Social Distancing Essential to Preventing Spike in New COVID-19
Cases and Flattening the Curve
Dr. Hisham Abdul Sattar Ahmed, Chief of Hamad Medical Corporation’s (HMC) Pulmonary Division, says people with chronic respiratory illnesses, such as cystic fibrosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and asthma, should take extra precautions against COVID-19, noting that even a mild case of the virus could have serious complications for their health.
“Patients with impaired or compromised lung conditions are at particular risk for worse outcomes if they contract COVID-19. Everyone needs to be cautious, but those with chronic respiratory illnesses need to be extra careful. I would advise any patient who has a chronic respiratory illness to be extra vigilant about practicing good hygiene and social distancing,” said Dr. Ahmed.
Dr. Ahmed says while those with respiratory illnesses are not believed to be more susceptible to COVID-19, they are at a higher risk for complications, underscoring the importance of prevention.
“Patients with underlying lung conditions might be more likely to show symptoms and to have a more severe infection than others. We also know that older age and underlying illnesses, including lung conditions, have been risk factors for COVID-19 related deaths,” said Dr. Ahmed.
“There is no need to panic. It is important to note that most patients, even those with underlying respiratory diseases, have had mild infections and have fully recovered, but it is very important that those with chronic respiratory illnesses take extra precautions. This is very serious and people need to understand the gravity of this situation,” added Dr. Ahmed.
Dr. Ahmed says there are things that everyone can do to limit their risk of contracting COVID-19, including not touching your mouth, nose, or eyes with unwashed hands, avoiding contact with people who are sick, practicing social distancing (staying at least six feet away from others), and washing your hands thoroughly after touching surfaces that may be contaminated. He also says it is essential to avoid crowds, especially in poorly ventilated places, and says people who have respiratory conditions should not wear a surgical mask (face mask) unless they are ill.
“Wearing a face mask if you have a respiratory condition is not recommended as this may make breathing more difficult. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) does not recommend that people who are well wear a face mask. A face mask should be used only by people who have COVID-19, or are sick (coughing or sneezing). This is to protect others from the risk of getting infected. To prevent shortages of face masks it is important to only use them if needed. And if your doctor has recommended you wear a face mask, it is important that you use it, and dispose of it, correctly,” added Dr. Ahmed.
“I can’t stress the importance of social distancing enough. We want to do everything we can to prevent a spike in new cases and that’s why experts have begun talking about flattening the curve, or spreading new cases out as much as possible over time. This situation can seem overwhelming but every person can help slow down the spread of COVID-19. By doing your part, you can make a big difference to your health, and that of others around you,” said Dr. Ahmed.
The Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) has established a dedicated website (www.moph.gov.qa) to provide the public with updates on the current situation as well as information on how to protect themselves and others from COVID-19. A hotline (16000), which is available 24-hours a day to answer COVID-19 related queries, and an educational social media campaign have also been launched, with the MoPH, HMC, and Primary Health Care Corporation (PHCC) sharing infographics and videos through their social media channels.