Coronavirus (COVID-19): How to reduce your risk

I’m Dr. Bharat Pankhania. Senior Clinical
Lecturer at the University of Exeter Medical School. Thank you so much for agreeing to
speak to us today. Can you give us an outline of coronavirus please and tell
us a little bit first of all about what we know and how it transmits between
people. So this is a virus it has emerged from bats and gone through an intermediate host and now it infects humans and it transmits between humans
and therefore it’s a communicable disease of humans and it’s causing
severe disease and making some people extremely ill and unfortunately some
people are dying. How is it that it actually transmits? It’s transmitted as
what we believe is droplet spread and what I mean by droplet spread is
secretions from nose and mouth and what happens is you may have been infected
and infectious so you have a little secretion and it comes my way and then
he finds me and I get infected. And what do we know so far about how it differs
from flu? So in seasonal influenza virus is, in comparison, quite
mild compared to the coronavirus. The coronavirus is a beast it really is
it’s an awful beast for any age group it is more harmful than a seasonal
influenza virus. For the age 60 plus age group it is unbelievably harmful, so you know the case fatality rate for 60-year-olds plus is rising from three to four
to six to eight to ten case fatality rate, that is extremely high. So that’s serious for people over 60, especially those with underlying health conditions; diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, liver disease, they seem to be getting a tremendous hit. This has now been declared a pandemic what does
that mean? Pandemic just means pan demos which
means an epidemic that affects all people so it’s an infectious disease
that not only affects all people but it is throughout the globe and it is
spreading fast and it is sustained that’s the other keyword, so in other
words not only does it infect, but it spreads and it infects a lot of people
and it is sustained meaning it carries on doing that. So in this phase what can
people do to keep themselves safe? There is not a lot we can do and because there
isn’t a lot we can do the little bit that I want to tell you that you can do
is, do all you can not to get infected. How do you not get infected? Well, as I said
earlier its droplet spread and because it’s droplet spread it means the range
of hitting you is about two meters or six feet so somebody who is infectious and
hangs around you, may give you a hit and if you are within two meters of them you
might unfortunately get infected, so we want to stay away from them if you can,
if you can because you don’t know, they might not be showing any signs of
infection. The other root is contaminated surfaces, so there may be a dirty door
handle, there may be a dirty table, there might be any surface and you pick it up,
you pick it up and introduce it to your mouth and eyes and nose. And what can we do to stop that from happening,
how do we reduce our risk? So the only armamentarium
really, the only armamentarium we have is the weakest link and the weakest link is
you pick it up on your hand and introduce it to yourself, there is no
other armamentarium, so what you say to yourself is you become conscious that
the weakest link is my hand and you learn how to wash your hands properly
and you timetable washing your hands. It’s water over a duck’s back
to keep on about washing your hands, it won’t happen, but if your timetable it,
it will. So I would advise people to say I’m going to wake up in the morning and
I’m going to do my normal business and then I’m going to wash my hands and then
every two hours I’m going to wash my hands, during this emergency. And when you
wash your hands you need to think about it, so instead of daydreaming about whatever
you wish to daydream about, I would say focus on what you’re doing, focus on
washing your hands. So you think about I’m washing this, this, this, this, this,
this, this, think about it. Develop your own template and if you
develop your own template or whichever sequence you’re going to do it in, you
will do a much better job than to sing away and think about it and think about
something else and you’re going through the motions, you’re not focused on
washing your hands, focus on that. But, one more thing please this is very important
washing your hands is not good enough, you’ve got to learn how to dry your
hands too. This is very important, people don’t wash their hands properly and
people don’t dry their hands properly, they’re both important. One more thing,
you must wash your hands before you eat food, learn, learn and make it a habit. And
thinking about our university environment, we’ve got shared living
spaces, we have lectures and group spaces is there any advice that you would
give specifically to staff and students at the University on keeping safe and
reducing their risk of infection? Based on the evidence that we now have, I’m very
concerned about people who are aged 60 plus, the evidence indicates that if you
have an infection and you’re age 60 plus, with underlying medical conditions, the
infection is more severe. Therefore I have an age-specific advice for people
which is, people over 60 if you get infected you could be severely ill. I’m
sorry I wish this wasn’t a fact, but it is. Therefore I would really advise
people in that age group to exercise extra caution. So obviously most of our
student and even staff community are likely to be under 60 but I’m sure that
there will be people who are very concerned about carrying the illness and
passing it to more vulnerable people so is there any kind of advice that you can
give to people in that circumstance? We can do a lot and we
should, so I’ve given my age-specific advice, my other general advice to
everyone and anyone is please don’t get infected, this is very important, so do
all you can because just because you think people in this twenty-year-old age
group don’t seem to get a big hit for infection, that doesn’t mean you get
infected you know, do all you can’t not to because if you get infected you make
cases as well. The other thing is you exercise good care and good hygiene. The other
important bit is if you have even the semblance of an illness, you exclude
yourself from circulating because you could make your friends, your friends
parents and other people ill so it is a very good, important social responsibility not to circulate if you have an illness. And what symptoms should people
be looking out for what should be the trigger for that self-isolation? Symptoms
unfortunately are not very specific but the ones that we know are related to
coronavirus infection are as follows, so you have aching limbs, aching tiredness,
that’s your muscles hurting. The second one is you may have a rash, the third one
is you will have a fever and the fever I mean is a temperature 38 degrees
centigrade, sustained over two days. That’s pretty good, that’s a good sign in
that at least it is measurable and you can detect it, the other things are vague, but
temperature is measurable and then later on moving on is cough, the peculiar cough
of a coronavirus infection is a dry cough and the peculiarity of the coronavirus infection is not a runny nose it’s a it’s a dryness so there is a dryness
and a cough and a dry cough. One more thing, you may experience a shortness of
breath, now if you experience shortness of breath it’s indicating that you may
be developing an pneumonia, a viral pneumonia, so we need to be aware of this
and act fast, so you would need to have medical intervention or at least consult
with your doctor if you’re getting short of breath or
you’re having difficulty breathing, this is important. And self-isolation, what
does that look like? What kind of advice have you got for people who
want to self-isolate and again specifically thinking about shared
living arrangements? It’s very difficult, very difficult. You have to think of
yourself and picture yourself as somebody glowing red or glowing a
fluorescent colour so think about in that line. So if you think of yourself as, you
know, red hot glowing something full of germs which you will pass on to others
then you will actually undertake self-isolation much better and what I
mean by that is you’re isolated, you’re infected
you’re infectious, don’t infect others. So picture yourself with that glowing
fluorescent light and wherever you go whoever you mingle with you could be
passing it on to them. So if you are infected and infectious you really need to
be on your own. There have been unfortunately some
incidents of racism nationally where people have picked
on a particular nationality, what’s your what’s your kind of view on that? Look this virus emerged in China but equally well it could have emerged in Africa, America, or anywhere that’s one point. The second point is, if you are abusive to
any other person from any other race you’re actually being abusive to
yourself because we are one race, the human race. The third point is it’s not a
nice thing to do, it’s not a nice thing to do on many parameters and this is a
global issue, this outbreak is all over the world and we could all do your
little bit by being socially fair, honest, don’t hurt and be nice to your fellow
human beings, it’s not a lot to ask for.

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