A LEADING medical expert in Cork has implored members of the public to follow the advice from medical professionals in a bid to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus.
Dr Chris Luke, an emergency medicine consultant and senior adjunct lecturer in public health at University College Cork, said if the threat of the virus becomes greater in the coming days, the health service will dial-up its response in a controlled, appropriate manner.
For the time being, Dr Luke implored people to follow the guidelines set out by the HSE in terms of hygiene practices.
Dr Luke said at present, Ireland should be on a level “four or five” out of ten in terms of alertness.
“If we follow the guidance and the science, that’s the best way to protect ourselves, our loved ones and our jobs,” he explained.
“We will dial-up as and when and if the threat becomes greater but we will dial up appropriately and in a controlled manner.
“The keyword is control - we need to be very controlled in our response as a country and community,” he added.
“We have to decide the right time, not prematurely and not too late, to send hospitals or schools or even towns and cities into lockdown.
“The effect on the social, economic and political fabric of our country could be enormous.”
Dr Luke explained that the spread of the virus has been expected and that healthcare workers have been preparing for such an eventuality.
“We were expecting this for the last week or two.
“As we tracked the virus from China over the past six weeks or so, it has gone from being a tiny dot on our radar to a pulsating spot and now a blob, and we have been learning more on a day-to-day basis about the virus, how it has spread, the nature of the effect on humans,” he said.
“We’ve also been learning how to contain the spread and how we can or cannot treat it.
“We have been expecting the outbreak for weeks and we have been preparing,” he added.
“What we should continue to do now is to gradually dial up our response steadily, rather than erratically, suddenly or without warning.
“We need to avoid panic or undue alarm because that would cost a lot of jobs, livelihoods and would be very disruptive.
“We have to steer a very careful course between overreaction and apathy.
“It is a difficult task.”
Dr Luke accepted the case in Cork will affect hospital capacity but he added that healthcare staff will pull through.
“The health service will be under a bit more strain than normal but there are fantastic doctors, nurses and allied health professionals in CUH who will respond, and have always responded, very professionally and nobly.
“I have every faith in our healthcare staff,” he said.
“We have to remind people that the effect of the disease hinges completely on the way people behave.
“If people adhere to the advice and lessons being put out by the HSE and healthcare professionals, and they really stick to those hygiene tips, then they will be protecting themselves, their loved ones and vulnerable people in the community.
“We have to be mindful that the effect of the illness will be very, very mild in 90% of cases or more.
“I say that because we believe there are so many undetected cases that the figure of 2.5% mortality will probably drop to 1% or less, once the figures emerge.
“If we were going to do anything new today, I would say now is the time to stop shaking hands until further notice. Now is the time to really stick to the hygiene guidelines and now is the time to ensure you have enough medicine, such as panadol, Lemsip, honey, Nurofen and diluting fluids, in your cupboard to tide people over at home if they’re not feeling well.
“These people might have headaches, cough or feel achy but overwhelmingly, the majority of those can and should stay at home.
“Go nowhere near the doctors, go nowhere near the hospital until they’re told otherwise.”