Covid19 Q&A with Dr Enam Abood
Covid19 pandemic: Since January, we have been keeping up-to-date with the new research related to COVID-19. We hope this Q&A with Dr Enam Abood helps further inform you and keep you safe.
What are coronaviruses?
COVID-19 is part of a family of coronaviruses that affect both humans and animals. So far, we know of 7 different kinds of coronaviruses that were also responsible for the previous MERS and SARS epidemics.
What is the difference between SARS and COVID-19?
It is still early to compare the two accurately but initial research is showing that COVID-19 is more contagious than the virus that caused SARS but also, causes less serious symptoms.
So is COVID-19 less or more fatal than common ‘flu?
The Journal of Global Health published a study which found that 290,000 – 500,000 people die annually worldwide from ‘flu. However, the death rate of COVID-19 among infected people is around 6 times higher, meaning people are 6 times more likely to die from COVID-19.
The lock-down measures mean that fewer people are being infected. This is reducing the number of people who will die from COVID-19. Hopefully when a vaccine is developed, we will be able to manage COVID-19 like we do the ‘flu.
Who is at risk of serious illness?
Only a small percentage of those infected with COVID-19 become seriously ill, but it affects different people in different ways. We know that older people, those with underlying conditions and who have low immunity are more likely to develop serious illness.
I greatly recommend that anyone who falls in these categories considers a pneumococcal vaccination because when the disease is serious, many patients are developing pneumonia as well as COVID-19 which adversely affects recovery and increases the seriousness of the impact on the lungs.
So what actually happens with you when you get Covid-19?
For most people, you will experience mild symptoms such as a dry cough or fever. Some people have also been found to lose their sense of taste and/or smell for a period of time. However, COVID19 infects your lungs and causes inflammation of the delicate lining of your airways.
One of the key features of severe illness is shortness of breath. It can prevent lungs from functioning normally which means your blood is starved of enough oxygen.
I recommend having a simple oxygen saturation finger monitor at home – they cost around £20 – and regularly checking oxygen levels. If your O2 level is consistently below 95%, seek medical help.
When should people be concerned?
There are some key red flags that everyone should be aware of and should call 999 if they notice them in themselves or others in their household.
These are: shortness of breath (a good test for this is whether you can get through a sentence without issue), fast and harsh breathing, blue lips, audible wheezing, inability to do normal daily activities and suddenly feeling worse. Please do not delay in calling 999.
Is testing available and is it reliable? There’s been a lot in the news about antibody tests not being accurate.
PCR swab testing is available currently and is very accurate in determining whether you have an active infection. This is available privately and in some NHS settings, and certainly in hospitals if you are admitted.
I have read the clinical testing outcomes for antibody blood tests for COVID-19. It seems that these tests are accurate in determining whether you’ve had a past infection but not ideal for testing for a current infection. I would recommend a PCR throat swab if you are symptomatic / in contact with a symptomatic person.
So would an asymptomatic person test positive?
Some of our patients have tested positive without symptoms, so yes. If the virus is there, then you will test positive. This is important because it means that asymptomatic people are contagious for a period of time. This is why the lockdown is so important.
Any other advice for everyone?
Try to avoid stress – I know it is difficult right now. Take daily probiotics, vitamin C and zinc. Invest in your health by eating well, avoiding foods that you know cause you inflammation and please exercise. Do everything you can to give your immunity the best chance of fighting this virus.
If you have an unwell person in your household, please isolate them in a separate room where this is possible. Even if you are all unwell, you should stay apart from each other as viral load is an important factor as to how unwell you can get. Staying in the same room when you are all unwell increases the viral load in all of you.
Take care please and stay safe!