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Covid and our older population April 2022

While most people are now ‘living with Covid’, the virus itself is still rife within the UK population. What does this mean for our older family and friends?

Here’s a roundup of recent news coverage and government guidance.

Covid infections are at record levels, according to data from the Office of National Statistics, with only Scotland experiencing a drop in numbers. Using data from randomly selected households, about one in 13 people were estimated to have Covid. However, there does seem to be evidence that the number of cases are at least levelling off.

UK Covid cases are rising amongst those aged 55 and over, according to a study by Imperial College. This raises concerns that the vaccination immunity is waning at a time when people are starting to socialise again and the virus continues to mutate with more transmissible versions emerging.

Numbers on infections have become more difficult to come by, as the UK government no longer publishes its own figures.

Covid symptoms

The NHS has expanded its list of symptoms for Covid. These are now:

  • High temperature or shivering (chills) – a high temperature means feeling hot to touch on chest or back
  • New, continuous cough – this means coughing a lot for more than an hour, or three or more coughing episodes in 24 hours
  • Loss or change to sense of smell or taste
  • Shortness of breath
  • Feeling tired or exhausted
  • Aching body
  • Headache
  • Sore throat
  • Blocked or runny nose
  • Loss of appetite
  • Diarrhoea
  • Feeling sick or being sick

Covid and Long Covid

According to the NHS, most people with Covid-19 will feel better in a few weeks. For those who are fully vaccinated and have received a booster, this could be just a few days. On the other hand, the Zoe study, which has tracked Covid since the start of the pandemic, reports that one in 10 people may still have symptoms after three, weeks, and some may suffer for weeks. Symptoms include:

Treatment

Ambulance services and hospitals are again struggling to cope with patient numbers, as staff stay away suffering from Covid themselves and admission numbers rise.

One piece of good news is that the NHS has said that more than 32,000 vulnerable Covid patients in England are being treated with advanced antiviral drugs that improve symptoms within hours. In trials the drug appeared to reduce coronavirus hospital admissions and deaths by 88%. It has given to more than 6,000 patients already. Molnupiravir, which clinical trials suggest reduces the risk of hospital admission or death by 30%, was approved in November 2021 and has been used as an at-home treatment since December 2021.

Spring booster

Meanwhile a fourth vaccination – 2nd booster – is due to be available from early April 2022 for those over 75. Further boosters are expected to be available to the next age groups in the autumn. Guidance provided by the UK government in March explains that:

  • The spring booster will be offered to those aged 75 and over, those in care homes, and those aged 12 or over with weakened immune systems
  • Individuals will be offered an appointment around 6 months since their last dose of vaccine
  • The booster will be either Pfizer or Moderna

Most people are advised to take the booster. Those who had a severe reaction to previous vaccinations should discuss this with their GPs.

Common side effects are as with other vaccines, and include:

  • a painful, heavy feeling and tenderness in the arm where you had your injection – this tends to be worst around 1 to 2 days after the vaccine
  • tiredness
  • headache
  • general aches or mild flu-like symptoms

You can rest and take paracetamol (follow the dose advice in the packaging) to help you feel better.

Serious side effects, which need rapid medical advice, include:

  • chest pain
  • shortness of breath
  • feelings of having a fast-beating, fluttering or pounding heart

Social care and residential care

The UK government guidance for England on testing for Coronavirus in social care settings was updated on 31 March 2022. This is worth a read if you would like to understand the guidance on testing and outbreaks that your relative’s care home or other social care organisation is following currently.

The guidance on infection prevention and control in adult social care includes discussion of discharge from hospital, advice for contacts of those with Covid, and the procedure for care home residents who test positive,

Visiting care homes

This document also includes discussion of visiting arrangements in care homes, and specifically states that ‘contact with relatives and friends is fundamental to care home residents’ health and wellbeing and visiting should be encouraged’, and mentions the human rights of residents.

Photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash

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