They Had Pre-Existing Conditions

Over the last week or so, since the first death of a UK citizen due to the COVID-19 outbreak in the UK, news anchors have announced each death with:

They were a man/ woman of — years old however they were known to have pre-existing conditions.

For the majority of the population, this is a relief – the virus is only killing those with pre-existing conditions, and that’s not me. Therefore statistically, a typically healthy person can decrease the chances of becoming infected and relieve the concern somewhat.

For those who have those pre-existing conditions, this makes a wave of fear rush down the spine. Not because of only the fear of contracting the virus or the illness it presents, no, illness is the status quo for the chronically ill population. The concern lies in the fact that since the outbreak began advice given to the general public may sound like simple common sense. But those pre-existing conditions have additional hurdles to putting each piece of information into practice and thus decreasing the chances of avoiding infection as the advice can’t be implemented immediately or as well as a healthy person could.

Let’s look at the current advice:

Stock up on Staples 

The most recent guidance from the CDC to chronically ill people – according to this article from CNBC – is to “stock up on staples” and prepare for an “extended period at home”. Excellent advice but impractical. A high percentage of chronically ill people, myself included, have limitations that hinder independently acquiring these staples. Assistance to carry items, transport to the shop, support to make good choices are everyday needs of the chronically ill and disabled. Some severely disabled are housebound and cannot go out at all.

In addition to requiring assistance to get to the supermarket, there is a lack of actual staples in the shops at the moment – loo roll, tinned soups, bread, dried products, and so forth. Meaning, once making it to the supermarket, the products required may not be available due to on masse panic buying.

Why not shop online? I hear you ask. Yes, an excellent idea in theory, but if the items aren’t physically there in the shop, then those same items won’t be available online either. Furthermore, if you enable substitutions, the substitutes can be quite the reach. I once ordered vitamin C tablets and instead got a bag of oranges – I can see the thought process but imagine how many oranges are in a vitamin C capsule.

If you are able , you can help your community. Is your neighbour elderly? Have they shared that they have an illness? Does the lady on the ground floor walk with elbow crutches? Perhaps you could offer to try to get some groceries for them when you are out for your own? If they are self-isolating for protection, then you could knock on the door and then leave the groceries for them. Trust me, any an all help will be much appreciated. 

Stock Up On Medication

Stocking up on medication obviously comes with the same hurdles that stocking up on staples does. However, it also poses a more pressing issue – what about prescribed medication? When India limited the export of paracetamol, the shelves were cleared with people panicking that if they needed them, they would not have them. Now think of those that require life-giving and life-saving medication – heart issues, epilepsy, asthma as well as those who need interventional medicine, those with weakened immune systems. You see my point. There is a long list of the various medications that there is a shortage of available on the .gov website and it is ever-expanding

Face Masks

I don’t mean the goo that people smear on their faces but the surgical style ones you can get that protect from many different things. 

In Eastern countries, such as Japan, wearing a mask when you are ill or for any other reason is not uncommon. It is even etiquette to do so when unwell to prevent spreading an infection to others. However, mask-wearing is less common in Western countries. I usually wear a mask when attending any medical facility – just a 3 layered surgical mask – and when going to events, like gigs, where I wear a very fetching floral non-disposable N95 respirator mask. The mask protects me from bacterial infection but also from allergens, smoke and other irritants. 

This part is mainly going to focus on the disposable masks rather than the N95 mask I have. I buy my 3-ply masks from Amazon because they have a range of “non-NHS” colours – I especially like black ones as I think they are just a bit more stylish when I have little choice but to wear them. 

Can I replenish my stock? Nope. 

Do they protect against the coronavirus? Probably not as they are usually not virus rated. But that hasn’t been tested.

Should people buy massive amounts of them with the sole purpose of reselling them for ridiculous amounts? Definitely not. It is not “just the way capitalism works” it is cruel and selfish.

On a recent trip to A&E, I was glared at, repeatedly asked why I was wearing a mask, where did I get a mask and some people were just whispering and looking horrified. I have asthma, I cough a lot and trust me that did not help the whole situation. Not one person reacted to my answers with any kind of belief, which is in itself frightening.

I personally believe that if you are old, ill or very young then yes a mask may help protect against catching COVID-19 as it is a physical barrier between your nose and mouth and droplets expelled from the infected. However, those are not the people buying all the masks. For the most part, it seems the people who are buying them are doing so to sell or hoard in silly amounts. These people are not thinking of the population as a whole, as a community but of themselves.

WASH YOUR HANDS

If washing your hands as a barrier to catching an infection is news to you, why? You should always have been washing your hands regularly. Once again, the same situation that occurred with masks and medication is happening with antibacterial gel and handwash. People are hoarding them, selling them for exorbitant amounts and stealing them from hospitals?!? (I honestly can’t believe that is true – how could you stoop so low to do that?). I’m not even going to explain why you shouldn’t steal from hospitals. Ever.

Anyway.

Community immunity. This is a phrase I remember from uni as being the basis of fighting outbreaks as well as vaccine efficacy. The reason for the advice to wash your hands or use antibacterial gel is that if we ALL have clean hands, then it will delay the spread of infection. The antibacterials beneficial effects are almost irrelevant if those who got to the supermarket first and bought them all are the only ones that have an antibacterial gel to use. Everyone needs to have clean hands. If one person doesn’t and is touching surfaces, and then someone else touches that surface, then their face they may as well have not bothered with the antibacterial in the first place. Plus very few antibacterial products actually kill viruses under specific sizes. 

Lastly

This virus will overrun our population if things don’t change. 

Think of the next person who needs loo roll or paracetamol. Community solidarity and working together is what beats outbreak, everyone doing their best not only for themselves and their families but for everyone. COVID-19 won’t only be here for a month or 2, the CDC is forecasting a year or so. Obviously, scientists are researching into cures, vaccines and medication which will shorten this but we are in this for the long hall.

Wash your hands, isolate if you are ill or test positive, try not to touch things or your face and remember community immunity.

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