The Coronavirus- All You Need to Know
As you all are aware, there have been many confirmed cases of the Coronavirus in Ireland. In order to provide you with some up to date information on the virus we have compiled a list of frequently asked questions – the information for which has been taken from the IPU website, WHO website & the HSE website.
What is Coronavirus?
Coronaviruses are a large group of viruses that can cause illnesses. Some of these illnesses are very mild, like the common cold, while others are more severe, like SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome). A “novel coronavirus” means a new type of coronavirus that has never been seen in humans before. The coronavirus recently identified in China is one of these. This infection caused by the new coronavirus has being named “COVID-19”. Coronaviruses are zoonotic, meaning they are transmitted between animals and people.
Is COVID-19 similar to the flu virus?
COVID-19 is not from the same family as the flu virus. Both viruses are completely different but can cause similar symptoms, such as fever or cough. Because the symptoms of both COVID-19 and flu can be very similar, it can be difficult to identify the disease based on the symptoms alone. Laboratory tests are needed to determine whether someone has COVID-19 or another viral illness, such as flu.
What are the symptoms of COVID-19?
Common signs of infection include:
- Shortness of breath & difficulty breathing.
More than 80% of people who have contracted the virus have experienced it in a mild form and generally recover within 2-3 weeks. It can take up to 14 days for symptoms of coronavirus to appear therefore it is important to monitor to your symptoms. If you have any of these symptoms you should behave as if you have the virus and self-isolate. People in your household will needs to restrict their movements.
In more serious cases, patients can develop severe illness such as pneumonia or kidney failure which may lead to death in some cases. The fatality rate currently seen is around 2%.
As mentioned symptoms such as cough, shortness of breath and fever are also symptoms of common colds and flus. If you have these symptoms but have not travelled to the affected areas or been in contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 then it is likely you are not infected.
Self-isolation v.s. Restricting your movements. What is the difference?
Self-isolation should happen when you have coronavirus or if you have the symptoms of coronavirus. You should stay indoors and avoid contact with other people to help stop the spread of the disease. You should only stop self-isolating when you have not had a fever for 5 days and it has been 14 days since you first developed symptoms. Keep away from others in your home as much as you can and do not share towels with others. If possible try to use a separate bathroom to the rest of the household. Keep up with all hand hygiene, cough and sneeze ettiquette and clean your room everyday with a household cleaner or disinfectant.
Call your doctor to keep them informed of your symptoms- do no visit the GP surgery. Your GP will decide if you need to be tested for the virus or if you will be able to manage your symptoms through the advise they give you over the phone. Don’t fret if you need any medication to help with your symptoms, call your local Meaghers Pharmacy team and we can get any over the counter medicine you may need to your doorstep.
For more tips on self-isolation visit the HSE website at https://www2.hse.ie/conditions/coronavirus/self-isolation-and-limited-social-interaction.html#self-isolate
Restricting your movements.
Restricting your movements can also be referred to as self-quarantine and this means avoiding contact with other people and avoiding social situations as much as possible. You might be asked to resistrict your movements if you have been in close contact with a confirmed case of the corona virus or if you are returning to Ireland from another country. This will help to stop the spread of the disease.
When you are restricting your movements you can still go outside for walks, runs or cycles on your own. You should not go to work or use public transports and avoid shopping where possible. Other household members do not need to restrict their movements unless otherwise advised.
What is Cocooning?
On March 27th, the Government announced that all those who are over 70 or who are extremely medically vulnerable should "cocoon" for the next two weeks. But what does that actually mean?
Cocooning means you should stay at home at all times and avoid face-to-face contact. Even within your home, you should minimise all non-essential contact with other members of your household.
If you are cocooning –
- If you have a garden or balcony, spend time outside for fresh air.
- Keep in touch with family and friends over the phone or online if you have access.
- Keep yourself mobile by getting up and moving as much as possible.
- Ask neighbours, family or friends to get any shopping or medicine you need - do not go out shopping.
- Arrange for food or medicine deliveries to be left outside your door. Here at Meaghers, we are currently offering a delivery service to assist people cocooning. For more information please contact our Helpline on 01-4853098 or email us: email@example.com
- Use the phone if you need to contact your GP or other services - do not leave your house.
Who should Cocoon?
Cocooning is for people who:
- are over 70 years of age - even if you're fit and well
- are solid organ transplant recipients
- have cancer and are undergoing active chemotherapy or radical radiotherapy for lung cancer
- have cancers of the blood or bone marrow such as leukaemia, lymphoma or myeloma who are at any stage of treatment
- are having immunotherapy or other continuing antibody treatments for cancer
- are having other targeted cancer treatments which can affect the immune system, such as protein kinase inhibitors or PARP inhibitors
- have had bone marrow or stem cell transplants in the last 6 months, or who are still taking immunosuppression drugs
- have severe respiratory conditions including cystic fibrosis, severe asthma and severe COPD
- have rare diseases and inborn errors of metabolism that significantly increase the risk of infections (such as SCID, homozygous sickle cell)
- are on immunosuppression therapies sufficient to significantly increase risk of infection
- are pregnant and have significant heart disease, congenital or acquired
How is COVID-19 treated?
There is no specific treatment for COVID-19 at present. But the symptoms of the virus can be treated (e.g. fever, difficulty breathing).
If you get the virus, your healthcare professional will advise treatment based on your symptoms. It is a good idea to ensure you have a supply of antipyretics and analgesics at home (i.e. medicines for managing your temperature and pain e.g. Paracetamol) in case they are needed. As COVID-19 is caused by a virus, antibiotics will not be effective in its treatment. If you do not have medications to treat your symptoms at home and are suffering from the illness, call your local Meaghers pharmacy store and we can arrange a delivery of any over the counter medications you may require. Do not attend the pharmacy if you have the virus.
What is my risk of infection with COVID-19?
As this is a new virus, we are still learning how it works. We currently do not know for sure which groups of people have a higher risk of catching the coronavirus. At present the average age of those with the infection is 44 years of age. Some groups however are most at risk of complications if they catch coronavirus. These include:
- People over the age of 65 especially those over the age of 75
- Those who have a long-term medical condition for example - heart disease, lung disease, high blood pressure, diabetes or cancer
- Pregnant women
- Those with a weak immune system. This could be due to due to cancer therapies, autoimmune therapies, HIV, organ transplants etc.
The advice on protection against the virus is the same for all groups and is detailed below. It is important to adhere to social distancing recommendations to help stop the spread of this virus.
How is COVID-19 spread?
COVID-19 can spread from person-to-person, usually after close contact with a person infected with the virus.
Close contact can mean:
- spending more than 15 minutes face-to-face contact within 2 metres of an infected person
- living in the same house or shared accommodation as an infected person
- spending more than 2 hours in a closed space with the case
The virus can be spread either:
- directly, through contact with an infected person’s body fluids (e.g. droplets from coughing or sneezing);
- indirectly, through contact with surfaces that an infected person has coughed or sneezed on. It is still not known how long the virus survives on surfaces, although current information suggests that it may survive a few hours. Simple household disinfectants can kill the virus.
What do I do if I think I have been exposed to Coronavirus?
If you have been in close contact with someone who has been diagnosed with the virus in the last 14 days and you develop the symptoms (fever, shortness of breath and a cough) then you should contact your GP. DO NOT GO TO THE SURGERY OR HOSPITAL as this may put others at risk - contact via telephone where you will be advised on the next steps. It is important to self-isolate
Should I be tested for Coronavirus?
Your GP will determine if you need to be tested for the virus via a telephone consultation. If you have a fever and at least one sign of respiratory illness e.g. cough, shortness of breath, or they will arrange a test for you at a local test center. Certain groups with symptoms will be prioritized including vulnerable patients and their carers, close contacts of confirmed cases and health care workers.
While waiting for your test if is very important that you self isolate for 14 days. Household contacts should also restrict their movements.
Your GP will register your details with the HSE and the testing center will contact you with details of your appointment. Be patient waiting to hear from the center. It can take 4-5 days to arrange a test and it will take a further 3-4 days to obtain results. Ensure your GP has a your correct mobile number as you will receive a text message with your test details. Keep self isolating throughout this process.
Update from March 25th: all arranged tests after the 26th of March have been cancelled. If you have a fever and a respiratory symptoms and are in a priority group you should contact your GP for a new test.
If you are concerned you can contact HSE Live on 1850 24 1850. They canopy arrange tests for you but can provide information at this time. If you do not have a GP, any GP can register you. Out of hours GP services are not able to arrange tests at this time. Call your local GP surgery for assistance.
For more details on the testing process visit the HSE website at https://www2.hse.ie/conditions/coronavirus/testing.html
How can I protect myself against Coronavirus?
Really now it is all about containing the virus, the public health department are doing all they can in terms of containing the confirmed cases. We as members of the public can do a lot to help contain this virus, protect yourself and your loved ones by doing a number of simple things:
- Hand washing
Wash your hands:
- When hands are dirty
- After coughing or sneezing
- Before, during and after you prepare food
- Before eating
- After using the toilet
- When caring for the sick
- After handling animals or animal waste
Hands should be washed regularly with soap and running water. Each time you wash your hands sing happy birthday twice, that’s the amount of time it takes to get them properly clean. Also, it’s so important to use a foaming soap- it is the foam of the soap that can penetrate the outer layers of the virus and reduce the spread of infection. Follow the hand washing with an emollient hand cream to prevent dryness.
Alcohol Gels can be used in between hand washing but not to replace regular hand washing. Also, only gels with 60% alcohol and over are effective at reducing the spread of infection so be sure to check the alcohol content on the bottle.
The correct handwashing procedure as detailed below should be followed -
- Practice Respiratory Hygiene. Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve when you cough and sneeze. If you don’t have a tissue sneeze into your elbow, teach children to do the same.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces. Make this a practice throughout the day.
- Practice good tissue hygiene and put all used tissues in the bin and wash your hands
- Follow the travel advice from the Department of Foreign Affairs when considering possible travel.
Am I protected against Covid-19 if I had the influenza vaccine this year?
The influenza virus the and SARS-CoV-2 virus are two very different viruses and the seasonal influenza vaccine will not protect against disease caused by SARS-CoV-2. However, as the European influenza season is still underway, the influenza vaccine is the best available protection against seasonal influenza; it is not too late to get vaccinated.
Do I need to wear a surgical mask?
There is absolutely no evidence that wearing a surgical mask can protect against infection. In fact, it may be a potential hazard. Surgical masks are designed for a completely different purpose. The virus enters the body through the mucous membranes so not only can it pass through the gaps in the mask to the nose and mouth but the eyes also. There is no evidence that a surgical mask will protect you as you go about daily life. In fact, the moist and warm environment created by a mask could act as an incubation area for viruses and bacteria.
Surgical facemasks are only recommended for people who –
- have or may have coronavirus
- are in close contact with someone who has or may have coronavirus
- are a healthcare worker in close contact with people who may have or have coronavirus
In these cases, surgical facemasks are effective only when used in combination with frequent hand-cleaning with alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water. If you wear a mask, then you must know how to use it and dispose of it properly.
Coronavirus and pregnancy
Is there anything I should be doing?
It important to take care of yourself during pregnancy as you are more susceptible to picking up infections. Follow all recommended guidelines about social distancing, washing your hands frequently, coughing and sneezing into your elbow or a disposable tissue and avoid touching your face. Keep a close eye on your symptoms and contact your doctor if any develop. High temperature is one of the coronavirus symptoms and this can increase the risk of complications during the first trimester. Call your GP or midwife if your have a high temperature.
Be sure to attending any scans that have been scheduled by your doctor or midwife. It is important to ensure you and the baby are healthy and thriving. Be reassured that your doctor will have an action plan and will know what to do if you do get the virus. A detailed description of what happens before birth, during labor and after birth can be found on the HSE website at https://www2.hse.ie/conditions/coronavirus/coronavirus-and-pregnancy.html
I have Coronavirus. Can I still breastfeed?
Breastfeeding is encouraged as normal even if you have the coronavirus. However if you are feeling too unwell to breastfeed you may decide to express and also someone else feed the baby. Contact your healthcare team who can give you specific advise on your situation. When breastfeeding make sure to wash your hands properly before touching your baby or any breastfeeding equipment you may be using. Wear a mask if you are doing the feeds yourself. Monitor the baby for signs and symptoms of the virus for the next 14 days. Be sure to clean any equipment used after each use.
How can I protect my kids against Coronavirus?
Protect your kids by communicating with them about what’s going on, explain the importance of washing their hands regularly and about covering their mouths and noses when coughing or sneezing, explain how to dispose of tissues correctly.
Another thing we would recommend is reassuring then that they are safe, it is important not to panic or crease undue anxiety in either your kids or for yourself. It may be an opportunity to explain what their immune system is and how to help it work best they should get enough sleep, eat lots of fruit and veg and get some exercise outdoors.
Should I change the way I am taking any of my medication?
Definitely not! Please do not cease any prescription medication or change any medication doses without checking with your GP or consultant first. This could cause a set back in your treatment which could require your hospitalisation.
Steroid treatments: If you take steroids regularly e.g. prednisolone (deltacortil), dexamethasone, it is vital you keep taking you this medication unless otherwise advised by your GP. Suddenly stopping this medication can make you feel very unwell. If you start to develop viral symptoms, keep taking your steroids and contact your doctor for further advise. Do not stop taking this medication.
Immunosupressant treatments: You can discuss your treatment plan with your prescribing consultant but in the majority of case you treatment will not change. Do not stop or change your treamtent without taking you you consultant first. A flare up of your condition may mean you need to restart your treatment or be admitted to hospital. Studies to date do not show an increase risk of severe illness in patients on immunosupressant treatments. Continue attending any blood test appointments you may have and keep in contact with your GP and consultant.
Social distancing tips for collecting your prescription.
- Call or email ahead to order your prescription. Please do not wait in the store for your prescription.
- Leave your phone number on the back of your presription and your team can contact you when your medicines are ready. Sometimes there are shortages and delays on stock arriving to the pharmacy and they might need some time to manage this setback.
- Only request one month of your medication at a time. There is no medicine supply issues at present in Ireland but if all patients were to get multiple months this would negatively impact the flow of medications in Ireland. Do not go to multiple pharmacies requesting a month at each.
- Be kind and patient. Your pharmacy team are working extremely hard to fill to your prescription in the most timely manner. There are delays at times so please be considerate. It can be a frustrating and anxious time but know your pharmacy team is there to help you and wants to ensure you are cared for at this time.
- Pay by tapping your card wherever possible.
- Adhere to any social distancing markers in the store. Many store will have markers on the floors or barriers to stand behind. Do not cross these barriers and if another customers moves into your space do not be afraid to politely ask them to move away.
- If you do not feel safe attending your store or if you are in isolation your store can arrange delivery for your medications. Contact your local Meaghers pharmacy and they will arrange a delivery of your medications. The can include any over the counter medication you may need.
Kinvara Pharmacy. Tel: 8383202 Fax: 018684569 email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Mater Hospital. Tel: 018117781 Fax: 018117781 email: email@example.com
Barrow Street. Tel: 016347000 Fax: 016347001 email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Baggot Street. Tel: 016605744 Fax: 016665744 email: email@example.com
Sandford Road. Tel: 014986970 Fax: 014986971 email:firstname.lastname@example.org
Ranelagh. Tel: 014971665 Fax: 014971420 email: email@example.com
Churchtown. Tel: 015253384 Fax: 015253448 email:firstname.lastname@example.org
Glenview, Tallaght. Tel: 014511465 Fax: 014511465 email:email@example.com
Castletymon. Tel: 014523562 Fax: 01-4523560 email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Head Office. Tel: 014628618
Keep yourself safe
If you are feeling anxious about the coronavirus or if you have any concerns please speak to ahealthcare professional, your pharmacist and GP are there to help.
It is really important that we get all our information on COVID19 from reputable sources please check out the listed websites below for more information.