The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) has now been detected in more than 100 countries, resulting in a global pandemic.
While this is certainly cause for concern, the best way to deal with the virus is to arm yourself with knowledge about it, and play your part in keeping your family, friends and loved ones safe.
Read on for our guide on the coronavirus, measures you can take to keep yourself safe, and details that professionals have discovered about COVID-19.
Q: What is Coronavirus?
In general, coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that are common in humans.
They can cause a whole range of illnesses that range in severity from the common cold to serious illnesses such as pneumonia or Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).
COVID-19 is part of this family of viruses, and healthcare professionals all around the world are working day and night to find out what makes it unique.
Q: What symptoms should I look out for?
For people infected with COVID-19, there’s a wide range in infection severity, from no symptoms to severe pneumonia.
Commonly reported symptoms in COVID-19 patients include fever, cough, sore throat, and shortness of breath. Other symptoms may include muscle aches, abdominal pain, and loss of smell.
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, however mildly, you are strongly advised to stay home, monitor your condition, and see a doctor if your condition gets worse.
Singaporeans and permanent residents can visit their nearest Public Health Preparedness Clinic (PHPC) clinics for a doctor’s consultation. These general practitioner (GP) clinics, which have been activated by the Ministry of Health to better detect and manage COVID-19 infections, include Parkway Shenton’s clinics and will provide investigation and subsidised treatments for individuals with respiratory illnesses.
You can also use the Singapore COVID-19 Symptom Checker for suggestions on care options based on symptoms, age, and recent travel and contact history.
Q: I'm worried about catching the virus. How fatal is it?
Although most people with COVID-19 recover, people with chronic diseases are also at higher risk of death if they become ill.
Current information suggests that older people and people of any age who have serious underlying medical conditions might be at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19.
Q: I’m concerned about my family. Who else is at risk?
Based upon available information to date in March 2020, those at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19 include:
a) People aged 65 years and older, and who live in nursing homes
b) People with chronic lung disease or moderate to severe asthma
c) People of any age with severe obesity (BMI 27.5)
d) People with underlying medical conditions, particularly if not well controlled. Examples include individuals with diabetes, heart, lung, liver and/or kidney disease.
e) Pregnant women are often at risk of severe viral illnesses, and should be monitored. However, there’s no current data to show an increased risk in this group to COVID-19 specifically.
f) People who are immunocompromised*.
* Many conditions can cause a person to be immunocompromised. These include treatments for cancer, patients undergoing bone marrow or organ transplants, autoimmune conditions, immunocompromised states including HIV or AIDS, and prolonged use of steroids or other immune-modifying medication.
Q: What are some precautionary measures I can take against COVID-19?
1. Wash your hands regularly
Washing your hands properly means using soap and water and washing for at least 20 seconds. You can also use hand sanitiser with an alcohol content of 60 – 90%.
2. Avoiding touching your face
If you have to cough or sneeze, try to do it into your elbow or a tissue, and then wash your hands afterwards.
3. Stay away from other people who are ill
This holds true for yourself as well. If you’re feeling sick yourself, do stay away from others. That barbeque or school anniversary can wait!
4. Practise social distancing
You should also take additional precautionary measures such as maintaining social distance and avoiding crowded areas as much as possible. Be sure to check government websites for updates on best practices and campaigns like SG Clean.
5. Wear a mask when you’re out
A mask will help keep respiratory droplets from coughing and/or sneezing in, and stop the spread to the surrounding environment.
6. Avoid leaving your house unnecessarily
If you do have to leave your house to buy groceries and daily necessities, it is compulsory by law to wear a mask.
7. Seek medical attention
If you develop symptoms of a respiratory illness after returning from travel, do be sure to check in with your doctor, to make sure that you get early attention.
Q: COVID-19 has made me more mindful of my physical well-being. What can I do to stay healthy?
A) Eat a well-balanced diet
While it may be tempting to take this period of self-isolation to binge on Netflix, Doritos and instant noodles, do remember to maintain a well-balanced diet.
Healthier choices such as wholegrain food, vegetables and fruit, essentially a wide variety of food in the right proportion, will be far healthier for your body and mind than processed food.
B) Give up the cigarettes
Quitting smoking reduces the risk of chronic heart and lung disease and also reduces susceptibility to lung infections.
Quitting can be tough, so look to your friends and family for moral support, and your health care professional for possible solutions!
C) Get your dose of exercise
You don’t have to be a gym bunny to burn your daily dose of calories. There’s a NEAT (literally) way to do it.
NEAT stands for Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis or the energy expended for everything we do when we’re not sleeping or exercising.
However, we recommend doing home workouts during this period of time due to the “circuit breaker” implemented by the government. There are many home workout routines for you to follow online.
Getting your health screened regularly and having flu vaccinations are also important. While you are unable to do so now, don't forget to put them as a priority when the “Circuit Breaker” is over and the COVID-19 situation gets better.
D) Health screenings
Regular screenings are a great way to make sure that you’re in the pink of health.
While you may be feeling perfectly healthy, chronic conditions – including high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol levels – may have no symptoms during their early stages, and hence may go undetected.
A health screening will give you an early heads-up, and help prevent further development of the disease and its complication.
Do try to schedule a health screening annually, especially if you’ve reached the age of 40, or have a family history of health conditions.
Parkway Shenton health screening services are tailored to individual needs, with centres strategically located to give you quick access to specialists if necessary. Book a health screening and take control of your health now!
E) Get the proper vaccinations
While there is no vaccine currently available for COVID-19, there are 7 vaccinations available to prevent 11 diseases under the National Adult Immunisation Schedule (NAIS), including flu and pneumonia.
In 2017 it was noted that out of every 100, 000 hospital cases of those aged 65 and above, 56 involved pneumococcal disease, which can cause pneumonia and the risk can be reduced by vaccination.
Article contributed by by Dr Kristine Xie, family physician at Parkway Shenton, Arcade