Person-to-person transmission of SARS-CoV-2 or COVID-19 can occur through respiratory droplets, produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. These small droplets can be inhaled, or come in contact with the oral or ocular mucosa, transmitting the virus to people who are less than 2 meters away. The same droplets can be deposited on surfaces and hands and subsequently transported to the mouth, nose or eyes, transmitting the disease.
As is the case with the elderly and people with chronic diseases, the cancer patient with active disease or under immunosuppressive antineoplastic treatment, usually has a weakened immune system. Despite the scarce evidence available on the behavior of COVID-19 infection in this pathology, this fact represents an important risk factor for infection and serious complications, as well as for any other infection by another agent.
There is, understandably, fear and anxiety about this new reality.
Even in this pandemic phase, in the case of urgent health treatments, the patient must begin / continue his treatment, without prejudice to his clinical situation. There will be occasional situations, in which the oncological disease is stationary or well controlled, and according to the risk of contact / infection by COVID-19, it may be possible to consider postponing the treatment.
Mitigation measures were implemented, resulting in stringent screening and control of all patients and health professionals in order to minimize the risk of contagion at the Day Care Hospital, according to the specifications of the Hospital Contingency Plan.
The main object is to reduce as much as possible the risk of a possible exposure to infection by COVID-19, minimizing the risk of decreasing the patient’s immunosuppression system. Therefore, we need to promote the communication between the patient and the physician by remote communication instead of face-to-face consultations (via telephone / video or email, namely for routine consultations of patients that are not on active cancer treatment).
The measures widely recommended and publicized by different media, must be strictly observed: respiratory etiquette, frequent hand sanitizing, avoid touching the face with the hands and sharing personal objects, as well as prophylactic social isolation. For the cancer patients under active and immunosuppressive treatment, the use of a surgical mask is recommended due to the risk of infection with COVID-19 and other agents. Its correct placement and removal must be respected.
Protect yourself and others. Combating this threat is in the hands of us all.
We are going through a period of pandemic, of a new coronavirus, called “SARS-CoV-2”, which causes COVID-19 disease. As it is a new virus, with which we have not had previous contact, we do not as yet have immunity.
Immunity for the entire population will only be possible once the majority of the world population has been infected or has had the disease, or ideally only when there is a vaccine.
Several scientists worldwide are working hard to develop a vaccine, but it is a complex process that can take several months.
The current pandemic situation of COVID-19 has highlighted the importance of vaccines and, of course, complying with the national vaccination program (PNV - Programa Nacional de Vacinação), is essential. Likewise, in addition to vaccines, which should not be postponed, especially in the younger age groups, follow-up appointments (routine consultations) should also not be postponed.
Thus, the Department of Pediatrics and Neonatology, of the HPA Health Group, according to the rules in force at the Gambelas Hospital treats all children, including the most vulnerable, such as newborns and children with known pathologies, maintains its routine consultations, also to update vaccines (of the PNV or extra PNV, as I will be mentioned later on in this article).
The National Vaccination Program, is a universal program which is cost free whose object is to protect the population against diseases that can potentially present a threat to the health of individuals and to the public in general as is the case with the present COVID-19 virus.
Diseases such as measles, polio, whooping cough, hepatitis B, meningitis caused by various agents, tetanus and many others, are covered by the PNV.
It is essential to maintain protection against diseases for which a vaccine already exists.
Portugal is a model country for the whole world due to its vaccination program. Even so, several cases of measles have already been registered in our country this year and the reason the outbreak was not extensive is due to the fact that most of the Portuguese population is vaccinated. For this reason there was a rapid control of all possible transmission. The same may not happen, if children stop being vaccinated. The vaccination rate dropped during the past months of March and April, due to fear of the coronavirus and having to go to the various institutions for vaccines.
It is essential for children to be vaccinated during the COVID-19 pandemic. If not, we run the risk of having new epidemics, particularly of whooping cough and measles, as well as other infections that are preventable by vaccination.
Due to all that I have already mentioned, ALL stages of the PNV must be carried out in all its programmed stages and therefore ALL vaccines must be taken. However, due to the severity of the diseases that are protected by vaccines, (such as meningitis) or the importance of group immunity (such as measles) or because they are the primary vaccination, I will highlight those which should never be postponed, even in a pandemic situation.
The PNV begins in pregnancy, with the future mother being vaccinated to protect the newborn infant against whooping cough. Then, throughout one´s lifetime, it is very important to comply with the vaccination program. If this is not observed, it is not only the individual himself who is at risk, but also all those with whom he has a daily relationship.
During the child’s first year of life, in addition to the whooping cough vaccine, diphtheria, tetanus, polio, the invasive disease hemophilic influenza b, measles and meningococcal C meningitis, are very important and are all administered at the age of 12 months.
In addition to vaccines of the PNV, there are others that may be recommended by your attending physician / pediatrician. This is because there are diseases that may not be significant in representing a danger to the population in general, but that risk may be important for the individual.
During the pediatric age, these recommendations are released by the Vaccines Commission of the DGS (National Health Board) and are part of the Pediatric Infectious Society of the Portuguese Pediatric Society.
This group of vaccines include vaccine against Rotavirus (causes acute gastroenteritis), Meningococcus B and ACWY (causes meningitis / septicemia).
At the HPA Health Group, we maintain the administration of the vaccines not included in the PNV , according to the medical recommendations, of our pediatrician.
Although many exams and consultations are being reorganized during the current pandemic, it is essential not to stop or delay vaccines which have been booked for your child, as they protect against many potentially serious illnesses.
Contact the HPA Health Group and the Department of Pediatrics and Neonatology, in the Out-Patients Unit, and plan your trip to the hospital. Each child can only be accompanied by a single parent and the social distancing rules must be observed, hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette referred to in the guidelines of the National Health Board, must be complied with. The use of a mask is mandatory, and can be provided at the entrance of the hospital for those who do not have one.
Check-Up consultations for newborn babies and children, recommended by the National Child and Youth Health Program, should also be maintained during this pandemic period.
Thus, the Department of Pediatrics and Neonatology maintains, despite the constraints caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, pediatric consultations at the following ages:
In some cases, such as with chronic diseases, there may be a need for extra consultations, depending on the assistant pediatrician, which must be respected.
All urgent situations must be attended to in the Pediatric Emergency Unit.
Whenever non-urgent matters arise and parents need assistance with questions (such as finding out test results or renewal of prescriptions, for example) the Pediatric Unit can be contacted, either by phone or email, thus avoiding unnecessary trips to the hospital on:
On the 5th of May this year we celebrate World Asthma Day. We are going to take this opportunity to answer some queries regarding the relationship between allergic diseases and COVID-19 infection.
The data currently available (and it must be noted that there is much we still do not know) does not seem to indicate an increased risk of becoming ill, either by asthmatic patients or other allergic diseases. However, from a theoretical point of view it makes sense that an uncontrolled asthma could be a risk factor for suffering a more serious COVID-19 infection, so extra care is recommended to maintain the disease under control.
It is therefore very important that regular treatment is maintained, without fail. If your asthma is well controlled with your daily medication, you should continue the treatment. If you have recently noticed symptoms of asthma such as wheezing, coughing, chest tightness or shortness of breath, you may need to adjust your daily medication. If your treatment plan calls for an adjustment of your medication when symptoms worsen, you should put that adjustment into action. If you are not sure how to adjust your medication in the event of a worsening condition, we recommend that you speak to your doctor.
None of the drugs commonly used to control asthma or allergic rhinitis appears to interfere with the body's ability to prevent or fight infection caused by the new coronavirus. Inhalers or nasal corticosteroids are safe and should be used to control an allergic respiratory disease.
There is currently no reliable information to suggest that any specific medication, supplement or food has a beneficial or preventive effect to avoid becoming ill. There are also no specific vaccines to prevent this infection. Existing vaccines to prevent other infections (for example pneumonia or flu) should be taken according to the usual recommendations. There is no recommendation as to the need of reinforcing or anticipating the administration of the normal annual flu vaccine.
To prevent becoming infected, you should follow the recommendations of the General Health Department - restrict social contact and stay at home, if possible; wash your hands frequently, scrubbing them well for at least 20 seconds; use a mask wherever it is recommended; do not touch the eyes, nose and mouth. The latter can be more challenging for allergic patients, especially if there are symptoms such as itching or discomfort. Talk to your doctor if you have these complaints, as there are several medications that can help.
If you have an asthma attack and need to go to an Emergency Unit, remember to take your medication plan with you, as well as, if prescribed, your expansion chamber.
Several patients suffer from allergies during the spring season. The symptoms caused by an allergy are different from those of a common colds, flu and COVID-19, as shown in the following table:
My first words are of trust and hope.
Trust in a better world with changing habits as a result of this pandemic and hope that we will overcome this pandemic.
However, it is very important that we realize that this is not a sprint, but a marathon, in which our resilience, respect for others, social distancing and individual protection are keys for success.
Patients with autoimmune diseases undergoing biological/non-biological therapy are not at a greater risk of being infected with SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19). In the absence of scientific evidence, it is assumed that they may have a higher risk of complications and mortality from infection, essentially the elderly, when certain other co-morbidities are present (cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic respiratory disease, hypertension, cancer).
In the majority of cases, it is not advisable to suspend preventative biological/non-biological treatment, as suspending therapy may lead to worsening of the autoimmune disease, and will not guarantee a reduced risk of contagion.
Patients suspected or confirmed of COVID-19, with symptoms of infection/respiratory disease - cough, fever, difficulty breathing - or close contact with people suffering from these symptoms, should suspend biological /non-biological therapy until the situation is clarified.
It is therefore essential to reduce exposure to COVID-19 in order to reduce the risk of infection.
Daily routines have certainly changed in recent weeks due to the fact that we are at home and do not perform the tasks that would normally occupy our daily lives; going to work, water aerobics class, walking with friends, or even daily shopping trips.
Even so, being diabetic one should continue to maintain a healthy and adequate diet and try to stay active, even when at home.
Here are some tips:
The coronavírus (COVID-19) is a respiratory disease caused by a new coronavírus, which was identified for the first time in the province of Wuhan, in China, in December 2019. In the majority of cases it causes minor effects similar to those of a cold or flu.
However, it may cause a more severe form of the disease, similar to that of Severe Accute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), known as SARS-CoV-2, with a mortality rate proportional to age and other diseases.
It is a highly contagious disease, through respiratory droplets and through contact with contaminated surfaces with subsequent contact of the hands with the eyes, nose and mouth.
In addition to elderly patients with chronic diseases, cancer patients with active disease or undergoing immunosuppressive cancer treatment generally have a weakened immune system. Despite the scant evidence concerning the behavior of COVID-19 infection in this pathology, the above fact constitutes an important risk factor for infection and serious complications, as well as for any other infection by another agent.
There is, understandably, fear and anxiety of patients in the face of this new reality.
Even in this pandemic phase, in the event of urgent health care treatment being necessary, the cancer patient will start / continue his treatment, without prejudice to his clinical situation. There will be occasional situations, in which the oncological disease is indolent or is well controlled, and weighing the risk of contact / infection by COVID-19, it will be possible to consider postponing the treatment.
Naturally, there is now a rigorous screening and control of all patients according to the Contingency Plan of the Hospital, in order to minimize the risk of infection in the Day Care Hospital, be it to other patients, or to the Health professional.
Another important necessity is to minimize hospital visits; ideally only for treatment ideally favoring Teleconsultations whenever possible (namely routine consultations of patients not undergoing cancer treatment).
The measures widely recommended and widespread in the media must be strictly observed - respiratory etiquette, washing hands frequently, avoid touching the face with the hands and sharing personal objects, as well as prophylactic social isolation. In cancer patients under active and immunosuppressive treatment, the use of a mask is recommended due to the risk of infection with COVID-19 and other agents. However, placing and removal of the mask must be done correctly.
In addition to these measures, stay at home.
According to the Psychologists Board during these difficult times we are going through, can give rise to a mixture of emotions difficult to manage, such anxiety, fear, anguish and or frustration. In the polder population these manifestations might have an even greater repercussion.
Among the various recommendations I wish to highlight:
From my personal point of view, in addition to the above recommendations do not forget that good practices for controlling Diabetes should be maintained; healthy eating habits, the usual daily exercises, at home. Be sure that you have the necessary medication and the testing materials necessary for the following weeks and that you also have the necessary prescription should you run out of medication.
Stay at home, keep safe, keep your Diabetes under control.