Updated on April 15th, 2020
Firstly, don't panic.
Lets’ focus on information and evidence.
When new diseases first occur, we find out more about the severe cases that go to hospital before we understand about the mild cases in the community. We are still developing our understanding of this important disease. Fortunately, for the majority of people, it is a mild and self-limiting illness. In the first 44,000 cases in China and similarly for the cases in Italy 80% of cases have mild symptoms, 19% are severe enough to miss work or go to hospital, a small number need treatment in intensive care. Recent studies have focused on people who have either mild symptoms or no symptoms. We are still developing an understanding of the importance of these mild cases in spreading the disease. The more mild and symptomless cases will make the public health controls more challenging. At the same time, they will make the risk of complications of the disease lower on a case by case basis.
What are the symptoms of COVID-19?
Early symptoms may be hard to distinguish from a typical cold. Sore throat, cough and/or runny nose. Some people describe abdominal pain and some have loose bowels. Loss of the sense of smell or taste has recently been noted as a relatively frequent symptom. These early symptoms may or may not be associated with a fever. It seems likely that the majority settle and it is probable that many cases are never diagnosed.
In some cases, typically after an interval of 1-2 weeks individuals develop an increase in cough and shortness of breath. This may be associated with aching muscles or body aches and fever. These are important symptoms and require medical assessment and often need specialist assessment and possible treatment.
What should I do if I feel unwell?
The WHO has advocated a policy of test, test, test. We are seeing this infection in our population and the current containment strategy is to identify as many cases as possible such that we can isolate infections and quarantine contacts. OT&P fully support the efforts of the Hong Kong health department. We have completed over 750 tests for the coronavirus and more than 97% of tests have so far been negative.
As an example of management strategies in different jurisdictions this is the advice given to patients in the UK who have symptoms.
- if you live alone and you have symptoms of coronavirus illness (COVID-19), however mild, stay at home for 7 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 7 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. See the explanatory diagram.
- for anyone else in the household who starts displaying symptoms, they need to stay at home for 7 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
- if you can, move any vulnerable individuals (such as the elderly and those with underlying health conditions) out of your home, to stay with friends or family for the duration of the home isolation period
- if you cannot move vulnerable people out of your home, stay away from them as much as possible
- wash your hands regularly for 20 seconds, each time using soap and water, or use hand sanitiser
I am worried that I or my family may be quarantined?
The containment strategy in Hong Kong means that positive cases will currently be treated in hospital and close contacts will be quarantined. We recognize that our patients wish to make informed decisions. We must also balance our public health duty to act on behalf of the population. Hong Kong has protocols in place which involve treatment at an earlier stage than in other countries. Whilst the evidence for optimal treatment has not yet been proven, Hong Kong also has amongst the lowest crude fatality rates in the world at the moment. If you are concerned please discuss these issues with your doctor.
We have described information on testing here and OT&P policies for consultation here. All OT&P clinics remain open as usual including Saturday and Sunday. We continue to look after both our existing and new patients. Please contact our clinic and we will give advice and arrange treatment according to your needs. This may involve consultation in person or by telephone depending upon the situation.
Appointments can be made as follows:
In the context of the evolving situation, the type of consultation we advise at the moment depends upon the following categories. Please note that anybody who has fever or respiratory symptoms and anybody who is a definite or possible COVID-19 contact will be assessed by telephone in the first instance:
- A travel history outside of HK within the last 14 days
- A known or possible contact of COVID-19
- A fever or respiratory symptoms
Please do not come to the clinic before contacting us first if you are in any of the categories above. Don’t worry, we will continue to provide care for all our patients.