DD Medical Matters: What’s the deal with this Corona virus?

written by Scally McDaid Roarty March 1, 2020

This week Dr Ciarán Roarty of Scally McDaid Roarty looks at Corona virus. 

New information is emerging daily so keep informed as things change and we learn more about the disease and where it is. This article is up to date on 01/03/2020.

Corona viruses are a large family of viruses that circulate among animals and can be transmitted to humans. A new corona virus has been identified in humans, the 2019 novel Corona virus, initially in Wuhan, China, in December 2019,  which causes the disease Coronavirus Disease 2019 ( COVID -19). It was initially identified in people working in a seafood and live animal market and it is thought the disease was picked up from animals at the market. 

How did it spread?

It spread from person to person , usually after close contact. Droplets from sneezing, coughing either spread directly or on surfaces are known to be methods of spreading ( though it is thought the virus can only survive a few hours on surfaces). It is also now thought that people who are infected but not showing symptoms can also spread the virus. It is a new disease so we are still learning about it. The incubation period is thought to be between 2 and 14 days. There is no evidence that it can be caught from your companion animals or pets. 

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms include fever cough, shortness of breath and difficulty breathing. Some patients may develop severe illness. Older people and people with underlying medical conditions may be more prone to serious illness. The mortality rate is thought to be about 2% which is 20 times higher than the flu. Younger people seem better able to deal with the virus. About 5% of people who get the disease become critically ill.  

How can I protect myself?

Thankfully this is the stuff we do know and have heard over and over. Good hand hygiene, washing with soap and water or alcohol based gel is advised. You should wash after coughing, sneezing, before during and after preparing food, before eating, after the bathroom, when caring for someone ill, when your hands are physically dirty and of course when dealing with animals. Cover your hand with a tissue ( and immediately dispose of it)  or the bend of your elbow when you cough or sneeze. Keep your distance ( one metre) from someone who is coughing, sneezing or running a fever. You should also note that this is not the flu and therefore the flu vaccine will have no effect in preventing COVID 19.

What about a facemask?

The WHO advises they are of no benefit if you are well and do not advise wearing them. The best thing to do is as above. People who are suspected of having COVID 19 and their carers will be advised to wear masks.  

What’s the treatment?

There is no specific treatment, but many of the symptoms can be treated. 

Is there a vaccine?

It’s a while away yet.

Who needs to get tested?

People who may have been exposed ( ie. in contact with a confirmed case or been to an area with ongoing community transmission) AND have respiratory symptoms. 

Affected areas can be found on the hse website hse.ie 

Currently ( 01/03/2020) China, Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea, Iran and Japan along with regions in Northern Italy area deemed affected areas, but this list will change if the disease spreads further. 

What if I have been to one of these areas?

If in the past 14 days if you have been to an affected area (areas with presumed ongoing community transmission of COVID 19) or been in contact with someone who has COVID 19 or attended a hospital where they have been treated  AND 

  • feel well with no symptoms of respiratory disease then phone the HSE helpline on 1850241850 between 8-8 Mon to Fri and 10-10 Sat and Sun.   
  • feel unwell especially with respiratory  symptoms then isolate yourself and phone the Emergency Dept or your GP immediately.

How do I know where is safe to travel to?

Follow the advice on the Dept of Foreign Affairs website.  

The above information is intended as advice only and should you have any concerns please contact your own Doctor. 

Dr Ciarán Roarty MB, BCh BAO MICGP DRCOG Grad. Cert. Obst. Ultrasound is a full-time GP  at Scally McDaid Roarty Medical Practice , Scally Place, Letterkenny,  Tel 0749164111 scallys.ie




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