So what is COVID-19?
COVID-19 is a disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus that mutated to infect human hosts after starting in animals. SARS-CoV-2 is a coronavirus. Coronaviruses have been known for many centuries and in fact the common cold is a coronavirus.
It seems to be about twice as infectious and to cause far more pneumonia, other serious disease and deaths than the seasonal influenza virus (flu). It’s also worse than the flu because the world population so far lacks immunity. New diseases are more dangerous, because their infection rates can grow incredibly rapidly (even having exponential growth). Such rapid transmission of a new disease can swiftly overwhelm even outstanding health-care systems, making it impossible for everyone who needs care (including for unrelated conditions) to access it – and in turn contributing to more severe disease and death.
The disease attacks through the lung tissue, meaning that those with asthma or other breathing difficulties such as COPD may experience more severe symptoms. At the current time and based on our understanding of what is known of COVID-19 and other similar respiratory viruses, it is likely that older people and those with chronic medical conditions may be vulnerable to severe disease. As more information emerges, recommendations may change.
How is COVID-19 spread?
People can catch COVID-19 from others who have the virus and the disease can spread from person to person through small droplets from the nose or mouth which are spread when a person with COVID-19 coughs or exhales. These droplets land on objects and surfaces around the person.
Other people then catch COVID-19 by touching these objects or surfaces, then touching their eyes, nose or mouth. People can also catch COVID-19 if they breathe in droplets from a person with COVID-19 who coughs out or exhales droplets. This is why it is important to stay two metres apart from others.
How can I protect myself and others from getting it?
1. Wash your hands frequently and catch coughs and sneezes in a tissue
One of the ways we become infected, or pass on viruses to others, is through the droplets in coughs and sneezes – for instance through someone who has a virus, coughing onto their hand, then touching a door handle.
A simple and effective way to protect yourself and others from coronavirus is by making sure you wash your hands frequently with soap and water or to use a hand sanitiser if you are out and about. It’s particularly important to wash your hands once you get home or arrive at work or before you prepare or eat food.
If you are unwell it’s vital that you catch your coughs and sneezes in a tissue, or use your arm if needed, throw the tissues away, then wash your hands.
2. Be prepared to self-isolate
As COVID-19 is now spreading in communities, people with symptoms of coronavirus should self-isolate at home. This means staying indoors and avoiding contact with other people for seven days after the onset of symptoms (new, continuous cough and/or high temperature). People can return to normal activity after seven days if they do not have a temperature and feel like they are improving. Please refer to your local guidance on isolation for family groups.
3. Plan ahead based on your situation
There are a number of ways to slow down an infectious disease outbreak. Well-established tactics include self-isolation as mentioned above, as well as measures sometimes referred to as “social distancing.”
4. Use health services wisely
Now that COVID-19 is considered to be spreading in the community this could mean the health services are busier than usual so it’s important to think carefully about the services you use. If you start to experience symptoms and believe you could have coronavirus, do not go to a GP surgery, pharmacy or hospital as you could pass the infection to others. Check with your local public health website for guidance on what you should so. In the UK, you should visit NHS 111 online or call NHS 111 if you need to speak to someone.
5. Stay up to date using trusted sources of information
Since COVID-19 began to spread quickly in China, it has been a major global news story and with this level of media and public interest it’s inevitable that myths, misinformation and rumours will be shared online.
What symptoms should I expect?
You may suffer from any of the following, most common first symptoms:
- Dry (unproductive) cough
- Shortness of breath
- Gastrointestinal symptoms
A fever seems to be the most common symptom but not everyone experiences this. Early data reported a low incidence of gastrointestinal symptoms (diarrhoea, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, loss of appetite) but more recent evidence shows they are common and can even come before respiratory symptoms. Initial symptoms may also include joint/muscle pain, headache, chills, dizziness, nasal congestion, and sore throat. Later in the infection, symptoms may include loss of smell and taste lasting for several days.
These symptoms are common to other viruses too such as the common cold, influenza (flu), and allergies.
Should I be more worried?
If you have pseudomyxoma peritonei (PMP) or appendix cancer, you will be worried about how COVID-19 affects you. The most important thing is to follow the advice from your public health service and your healthcare team.
The guidance in the UK in this case is that you should be shielding at home. You are strongly advised to stay in your home for 12 weeks and there are other measures which you should take if youshare your home with other. You can find the information for shielding here – https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-on-shielding-and-protecting-extremely-vulnerable-persons-from-covid-19.
- If you currently take them, continue with your antibiotics. If you don’t, do not start them if you do not have any symptoms.
- Make sure that you have your emergency antibiotics, be that to double your penicillin or to take azithromycin.
- Ensure you are up-to-date with your vaccines (Annual Influenza and 5 yearly Pneumonia booster)
- If you develop any chest symptoms, contact your GP to check if you should move to your emergency treatment and for further advice – DO NOT go to the surgery, walk-in-centre or A&E
If you are worried that your treatment or part of the monitoring of your disease will be affected, you should contact your specialist’s departmental secretary or clinical nurse specialist. Please remember that many of the staff may have been redeployed to help treat COVID-19 patients and it may take longer for someone to get back to you.
Cancer52, of which Pseudomyxoma Survivor is a member, is regularly joining teleconference calls with NHSE and other charities on the evolving situation and working with other cancer charities under the banner of One Cancer Voice. You can find the latest guidance here.
The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) has a leaflet with information for those with an immumocomproising condition which can be found here.
What should I do if I develop symptoms?
Always call your local emergency number for a life-threatening emergency (911 or 999).
- If you live alone and you have symptoms of COVID-19, however mild, you should stay at home for seven days from when your symptoms started.
- If you live with others and you are the first in the household to have symptoms of coronavirus, then you must stay at home for seven days, but all other household members who remain well must stay at home and not leave the house for 14 days. The 14-day period starts from the day when the first person in the house became ill.
- For anyone else in the household who starts displaying symptoms, they need to stay at home for seven days from when the symptoms appeared, regardless of what day they are on in the original 14 day isolation period.
It is likely that people living within a household will infect each other or be infected already. Staying at home for 14 days will greatly reduce the overall amount of infection the household could pass on to others in the community. Public Health England has a diagram to explain ending self-isolation.
If you have coronavirus symptoms, do not go to a GP surgery, pharmacy or hospital. Follow your local advice as to whether you need to contact you doctor or specialit. In the UK, you do not need to contact 111 to tell them you’re staying at home. Testing for coronavirus is not needed if you’re staying at home
You should continue to wash your hands regularly for 20 seconds, each time using soap and water, or use hand sanitiser. If you feel you cannot cope with your symptoms at home, or your condition gets worse, or your symptoms do not get better after seven days, the follow your local advice for contacting healthcare professionals.
What do I need to do if I am going to an appointment either at my GP or at the hospital?
Please call your doctor or hospital for advice. Most consultations are now being held over the phone.
Should I avoid travel?
Yes, you should avoid travelling unless absolutely necessary.
Are there treatments for COVID-19?
There are no drugs available yet to treat the virus and no vaccination to prevent it. A number of trials are under way of experimental drugs and vaccines, including anti-virals and vaccines, but these are likely to take some time (months if not years) before becoming widely available. However, for most, isolation at home will lead to a recovery within days, followed by a period of immunity. For others who suffer respiratory difficulties, support in hospital and possibly intensive care support may become necessary to preserve life whilst the immune system fights the infection.
One tip we have found from [email protected] is to keep a diary from the first day of symptoms. The suggest that a few times a day, preferably at somewhat regular hours or points in your normal routines or rhythms (e.g., every morning before making coffee or tea),
- you measure your temperature, even if you don’t feel like you have a fever (yet)
- you weigh once a day if possible.
- make a note respiratory and heart rates in breaths and beats per minute. It will get you used to doing these things, give you practise, and (if you start early) give you some idea what (more or less) healthy values for you look like.
- also suggested is that you record your blood pressure and oxygenation if you can
Write down any symptoms you have. and be sure to note what medication, if any, you take. You can download a printable illness diary from their website.
We’ve used these sites as sources for this post as well as [email protected]
Government and Health System Support
The UK Government is advising everybody to:
- Stay alert
- Stay at home as much as possible
- Work from home if you can
- Limit contact with other people
- Keep your distance if you go out (2 metres apart where possible)
- Wash your hands regularly
Do not leave home if you or anyone in your household has symptoms of coronavirus. In the first instance, please refer to wider Government guidance on:
- Staying at home if you think you have coronavirus (self-isolating)
- Staying alert and safe (social distancing)
- Staying alert: what you can and cannot do
- Staying safe outside your home
- How to protect clinically extremely vulnerable people (shielding)
The Government have a wide range of information to help people at this time, including on employment, financial support, and childcare. See: https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus
Cancer services during the restoration and recovery from COVID-19
The NHS is currently moving into the next phase of its response to the COVID-19 outbreak: to restore and recover all services for patients. If you need to access care or treatment for suspected or diagnosed cancer, arrangements have been put in place to keep you safe from COVID-19.
If you have a worrying symptom, and you think it might be cancer, please contact your GP surgery straight away. GP surgeries are offering online consultations and/or remote triage so that people do not have to attend in person unnecessarily. If you have been asked to go to hospital for further investigation or for treatment if you are diagnosed with cancer, it is important that you attend.
The NHS is reorganising the way that it delivers services to keep you safe:
- COVID protected hubs have been established for cancer surgery across the country to keep patients safe. These are in COVID protected areas of a hospital or on separate hospital sites. The model is now being expanded to cover diagnostics too.
- Wider measures are also being taken by all hospitals treating COVID patients to ensure that COVID and non-COVID patients are kept separate. This may include using separate entrances for COVID and non-COVID patients, ensuring staff and patients do not move between different parts of the hospital, and making sure that, as far as possible, staff are social distancing both inside and outside clinical areas.
- The staff caring for cancer patients will be vigilant for any symptoms that they or their families are showing and are required to self-isolate in line with government guidance. Staff will be tested for the virus if they are displaying symptoms. Hospitals are also introducing testing for staff not displaying symptoms where there is testing capacity to do so.
- All patients can support NHS staff to maintain COVID-protected environments by being aware of any symptoms they or their family may be displaying, and by following the advice of the clinical teams working with them. If a patient is uncertain whether they should come into the hospital, they should discuss this with their clinical team.
The NHS is here for you if you need it: help us to help you.
Guidance on social distancing for everyone in the UK
Guidance on shielding and protecting people defined on medical grounds as extremely vulnerable from COVID-19
Guidance produced by the One Cancer Voice charities in partnership with NHS England – here
Get coronavirus support as an extremely vulnerable person (England) – https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus-extremely-vulnerable
NHS England Advice for everyone – Coronavirus (COVID-19)
Coronavirus in Scotland – https://www.gov.scot/coronavirus-covid-19/
Latest guidance about COVID-19 from NHS Scotland and the Scottish Government
Northern Ireland Public Health Agency COVID-19 information
Public Health Wales Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19)
NHS Wales Coronavirus COVID-19 Symptom Checker
Coronavirus (COVID-19): latest information and advice from the Government of Ireland
Australian Government Department of Health Coronavirus (COVID-19) health alert
Government of Canada Public Health Coronavirus disease (COVID-19)
Official COVID-19 New Zealand Government Information
CDC Coronavirus (COVID-19)
Financial Support and advice
Turn2Us Benefits and Corona virus
Benefits and Work Coronavirus (COVID-19) Updates
Latest guidance from British Dental Association
A guide to self-isolation or quarantine with Covid-19 from GPs-can
Self-isolating warning poster for your front door
Care for your coronavirus anxiety
Andrew Johnson has some of his most popular mediations available free on his website
Headspace are offering free access to their meditation resources during this time
Mindful Breathing Meditation from the Irish Cancer Society
How can you help?
Take 1-minute to self-report daily, even if you are well. Help scientists to identify the high-risk areas in the UK, who is most at risk, by better understanding symptoms linked to underlying health conditions, how fast the virus is spreading in your area. COVID-19 Symtom Checker: https://covid.joinzoe.com/
(other countries are being added)
The NHS is “rallying the troops” for the war on coronavirus, with volunteers being called up to help vulnerable people stay safe and well at home – https://www.goodsamapp.org/nhsvolunteerresponders
Please do continue to support Pseudomyxoma Survivor – we’re a small charity run by a small number of patients, the majority of whom are self-isolating. You can make a donation here.
Authored by A Brook, Trustee
Reviewed by Dr G Morgan MB ChB, Trustee
Originally published 21 Mar 11:52. Updated frequently.
We hope you’ve been keeping well these last couple weeks, and have been keeping safe and well as the coronavirus pandemic wears on.
Hope will always be a choice, and for me one made pragmatically I suppose — made for the purpose of survival of the soul as much as of the body. I can’t live in fear.
When word was spreading that coronavirus may happen and schools might close, I was still very much living in a fog of grief.