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From risks due to obesity to how children are affected: coronavirus lessons from front-line medics

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Shrine on: Johnny Griffin, who normally leads the St Patrick’s Day parade in Slane, Co Meath, makes a pilgrimage to the shrine on the Hill of Slane. Photo: David Conachy

Shrine on: Johnny Griffin, who normally leads the St Patrick’s Day parade in Slane, Co Meath, makes a pilgrimage to the shrine on the Hill of Slane. Photo: David Conachy

Shrine on: Johnny Griffin, who normally leads the St Patrick’s Day parade in Slane, Co Meath, makes a pilgrimage to the shrine on the Hill of Slane. Photo: David Conachy

Every day brings new insights into the coronavirus that swept into our lives less than a month ago but is now causing a serious public health risk and global mayhem.

Front-line doctors and scientists here are benefiting from the generous sharing of information from colleagues in countries such as Italy and China. Here are some of those findings.

Obesity

According to unpublished data provided by Italian doctors, one of the major risk factors for admission to intensive care is obesity.

Stefan De Hert, based at Ghent University Hospital, said that, although it was mostly more serious in older patients, those under 50 years of age without underlying conditions seem to constitute one in every five of the Covid-19 intensive care patients.

Female patients

Dr de Hert said infected women seem to develop fewer symptoms than men, and also children seem to experience the infection without important clinical problems.

"We have learned from the experiences of our Chinese colleagues," he added.

Warm climate

Hot and humid Singapore was hit early by coronavirus, but has managed to reduce outbreaks. It shows how the virus can strike in warm climates.

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Singapore's success has been deemed to be more to do with its aggressive action, including an enforced home quarantine system and an exhaustive contact-tracing programme, than the sun. It highlights how we should not be pinning our hopes solely on a good summer in Ireland to get rid of the virus.

The virus and children

Children and young adults have been infected with coronavirus, though at a lower rate than older adults.

While the vast majority have experienced mild illness, some have suffered more severe or critical disease.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), some young adults and one child it is aware of have died.

Home self-isolation

The WHO said ideally assign one person to care for the patient who is self-isolating at home.

They should be in good health and have no underlying conditions. The care-giver should wash their hands after every contact with the patient and their immediate environment.

Length of time a positive patient is infectious

People infected with coronavirus can still infect others after they stop feeling sick, said the WHO. So they should continue to self-isolate for at least two weeks after symptoms disappear.

Visitors should not be allowed until the end of this period.

Isolation rooms

The WHO said confirmed cases should be isolated in health facilities to prevent transmission and provide adequate care.

But it recognises many countries have exceeded their capacity to care for mild cases in dedicated health facilities.

It said the most effective way to prevent infections and save lives is breaking the chain of transmission. To do that you must test and isolate.

In Ireland, there will be a mix of patients in hospital and in isolation facilities, such as hotels and public buildings, as well home self-isolation for those with a mild illness.

The maths behind social distancing

A key part of the restrictions in place in Ireland is social distancing - keeping around two metres from other people and avoiding any groups.

Each infected person is expected to infect a certain number of people - around 2.5.

Those 2.5 go on to infect more and the chain continues to spread.

It all comes back to the original person who obviously unwittingly passed on the virus to others, possibly by not following the social distancing rule.

Flattening the curve allows for the spread of the virus to slow down and buy the Irish health service valuable time to cope with the numbers of seriously ill patients who will need to be admitted to hospital, put in intensive care or on ventilators.

Visit our Covid-19 vaccine dashboard for updates on the roll out of the vaccination program and the rate of Coronavirus cases Ireland


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