Did you know that the Great Plague of the early 1600s in England wiped out one quarter of the population of London? That was 100,000 people back then. They didn’t have social media to warn them of its coming, just the town crier and early newspapers. This was a different kind of plague to what we are facing now – it was spread by bacteria living on fleas living on rats living on ships, and it made a relentless voyage across the globe, starting first in the 14th century and coming back for repeated waves over the next 250 years.
The viral pandemic we are now facing with COVID-19 has come upon us much more quickly, and thanks to our connectedness via the internet we are better able to prepare. Even so, it will take a toll.
The SARS–COV2 virus is a new virus to emerge, and so we don’t fully understand it yet. Our knowledge grows daily, so what I write today may be obsolete next week.
For up to date information on the Australian situation visit this site.
We are bombarded with messages telling us what to do, what to be afraid of, and how to manage in these unusual times.
What are the symptoms?
The classic symptoms are cough and fever with difficulty breathing. Some people get a sore throat and mild gastro symptoms, and here’s the tricky bit – some people get no symptoms at all but are still able to pass it on. This is especially the case with children.
I’m young and healthy, so if I get it I’ll be fine, right?
Bad news, young people can get quite serious illness too – many people under 45 end up in intensive care, in a critical condition, and many in this age group have died.
But even if you don’t get very sick, you can still pass it on to everyone around you, including your parents and colleagues. Taking the “I’ll be right, mate” attitude is selfish. You don’t want to be that person!
Initially called social distancing, this refers to the concept of staying some distance away from other people, preferably at least 1.5 metres. This advice is because if someone has the virus, and they cough or breathe on you, you could become infected. There does not seem to be any risk from air-conditioning, and the virus does not survive for long in the air.
This virus can survive for a number of days on different surfaces, so it’s possible to pick it up by touching door handles, supermarket trolleys, elevator buttons, ATMs, taps, toilets etc. The virus is easily destroyed by soap and water, which is why washing your hands frequently is your best defence. Alcohol-based hand sanitizer is the next best thing when out and about. If you can’t wash your hands, don’t touch your face. Imagine the virus is glitter, and think about how that gets into everything….
Can I go out?
Going into public spaces puts you at risk, mainly because you could end up quite close to others. This is the reason that pubs, clubs, bars and restaurants have all been closed. How long this goes on for is impossible to predict, but for now you can expect everything is going to stay closed for at least a month, probably longer.
Don’t have dinner parties or go to visit friends – all close contact with others puts you at risk!
Can I still hook up?
Any close contact with others puts you at risk, so you should stop having casual encounters. Most saunas and sex clubs are closing for this reason.
Masturbation is however completely free of risk (and cost)!
Can pets carry the virus?
It doesn’t look as though this virus can infect your cats, dogs and budgies. But if the virus gets on your dog’s fur, it may stay there a while. How long? We don’t know. Is it contagious from your pet? We don’t know that either.
Don’t be a hoarder
Panic buying of products is a very bad look. There is enough of everything, but when people panic buy, it suddenly reduces availability, and means that many people can’t get what they need. Think of elderly people who usually only buy a few days’ worth of groceries at a time. They are faced with empty shelves and bare cupboards. The same goes for prescription medicines. You only need to have 1 to 2 months’ supply maximum in your cabinet.
Why can’t we all just get tested?
In a perfect world, we could all just go and get tested then isolate the people who have it, right? Well that still wouldn’t work, since early cases will still be missed. And test kits are in short supply, so they’re only available to those who meet strict criteria (recent OS travel or contact with a known case, plus symptoms).
What if I have HIV?
People with HIV are not at any greater risk than the general population if they have normal T cell numbers (and most HIV+ people do these days in Australia).
What increases my risk of serious illness?
Smoking. Diabetes. Heart disease. Being elderly.
Beware social media stories of treatments/cures
There have been quite a few suggested treatments for COVID-19. Unfortunately, the virus simply hasn’t been around long enough for any proper research to have been done, so anything being touted as a treatment is pure conjecture at this stage. A very small study on combining hydroxychloroquine with azithromycin showed some benefit, but subsequent larger studies have not been able to repeat this. A sad consequence of the early reporting of this was that people started to demand scripts for these meds, and now there is a shortage of hydroxychloroquine for people with chronic illness who rely on it. And if the president of a certain large western country is “having a feeling” about a possible treatment, please change the channel – the chimps on National Geographic are likely to be offering more reliable advice…..
Is it safe to take my blood pressure meds?
Although there has been a lot of interest in blood pressure medications called ACE inhibitors and ARBs, there is no evidence yet to suggest that these meds should be changed or stopped – and it’s always better to have a discussion with your doctor about this, rather than listening to Facebook posts.
Is ibuprofen safe to use?
There have been some reports of ibuprofen leading to worse outcomes, however this was in people who were already very sick, so right now we are not suggesting that anyone who normally uses this medication should have to stop it.
When will we have a vaccine?
Good question. Vaccine development usually takes many months, and there are teams all over the world working on it, including right here in Brisbane, but it’s very difficult to rush this process.
Lockdown is upon us, and it’s not nearly as much fun as it’s made out to be in the zombie movies. The financial impact of this is likely to be terrible for many, especially anyone working in hospitality, tourism and the arts. Now is a time to be generous and kind to anyone you know who is affected. The other big issues people face are boredom, lack of social interaction, and no exercise. You can overcome these things by creating a schedule for yourself, using online links and videos, and staying connected with friends and family. Check this boredom-busting site! Get up in the morning, shower and get dressed for the day. Even if you’re not going anywhere you will feel better for it!
This pandemic has steered us into strange times, and it will take some time for people to adjust, but we can survive this as a community. Look after yourself and your loved ones, and reach out if you need help.
Hugs from the doc xxx