Coronavirus – Update for Respiratory Patients
The novel coronavirus seems now to have established community transmission in the UK. This means that people are catching the virus without having come across someone who had been in a high risk country such as Northern Italy, Iran or China.
Fortunately, the numbers of people affected in the UK are relatively small as of 11th March 2020, so the risk of catching this disease is not that high. COVID-19 is best thought of as like the usual respiratory viruses you can catch in winter and which can cause exacerbations of your underlying lung condition. In a minority, COVID-19 can also cause pneumonia directly.
If you have been in contact with someone who has recently been to a high risk part of the world or who has tested positive for COVID-19 infection, the Department of Health and British Lung Foundation websites will give you the advice you need to follow. Essentially, you should self-isolate for 14 days, and if you develop a fever or a cough, you will need to be tested for the coronavirus.
Testing for the coronavirus is best done by someone coming to your home rather than you travelling outside of your home, and the 111 helpline should be able to arrange this for you.
Now that the coronavirus is established in the UK, if you have underlying chronic lung disease, you will need to take care to avoid the infection. This will mean avoiding people as much as possible (that is, not using public transport at busy periods, avoiding crowds, perhaps working from home) and scrupulous hand cleansing (as advised by the Department of Health). This is especially important if you have severe lung disease – that is lung disease that makes you breathless when walking about – as COVID-19 infection is a particular risk if the lungs are already badly affected by another disease. If you get symptoms of a cough and fever, you may need to use the treatments you would normally use if you have an exacerbation, eg. increase your inhalers, perhaps start antibiotics. You can ring 111 to arrange for someone to test you for the virus. However, if your breathing is deteriorating significantly, you may have to come to the hospital to be treated.