A Cork GP is urging people with even mild symptoms of Covid-19 to self-isolate to help stop the spread of the virus in the community.
Nuala O’Connor, who is the Irish College of General Practitioner’s lead adviser on Covid-19, said people should be alert to symptoms that they would not even usually call their doctor about.
It comes as new data shows that community transmission of the virus now accounts for 67% of new cases in Ireland.
Last night’s briefing by the Department of Health confirmed the death of a further 28 patients diagnosed with Covid-19, and a further 500 new cases. There have now been 263 Covid-19 related deaths in the Republic, with the total number of confirmed cases now at 6,574.
Dr O’Connor said GPs had received a large number of calls from patients experiencing symptoms of Covid-19 when there was more broad testing for the virus, but that this had now reduced, as people were aware that the testing criteria had narrowed, and that in many cases they would be advised to self-isolate.
She said that while people with moderate symptoms might contact their GP and get advice, those with mild symptoms may not make contact. Symptoms could include a cough, a fever, a sore throat, aches, pains, or shortness of breath.
“We are asking those with mild symptoms, the kind of thing that they would not even think about ringing a GP about, to isolate. If people have any symptoms, even mild, they could have mild Covid,” she said.
Dr O’Connor warned that people with mild symptoms may not realise how dangerous this could be for vulnerable people in their home, such as the elderly or those with underlying conditions.
“They must self-isolate for 14 days,” she said. “That means they can’t go out, and they must not share utensils or towels with family members and must stay two metres away. I know this can be difficult in a family environment, but this is the only way we can avoid spreading the virus further.”
While many people are working from home at the moment, Dr O’Connor said it is vital for essential workers to contact their workplace and declare if they have mild symptoms, and contact their GP.
“Most of us know when we are coming down with something,” she said. “Sometimes it is hard to describe it — we might be feeling off. It could be as subtle as that. Don’t take that chance.”
Meanwhile, Dr O’Connor acknowledged that hayfever sufferers may find it difficult to differentiate between symptoms of hayfever and Covid-19, saying that those with hayfever should start preventive treatments now, so that if they do have symptoms they will recognise this.
Meanwhile, President Michael D Higgins has said Irish people hold the power to reduce the severity and magnitude of the coronavirus emergency.
In an Easter message, the President said we are being challenged like few other times in recent memory.
“Over the past number of weeks, all of us have awoken abruptly to changes in our way of life,” he said.
“There is an uncertainty, anxiety, and fear to be overcome as the coronavirus takes hold in our communities. We have all been asked to take more restrictive measures in order to stop the spread of the virus — measures that would have been unimaginable just a few weeks ago and which have presented a challenge to our resolve, to our way of life, be it how we work or socialise with others.
“As the number of coronavirus cases rises and the global death toll accumulates to shocking levels, it would be easy to become overwhelmed.”
The President said he and his wife are greatly aware of the pain and suffering the virus has caused, as he sent their condolences to the bereaved.
“All of what we are asked to do now is about saving lives, slowing the spread of the virus, and caring in the ways that have been suggested to us by medical advice, until a vaccine emerges,” he added.
He thanked staff working in hospitals across Ireland and around the world. He also commended others responding to the crisis, providing vital goods and services.
“Easter is a time of hope, of rebirth, of new beginnings,” said President Higgins. “Nature in its renewal offers us perennial hope as we deal with these difficult times. Just as the seasons change, this crisis, too, will pass, but its severity and magnitude are, to a large extent, in our hands.
“The days ahead may continue to be difficult, and for some I recognise they are more difficult than others, such as carers, but what a memory it will be, and legacy too, when the virus has passed to know that we gave of our best, and what a valuable memory it will be that we continued to save lives that would otherwise have been lost by co-operating and working with the measures suggested to us for the good of all. In the shadow of each other we live. May the hope and peace of Easter be with you all.”
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