İnformation about the new coronavirus (covid-19) that cancer patients need to know

New coronavirus 2019 (COVID 2019) is an infectious agent that first appeared in Wuhan, China at the end of the last year and it became an pandemia which means it spreads to many countries rapidly and is responsible of many deaths.

According to the latest data, 11.994.182 people are infected and 547.931 people are dead by coronavirus. (latest update in 09.07.2020)

What are the symptoms of new coronavirus infection and how is its clinical course?

Symptoms of the disease are high fever, cough and shortness of breath. In addition, there can be muscle pain and fatigue. Vomiting and diarrhea may accompany rarely.

In patients who are diagnosed with coronavirus infection, mortality is 2% and the risk of serious disease (respiratory failure, shock, multiple organ failure) is 5%. In 80% of patients, the disease can be treated without observing any oxygen deficiency and dyspnea. Also, this infection can be detected with no symptoms. The possibility of transmission from a sick person that is diagnosed with new coronavirus infection to you (as an healthy person) and make you fall ill is 1%.

The incubation period (that means the time after exposure and before symptoms appear) is 5-14 days.

Treatment time of an infected person is 2-6 weeks.  The coronavirus could be transmitted to everyone. Fortunately, the infected group has 2% mortality risk. That means the coronavirus does not cause death in every transmitted person.

The cause of death is respiratory failure that is caused by severe lung damage. So the mortality risk is higher in older age, at people with heart or lung diseases, with depressed immune system function (people who have organ transplantation, patients with cancer).

Which treatments are available for the coronavirus infection?

People who were diagnosed with coronavirus are treated by supportive care. We have not got any medical treatment yet. Besides, most of infected people have just mild illness and completely recover and get back to their normal life.

Who are the risk groups for the coronavirus infection?

  • People who have cough, shortness of breath and fever
  • People who have close contacts with an infected or suspicious person
  • People who have been in high coronavirus infected countries (China, Japan, Iran, Italy, South Korea) during the last 2 weeks

These are the high-risk groups and they must see a doctor immediately.

On the other hand, any cough or high fever is not a sign of the coronavirus infection. Some upper respiratory tract infections such as flu (Influenza), pneumonia, sinusitis may cause the same symptoms. You should go to nearest doctor and undergo the tests that your doctor recommends you for differential diagnosis.

People who have been in dangerous countries or have a close contact with an infected person are at a higher risk in terms of virus transmission. It takes time for symptoms to appear after exposure to a virus, a patient might go without any problems for 2 weeks.  At the same time, an infected person may have no symptoms but can infect other people.  Then the disease  affects many people rapidly.

Is there any vaccine against the coronavirus?

No. Please note that the influenza vaccine does not protect against the coronavirus.

How can the coronavirus spread?

Although the new coronavirus first appeared in wild animals and then was transmitted to humans, now the main way is person to person transmission. It spreads through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.

As far as it is known, it is not transmitted from pets to humans.

Can wearing a mask prevent us from the virus?

People that are not infected cannot be protected with a mask. But you can be protected against other respiratory transmitted diseases.

Does having cancer increase the risk of the coronavirus infection?

Yes. Both, the cancer as such and cancer treatment (surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy) and accompanying situations (COPD, nutritional deficiency) increase the risk of infection. Besides,when there is an infection,  it may lead to a more serious disease.  This also applies to the coronavirus infection. In conclusion: if you are a cancer patient, you may be more vulnerable to the coronavirus than others.

Is it necessary to interrupt the cancer treatment due to the pandemia?

There is no scientific evidence that it is necessary to interrupt the cancer treatment because of the coronavirus outbreak.

You should continue medical nutrition and treatment for cancer that your doctor suggested.

How can cancer patients protect themselves against the coronavirus?

Cancer patients should maintain their general protective precautions against the coronavirus infection.

The coronavirus spreads through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Therefore, the best way to prevent the disease is hygiene.

The key point of protecting ourselves from the coronavirus is hygiene of hands, food and environment (air and surfaces) like in case of other epidemic or pandemic situations.

General protective precautions against the infection:

*Hand hygiene:  Frequent and procedural washing of hands (at least half a minute, or preferably for a minute) is the most important rule of hygiene. Hands should be washed with soap and plenty of water, including the back of the hands, between the fingers and the inner part of the nails. Towels should be unique for each person.  Disposable hand towels are optimal, but if you use a classical towel you should change it frequently.

Just in case if there is no soap or water, 80⁰ spray cologne or disinfectants that contain at least 60% of alcohol can be used.

The coronavirus and other lots of infection agents are infecting humans through droplets that spread from infected people to other people’s mouths, noses and eyes.  Those droplets could spread within a range of one meter from infected people. In addition, droplets can stick onto the surfaces (such as door handles, buttons of an elevator, tables, sinks, money, PCs, etc.) in the places where the infected people are. And the virus can continue to live on these surfaces for approximately a few days.  The virus can infect you if you touch the surfaces that the infected people contaminated and then you touch your face (or your mouth, nose and eyes). That’s why the most important ways of prevention are keeping away from infected people, washing hands with soap and water (especially after coming home, before the meal and after the toilet) and cleaning the environment with soap and water or with detergents.

  •  Do not touch your face or others' hands and faces to the extent possible, and if necessary, wash your hands before and after.
  • If you see someone coughing, sneezing, with running nose or fever, try to stay at least one meter away. If you live in the same house with this person, stay in a separate room as much as possible until he or she recovers. Also take care of the hygiene of items such as towels, food, forks, spoons and glasses and do not use them jointly.
  • There is no evidence that the coronavirus is transmitted by pets (such as dogs and cats). So only the general hygiene principles are valid for the pets. Hands must be washed well after touching pets.
  • If you are infected, take a rest in your house and use a mask in order not to infect other persons. When you cough and sneeze use a napkin and after that wash your hand with soap.
  • Try to take yourfood with hygienic precautions and in sufficient quantities. It is necessary to drink plenty of water, eat fresh fruit and vegetables. If you want to eat something raw, you should keep it in vinegar water for half an hour and then peel, after all of this procedures you can eat it.
  • You should stay away from the crowd and people that cough  and have fever.
  • Attention should be paid to your sleep, it should be sufficient and qualified.
  • Care should be taken for the environment that you are in, closed environments should be ventilated every day.
  • Close contact with infected people should be avoided.
  • If it’s not that important, you shouldn’t travel to the risky countries.
  • You should keep away from the information pollution in the internet or the social environment and take into consideration advice of doctors and other specialists.
  • If you have cough, shortness of breath or fever, you need to go the nearest emergency service immediately and give information to your doctor. Do not forget that these symptoms may appear from a variety of causes besides the coronavirus and try to follow your doctor’s recommendations to the maximum extent. Do not use antibiotics until your doctor tells you to, and do not insist that your doctor should prescribe them to you.

Sources:

1.European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control

2.United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): www.cdc.gov

3.World Health Organization (WHO): www.who.int

4.Uptodate

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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