As you may have heard, coronavirus (also called COVID-19), a new viral infection that can affect the airways and lungs, is highly infectious. As the bug continues to spread around the world (it has recently been classed as a pandemic by the World Health Organization, which means a disease – for which people don't have a vaccine – has spread globally, beyond expectations), many of us are wondering whether it's safe to visit friends and family with underlying health conditions. Ditto the elderly.
We asked Dr Daniel Atkinson, Clinical Lead for online health service, Treated, for his advice on what to do if you want to visit your grandparents, or those who are classed as vulnerable to coronavirus, during this time of uncertainty.
Can you visit elderly people during the coronavirus spread?
Unfortunately, says Dr Atkinson, it's probably better that you don't visit older relatives or those that you know have underlying health conditions right now – even if you have no symptoms, or your symptoms aren't very obvious (ones to look out for include a new cough or a fever). "It's probably safest for everyone to avoid contact. The elderly and those with underlying health conditions are at higher risk when it comes to COVID-19, as they are more vulnerable." Because coronavirus is new, it's not known exactly how it spreads from person to person – but similar viruses are spread in cough droplets.
Who is classed as vulnerable or high risk to coronavirus?
"Aside from the elderly, those with underlying health conditions and people who are in and out of hospital [would be seen as more at risk]," says Dr Atkinson. "People should also be mindful of those with the likes of asthma and diabetes, as they too would fall under the vulnerable category." Those with heart conditions and conditions related to a compromised immune system may also be more at risk, depending on their individual diagnosis.
To summarise, the list of those classed as more vulnerable to COVID-19 includes:
- The elderly
- People with heart conditions
- Those with diabetes
- Those with asthma
- Anybody with a condition related to having a compromised immune system
- Those with auto-immune diseases
- People with lung complaints
- Smokers (according to public health charity, Ash, smokers are more likely to get respiratory infections and are twice as likely to develop pneumonia as non-smokers)
Dr Atkinson advises that those who are more vulnerable to coronavirus (and therefore more at-risk of developing complications from the viral infection), should consider self-isolating as a precautionary measure.
See the NHS website for further details on coronavirus and what to do if you're displaying symptoms.
If any of this information changes, we'll be sure to update you.
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