Cork GP referring fewer patients for coronavirus testing but warns people to remain alert to symptoms

Cork GP referring fewer patients for coronavirus testing but warns people to remain alert to symptoms
Dr. Mary Favier.Pic Michael Mac Sweeney/Provision

A Cork GP says she is requesting much fewer tests for patients presenting with symptoms of COVID-19 than she had been, but has urged people to continue to be alert to the symptoms of the virus, including some more unusual presentations.

Dr Mary Favier, who is President of the Irish College of General Practitioners (ICGP), said that while changes to testing criteria meant that GPs could refer a wider number of suspected cases for testing, in addition to contacts of confirmed cases, that she was referring just a handful of people for testing weekly.

“You can really tell it has died back,” she said.

A dummy COVID-19 swab: Ben Birchall/PA Wire
A dummy COVID-19 swab: Ben Birchall/PA Wire

Dr Favier also pointed out that sentinel practices which monitor influenza like illness (ILI) rates in Ireland were also seeing “pretty low” levels.

This rate had been elevated in recent weeks, which was believed to be reflective of the COVID-19 pandemic rather than influenza activity.

The Cork GP said that effectiveness of cocooning was shown by the fact that she had not sent a patient over the age of 70 for a test for COVID-19 “for weeks”, with most of the referrals relating to younger people and essential workers.

Despite Cork being a major population centre, the incidence of COVID-19 is relatively low here.

Latest data from the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) show that up to Sunday night, 1,372 cases of COVID-19 had been reported in Cork, representing 5.7 per cent of all cases reported nationally.

The cumulative incidence rate per 100,000 population of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Cork is 252.7, the seventh lowest rate in the country.

“I think even though Cork is a big centre of population, there was a certain advantage of being first,” said Dr Favier, pointing out how some of the very first cases of COVID-19 identified in the country were linked with Cork University Hospital and the Bon Secours hospital.

“People were more anxious and they bought into social distancing here,” she said.

GPs across the country have managed 80 per cent of presumptive and actual COVID-19 cases, many of whom have presented with symptoms such as fever, cough and shortness of breath.

However, Dr Favier says she has also seen some more unusual symptoms of the disease which people should be alert to.

“A loss of sense of taste and smell is prominent,” the Cork GP said, adding that other more unusual symptoms have included rashes such as chilblains.

Unusual tummy bugs particularly in older people are also being seen, she said.

The Cork GP said anyone with symptoms suggestive of an infection should contact their doctor.

“This could be anything at all; a temperature, or a headache with feeling achy or just a feeling of thinking am I coming down with something,” she said.

Dr Favier also said it is important that people continue to contact their doctors with non-COVID related issues, and for vaccinations, and said practices are beginning to see more and more patients in person.

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