COVID-19 outbreak

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COVID-19 and CVD

Individuals with pre-existing medical conditions, such as heart disease, are at higher risk

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The link between COVID-19 and CVD

The novel coronavirus was first detected in Wuhan City, Hubei province, China in December 2019 and since then rapidly spread across the world. On 11 March, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a pandemic.

As a global organization representing the cardiovascular community, WHF is committed to offering the latest evidence of the outbreak and ensuring everyone is aware of the necessary measures to protect themselves and others in order to slow the spread of the disease.

Symptoms & Signs

Symptoms of the infection may appear 2-14 days after exposure and include:

  • Sore throat
  • Cough
  • Fever

If you develop emergency warning signs, get medical attention immediately. Warning signs may include:

  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
  • New confusion or inability to arouse
  • Bluish lips or face

Research from early cases in China suggests that some individuals are more vulnerable to the worst outcomes of the virus:

  • Older adults
  • People who have serious chronic medical conditions like diabetes or heart disease


General recommendations

  • Maintain at least 1-metre distance between yourself and anyone who is sick.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
  • If soap and water are not available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
  • Avoid touching your face, nose and eyes.
  • Clean and disinfect your home to remove germs.
  • Avoid crowds, especially in poorly ventilated spaces.
  • Avoid all non-essential travel.
  • Stay informed on the latest developments about COVID-19.


Recommendations for vulnerable populations

People of all ages can be infected by the new coronavirus. However, the virus poses a particular risk to people over the age of 60 and those with underlying medical conditions, including:

  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Hypertension
  • Diabetes
  • Chronic respiratory disease
  • Cancer

To avoid infection, we recommend you to:

  • Continue to take your medication and follow medical advice
  • Secure a one month supply of your medication or longer if possible
  • Keep a distance of at least one metre from people with a cough, cold or flu
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds
  • Stay at home if possible 
  • Follow the instructions of the Department of Health and local authorities in your country

Remain aware of your health state. If you experience severe symptoms (shortness of breath, fever), call your doctor or a hospital immediately. Explain to them that you are calling in relation to the new coronavirus and that you are at high risk.

Look after your mental health and well-being too. If you need to stay home for a prolonged period, try maintaining a daily routine that prioritizes taking care of yourself.

Considering the greater risk for populations in impoverished settings, WHF has developed a series of guidelines on COVID-19 prevention and control in low-income countries.


Take care of your heart while at home

Being in self-quarantine can lead people to adopt unhealthy eating habits. To avoid stress and exhaustion, make sure you follow a daily schedule and maintain a healthy lifestyle:

  • Continue doing exercise, eating a balanced diet and getting adequate sleep.
  • Maintain your social network even remotely and communicate with your friends and family on a regular basis.
  • Limit the information you consume about the outbreak and the time you spend on it, and only trust reliable sources.
  • Avoid using coping strategies involving alcohol or drugs.

WHO recommends 150 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity per week, or a combination of both. These recommendations can still be achieved even at home:

  • Take short active breaks during the day.
  • Follow an online exercise class.
  • Walk, stand up and relax!

Stay physically active while at home with this set of home-based exercises from WHO/Europe.


Recommendations for healthcare professionals

A study published in The Lancet on 14 March reviewed the psychological effects of quarantines during disease outbreaks. The report takes information from another study published in 2004 during the SARS outbreak, which revealed that quarantined hospital staff was more likely to report exhaustion and irritability, anxiety and depression.

To protect the mental health of these professionals, China’s National Health Commission released guidelines for psychological care during the pandemic and WHO shared several mental health tips for healthcare practitioners, which includes:

  • Ensure rest during work or between shifts, eat sufficient and healthy food and engage in physical activity.
  • Avoid using unhelpful coping mechanisms such as tobacco or alcohol.
  • Some workers may experience avoidance by their family or community due to stigma or fear. If possible, stay connected with your loved ones. Turn to your colleagues and your manager for social support.
  • Team leaders should provide good quality communication and accurate information updates to all staff. Ensure you initiate, encourage and monitor work breaks.

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