As we hear of the first confirmed case of the novel coronavirus, covid-19 in New Zealand, we are receiving more and more enquiries about both this and the 'flu vaccine.
The 'Flu vaccine will not be available until 1st April this year. We will be letting you know as soon as it comes into stock. Having the whole family, especially children immunised is the best way to stop influenza spreading in our community. Although the 'Flu vaccine provides NO protection against Covid-19, it does reduce the risk of getting sick and this will help both to ease worries over what may be a stressful period and of course the more people who are immunised, the fewer sick people will need to be managed in hospital, freeing resources in case there are large numbers of coronavirus cases.
Despite what you might hear in the media, this is NOT the zombie apocalypse and we are NOT all going to die.
That having been said, the virus is worth of a degree of respect. It can kill and is especially dangerous to those who are older or who have pre-existing health concerns. So far the raw risk of death from contracting the virus appears to be about 2-3% though this is from confirmed cases. Generally these figures overestimate the risk as for every confirmed case there are often many cases that are not correctly diagnosed, or who have no symptoms at all. Also as a virus spreads, we usually see a lessening in the risk that it poses, possibly because viruses that are easier to catch may be less dangerous variants.
So, how is it spread?
As far as we can tell, the virus spreads by droplets, just like Influenza. These droplets are tiny water particles which also contain virus materiel, and are spread by breathing. A study of influenza found that coughs and sneezes did not contain viral particles, but this remains a likely additional method by which droplets can be formed and ejected. Droplets hang in the air within 1-2 metres of an infectious person and in aircraft based studies, no-one more than three seats away from influenza cases got infected. Droplets quickly settle out of the air and may land on surfaces, where they can survive for considerable periods of time.
About one person in ten who is exposed to an infected person will develop symptoms of covid-19.
Prevention of spread involves preventing droplets from contacting mucous membranes - generally the eyes, nose and mouth.
To prevent droplets entering these areas, the best evidence suggests that keeping your hands away from your mouth works best. Studies of masks have not shown much benefit, though generally they seem to be better than nothing for those providing care to sick people. It is probable that this benefit is more to do with keeping hands off faces than the mask itself as it does not seem to make much difference which type is used.
Keeping a distance from others can also prevent spread - at least 1m and preferably 2m is safest.
Although picking virus up from surfaces is very unlikely, it is best to ensure good hand hygeine. Thorough hand-washing is completely effective at removing the virus and there is good evidence from other infectious diseases that ordinary hand soap is just as good as antibacterial or antiseptic soaps. The latter should NOT be used at all due to concerns about environmental damage and resistance developing whilst also being no better than the cheaper products. Always wash your hands before eating or before touching your face.
What can I do?
There really is no need to be particularly concerned right now, but it makes sense to review emergency plans and to make a few simple preparations.
- Check your emergency kit - it's a good time to do this anyway. We do not anticipate any problems with power or water supplies but do check these too - we still have the same risk of earthquakes regardless of the coronavirus.
- Check you have enough medication in stock to last at least 2 weeks. Don't wait until there is none left to get your repeat script. Most people who contract covid-19 don't get really sick so you may want to have some paracetamol in stock for milder symptoms.
- Make sure you have a working phone and enough credit to use it if you need to. Check all the phone numbers you need are to hand.
- Update your contact details with your doctor if you have changed address of phone number recently.
- Try to keep enough food supplies in stock so that you could manage for 2 weeks on what you have in stock. Choose foods you would usually eat and which are not perishable. Pasta, rice and tinned foods are ideal. Now is not the time to be eating out the freezer
- Keep some basic cleaning supplies in stock. Dilute household bleach is highly effective against viruses and can be used to clean almost all hard surfaces. One bottle is enough to last weeks. Some disposable cloths are really worth having available.
- Work out how you will cope if you have to stay away from work for 2 weeks, or if your children have to be off school for as long (or longer)
- Get a 'flu vaccine as soon as they are available (1st April)
- Stay connected with what is happening by monitoring the news media.
Needle and syringe: NIAID
Do Not Feed The Zombies: Alan Levine