Information and advice on the coronavirus for people living with cardiovascular disease

By June Shannon 30th Mar 2020

Updated Monday 08th June

What is coronavirus and how does it spread?

Coronavirus is a respiratory illness, which means that it can affect your lungs and airways. To protect yourself and others from coronavirus (COVID-19) it’s important to think about how the virus is spread.

Coronavirus is spread in sneeze or cough droplets. To infect you, it has to get from an infected person’s nose or mouth into your eyes, nose or mouth. This can be direct or indirect (on hands, objects, surfaces). Keep this in mind. It will help you remember all the things you need to do to protect yourself and others from the virus.

The main symptoms of coronavirus are cough, fever (a temperature of 38 degrees Celsius or more) or chills, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties and a loss or change to sense of taste or smell. Other symptoms include fatigue, headaches, sore throat, and aches and pains.

The HSE has an excellent website which includes general information and advice on the coronavirus and how to protect yourself and others. You can access it here.

Stay Local

Everyone is urged to stay local wherever possible and to do all they can to minimise the risk of COVID-19 to friends, families and communities.

Since Monday 08th of May we can now:

Please do not ignore or delay seeking medical treatment for abnormal signs or symptoms that you may be experiencing.

Remember to that regular hand washing, practicing good cough etiquette and social distancing are the best ways we can all play our part in the national effort against this disease.

Cocooning

The Government has also stated that certain groups of people who are extremely vulnerable must “cocoon”. This means that they must stay at home at all times. However,  people who are cocooning can now go outside to exercise and they can also meet up with up to 6 people indoors or outside.

You can read more about cocooning from the HSE here

The following groups of people must “cocoon” for their own safety.

Other people who need to cocoon people with heart failure who have severe breathing difficulties, patients waiting for a heart transplant and people with severe vascular disease needing long-term care would fall into these groups.

Some heart and stroke patients may also have other medical conditions such as cancer or other diseases requiring immune suppression. Visit the HSE website to see full list of people who need to cocoon.

Cocooning is for your personal protection. If you are unsure whether or not you fall into one of the categories of extremely medically vulnerable people listed above, please talk to your doctor.

Support for people who are cocooning

County Councils across the country are coordinating community support for people who are cocooning. This support known as ‘The Community Call’ includes help with collecting groceries, medicines and other essential items. In some cases, it also includes support to relieve social isolation.

You can read more about The Community Call and find your local helpline number here.

People with cardiovascular disease

People with cardiovascular disease, those aged 70 and over (people over 75 are particularly vulnerable) are among the groups of people who are at more risk of serious illness if they catch coronavirus. However it is not thought that these groups have a higher risk of contracting the virus.

We have developed a special FAQ for people on the coronavirus and cardiovascular disease which you can read here for more information.

 

Extra care people in at-risk groups should take

In general unless you are in the group that has been advised to cocoon, people can still go out to shop, but the HSE advises that people in at-risk groups should not do this.

People in at-risk groups do not need to self-isolate unless they have symptoms of coronavirus.

However some vulnerable people are taking this precaution. Everyone with symptoms needs to self-isolate.

If you are in an at-risk group or caring for someone in an at-risk group, you should follow the general advice on how to protect yourself from coronavirus.

Keeping well

Meeting people indoors

You can have up to 6 visitors to your home or you can visit another household.

You should wear a face covering when you meet with anyone indoors. This includes visitors and people you visit.

The people you meet should:

If you choose to visit other people’s homes, tell them in advance that you are coming. Make sure that no one in the household is unwell with coronavirus symptoms. You should stay 2 metres away from other people and wash your hands on returning home. You should wear a face covering if you cannot maintain a 2 metre distance.

People should not visit you if they have symptoms of coronavirus.

After visitors leave, it is good practice to clean surfaces they have been in contact with. Use your usual household cleaning agents and detergents.

Medicines

It’s important that if you are in an at-risk group or have coronavirus, you continue to take any medication you were already taking, unless you are told not to by a healthcare professional. This includes anti-inflammatories (NSAID) such as ibuprofen, naproxen or diclofenac or any blood pressure or heart failure medication.  If you have any concern about your medication it’s important you discuss these with your doctor before changing anything.

The Minister for Health has recently introduced new regulations that will make it easier for patients to access their medicines during the Coronavirus crisis.

These changes mean that you no longer need to get a paper prescription from your doctor, some prescriptions will be valid for nine instead of six months and you may be able to get a repeat prescription without a new script from your doctor. For more information please see here

What to do if you develop symptoms of coronavirus

If you have any of the symptoms of coronavirus, you should behave as if you have the virus and self-isolate for 14 days. People in your household will need to restrict their movements.

The main symptoms of coronavirus are cough, fever (a temperature of 38 degrees Celsius or more) or chills, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties and a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste. Other symptoms include fatigue, headaches, sore throat, and aches and pains.

Phone your GP to be assessed for a coronavirus test if:

You suddenly experience one of these symptoms and there is no other obvious cause:

Getting a test for coronavirus

If you think you need to be tested for coronavirus, phone your GP. Do not go to a GP surgery, pharmacy or hospital. The GP will assess you over the phone.

Your GP assessment and test will be free of charge. Any GP can assess you for a test.

Phone your GP. Do not go to a GP surgery, pharmacy or hospital. The GP will assess you over the phone.

If they think that you need to be tested, they will arrange a test for you.

If you do not have a GP, any GP can arrange a test for you.

Do not ring GP out-of-hours services. They cannot arrange testing.

This situation is evolving daily, and the advice may change. Please see the HSE website for further up-to-date information.

We are here for you

We are living in difficult and uncertain times and here at the Irish Heart Foundation we are very aware of the extra challenges people living with the effects of heart disease and stroke face.

The Irish Heart Foundation has developed a number of services to support you at these difficult times.

Telephone and email support

Our nurses are available on phone and email support Monday to Friday 9 am to 5 pm. Call 01 6685001 or email support@irishheart.ie

Further useful sources of information:

HSE

World Health Organization

European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control

Health Protection Surveillance Centre

For global travel information please see the Department of Foreign Affairs’ website or download the Department’s Travelwise app 

Please note the information on this page is for general guidance and comes from national and international guidance. It is not intended to replace the individual support of a medical professional.

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