As of February 9th, 2020, the worldwide figure for those infected with the Coronavirus is 37554, with the number of deaths at 813. Hong Kong has 28 cases resulting in one death.
Although the influenza virus causes many deaths every year, the main reason we are scared by this novel coronavirus is that it is new and unknown. We just don’t know how bad it will get and exactly how deadly or contagious it is. Similarly there is no vaccine or effective treatment at present. What we don’t know is what frightens us.
If current figures are to be believed, it is without doubt a very contagious virus but the death rate is still low, and occurring mainly in those patients with co-existing illnesses. It is indeed an emergency in China, but numbers still remain relatively low in other parts of the world. However, the situation is constantly changing.
Be reassured though that Hong Kong also has medical facilities with high standard of care run by well trained medical professionals.
As of February 8th, Hong Kong will be enforcing a mandatory quarantine of 14 days for those arriving from China and penalties for those who violate this order. Even so a much higher number of confirmed cases is likely in the coming weeks.
What we know so far about the coronavirus
The incubation period is around 14 days, which means people can show no symptoms but are still infectious. There are no real specific symptoms to identify if a patient is suffering from the coronavirus. Special swabs taken from the nose or throat and an examination of sputum samples for the virus are the current ways for detection and are only available in public hospitals.
The coronavirus spreads by droplets, which can be spread by a sick person who are visibly coughing sneezing. A distance of around 2 meters will keep you safe. Such droplets can also land on surfaces, which can then contaminate your hands and be transferred into your body by your eyes, nose or mouth. Coronavirus is not something that people can get from casual contact. The coronavirus has also been found in stool samples; therefore this can be another mode of infection and diarrhea can also be a symptom of the infection.
There are no vaccines or drugs at present that are found to be effective. Although there is suggestion that some antiviral drugs, such as those for HIV and influenza, may have a role in treatment, it is too early to say. It is not advisable for patients to stock up on these medicines as they are very potent and are not appropriate for every one. Also they can have serious side effects.
How can we best protect ourselves from getting infectious respiratory diseases?
The below tips are based on guidelines from the Department of Health, but also contain some practical advice that we having always advised patient to follow to prevent themselves from catching any infectious diseases - even more so in the current climate.
How we can help
The clinic is running the full usual service, both doctors and therapists. There are measures in place to ensure we do not see any suspected cases, as all patients are screened first. For those wishing for tests to alleviate their concerns as to whether they may have the coronavirus, this test is only available in the public hospital.
Currently we are only seeing booked appointments to allow us to screen all patients.
Seasonal flu vaccines are still currently available.
For those patients who may need medical attention but feel they are not able to attend the clinic, please email your usual doctor and we will try and help you as best as we can.
In recent weeks some patients have needed letters for travel plans; please make an appointment with your usual doctor to issue these.
In the meantime, stay calm, safe, adhere to good personal hygiene and please email us for any additional information.
Dr Lily Wong
The London Medical clinic