COVID-19 outbreak

Latest updates on the coronavirus and heart disease

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COVID-19 outbreak

Symptoms, populations at risk and general recommendations

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The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) 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 ensure everyone is aware of the necessary measures to protect themselves and others in order to slow the spread of COVID-19.

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

  • Ask your healthcare provider about obtaining extra necessary medications in case there is an outbreak of COVID-19 in your community.
  • Take everyday precautions to maintain distance between yourself and others.
  • Have enough household items and groceries so that you are prepared to stay at home for a period of time.

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.

For more information on COVID-19, please visit the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) COVID-19 Resource Page and monitor the updates of the World Health Organization.


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.