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The virus explained

Wednesday, 11th March, 2020 4:37pm

Dr Doireann O'Leary, a GP based in Cork city, tells us more about Covid-19.

 

What is Covid-19?

Covid-19 is basically a first cousin of the common cold. If you’ve had a cold you’ve likely had coronavirus. But Covid-19 is stronger than most other coronaviruses.

What are the symptoms?

Sore throat, fever, runny nose, cough, shortness of breath, aches and pains, abdominal pain and pneumonia in severe cases.

How does it spread?

Coronaviruses are spread by droplet contamination. This means it’s spread from person to person when we cough/sneeze on one another or when we touch a contaminated surface. This is why coughing in to your elbow and sneezing in to a tissue is so important.

How can it be prevented from spreading?

The virus can’t infect you through your skin. It enters our body through the nose and mouth mostly. So don’t touch your face. Regular hand washing with soap and water is critical. The soap dissolves the outer layer of the virus and kills it. Alcohol hand gel in between hand washing and regular wiping down surfaces is also helpful.

Why are people concerned?

We, as doctors, are worried about our vulnerable patients. For most people reading this - you will be fine! It’ll be a sniffly head cold. But for about two-three per cent of people it will be severe. We don’t have treatments or a vaccine for this yet so it’s making our job of protecting weaker patients more difficult. We’re also concerned about healthcare workers being out sick and therefore not being able to deliver healthcare effectively.

Who is vulnerable?

People with conditions like asthma, diabetes, cancer, heart disease and anyone who’s on immune suppressing medicines like Methotrexate for rheumatoid arthritis. Over 65s are also particularly at risk.

What can vulnerable people do?

Things like avoiding public transport and avoiding large gatherings can help.

What are GPs doing to prevent spread?

We’re asking all patients with symptoms to phone first so we can assess over the phone. This helps protect patients in the surgery and healthcare workers.

Do I need a face mask?

No. These masks are for patients and healthcare staff.

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