Posted by on March 12, 2020 9:15pm EST
Eduardo Sanchez, M.D., M.P.H., FAAFP, the American Heart Association’s Chief Medical Officer for Prevention, shares advice and resources for patients and others concerned about the coronavirus.
The American Heart Association is advising caution and preparation for people who have heart disease or who have survived a stroke, because they are among those facing a higher risk of complications from the coronavirus COVID-19.
While the overall risk of getting this virus is currently low in the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has confirmed 1,215 U.S. cases and 36 deaths as of Wednesday, and the situation is rapidly evolving. More than 118,000 people worldwide have coronavirus, and over 4,200 have died, mostly in China. But over 90% of the 280 new deaths identified by the World Health Organization in its latest daily COVID-19 situation report Wednesday occurred outside of China. In addition:
- WHO officials said Monday that of about 80,000 people who have been sickened by COVID-19 in China, more than 70% have recovered and been discharged from hospitals.
- The CDC says people at higher risk of complications from COVID-19 should keep away from others who are sick, avoid crowds as much as possible and stock up on supplies.
For heart and stroke patients, prevention is key. Your risk is not higher for getting the coronavirus as a patient, but if you do get it you have a higher chance of complications. Others facing this higher risk include people 60 and over, pregnant women, young children, people with serious chronic lung and kidney conditions, and people with compromised immune systems.
The first cautionary step is to remember the basics in your everyday activities: Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue and then throw the tissue away, stay home from work if you’re sick, avoid touching surfaces in public, try not to touch your face, and avoid people who seem visibly sick.
If there is an active virus in your area, consider avoiding crowded places or situations. If there isn’t an active virus near you, factor in your personal health status when considering whether to go someplace where there are many people.
Get prepared at home
Think about how you would manage your condition if for some reason you were advised to stay home for an extended time because of coronavirus. These tips can help you prepare for such a situation:
- Make sure you can reach your doctor quickly. Gather contact information for your health care providers and store it in an easy-to-locate place. Get office phone numbers, emergency numbers and email addresses. And check to see whether electronic consulting or instant messaging options are available.
- If you live alone, gather a list of support contacts who you might call on if needed, such as friends, relatives, colleagues and neighbors. Keep this contact information all together in one easy-to-find place as well.
- Take stock of your medications. Make sure you have enough for an extended time. Also figure out how you would get refills if you couldn’t leave home. Find out if your pharmacy can deliver refills. Your health care provider or health plan may help advise you here as well.
- Take stock of food, beverage and hygiene supplies for yourself, your family and your pets.
What if you have symptoms of coronavirus?
If health experts are investigating you as someone with a possible case, or if you are confirmed to have coronavirus but are stable enough to be treated at home, consider these precautions advised by the CDC:
- Make sure appropriate caregivers are available at home.
- Ensure there’s a separate bedroom where the patient can recover without sharing immediate space with others.
- Make sure everyone living in your household can adhere to precautions recommended as part of home care or isolation. That includes covering coughs or sneezes, relentless handwashing, not touching your face and being sure to regularly wipe down surfaces with household cleaners.
- Set up some basic rules for making sure the person being isolated can get food and other necessities with minimal risk.
If you have any questions or concerns, contact your health care provider or consult the CDC’s website.
Last Updated: Mar 12, 2020
Update as of 4/23/20:
- Based on current information, it appears elderly people with coronary heart disease, diabetes or hypertension are more likely to be infected and to develop more severe symptoms. (Nat Rev Cardiology, 3/5/20)