”

… continued from yesterday…

Incubation period & statistics of Covid-19

The incubation period refers to “the time between exposure to the virus and the appearance of the first symptoms.”

According to an article in BMJ (British Medical Journal):

– The median estimated incubation period for Covid-19 is five to six days (range 0-14 days)

– The median age of confirmed cases is around 59 years.

– Initial data indicates that more than 80% of patients have no symptoms or mild disease and then recover, but about 15% may get severe disease including pneumonia

– Around 5% of patients may become critically unwell with septic shock (severe infection in blood leading to shock) and/or multi-organ failure (failure of body organs e.g. failure of kidneys) and/or respiratory failure (lungs fail to work, hence requiring ventilator support)

– The case fatality rate (death rate) is estimated to be approximately 2% overall, but ranges from 0.2% in people under 50 years to 14.8% in those over 80 years of age and is higher among those with chronic comorbid conditions

Reasons why Covid-19 can cause serious illness

Covid-19 is a rapidly spreading disease across the world because the transmission rates for this disease are higher e.g. as compared to those for SARS and flu.

As stated earlier, many people don’t show symptoms once infected with the virus, hence it may spread the infectious disease unknowingly. Due to these reasons, this illness spreads very rapidly and can infect a large number of people.

As well as this, complications of Covid-19 include pneumonia, respiratory (lungs) failure and organ failure, which may lead to death, especially in those who have co-morbidities or older patients or those with impaired immune system.

It is important to be aware that in some cases, young and usually fit and well persons developed complications from this illness and unfortunately lost their lives, however this is rare.

Diagnosis of Covid-19

At present, diagnosis is mostly done based on clinical signs and symptoms. If you have a new cough or fever, it is possible you may have Covid-19. Due to the limited availability of diagnostic test in the UK, only those patients who are quite unwell and being admitted to hospitals in the UK are currently being tested. Recently, frontline NHS staff in the UK are also being offered the test. It is expected that testing facilities will be available to a wider population in the future.

Treatment of Covid-19

Most people with Covid-19 do not need any specific treatment. Patients are advised to rest and isolate and take paracetamol if required (avoid ibuprofen, unless advised by your GP). Those who are more ill will receive supportive care to help them recover from the illness in specialist settings.

Those patients with Covid-19 who are significantly unwell may require ventilators to help with breathing.

It has been recently reported that a new breathing aid to help keep Covid-19 patients out of intensive care will soon undergo clinical trials in several London hospitals. This device can deliver oxygen to the lungs without the need for a ventilator. It was designed and built in under a week (as part of collaboration between engineers and doctors) at University College London and Mercedes Formula One (New Scientist).

There are currently no vaccines, but efforts to develop a vaccine are underway.

On 18 March, the World Health Organization (WHO) said they had begun a trial on drugs, including the long-used antimalarial drugs chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine and some antiviral drugs. However, there is no clear evidence yet to confirm if they can be successfully used in the treatment of Covid-19.

MHRA (Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency) UK has advised:

“Chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine are not licensed to treat Covid-19 related symptoms or prevent infection. Clinical trials are ongoing to test chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine as an agent in the treatment of Covid-19 or to prevent Covid-19 infection. These clinical trials are still not completed, so no conclusions have been reached on the safety and effectiveness of this medicine to treat or prevent Covid-19”. (GOV UK website)

What should you do if you think you may have Covid-19?

It is advised that if you develop a high temperature or a new continuous cough, do not leave home as you may have Covid-19. You will need to self-isolate for seven days. Do not visit places like GP surgeries, pharmacies or hospitals (unless advised to do so) to protect others. In some cases, coughs can linger on after seven days, however this does not require isolation if other symptoms have settled (unless the GP advises otherwise). If you are not sure, please contact your GP for advice.

After seven days of illness, if you still have a high temperature, keep self-isolating until your temperature returns to normal. You may contact your GP for advice.

If you live with others, all other household members (who remain well) must stay at home and not leave the house for 14 days. This is to cover the incubation period in case they develop the disease and become infectious to others.

It is advised that if you live with any vulnerable individual e.g. elderly or those with co-morbidities, if possible, they should consider moving out to stay with friends or family for the duration of the home isolation period. If this is not possible, stay away from them as much as possible.

You must wash your hands regularly for 20 seconds, using soap and water (or use hand sanitizer).

The general advice given in the UK is that if you are finding it difficult to cope with the illness, or your condition gets worse, or your symptoms do not get better after seven days, then use the NHS 111 online coronavirus service for advice. You can also call NHS 111 if you do not have Internet access. For a medical emergency e.g. significant shortness of breath, chest pain, feeling very unwell, dial 999. You can also take advice from your GP via telephone. Various GP surgeries have recently started video consultation with patients.

…to be continued…

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