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GPs must treat any flu-like illness needing hospitalisation as coronavirus

GPs should now treat any flu-like illness requiring hospitalisation as a possible coronavirus (Covid-19) case, regardless of travel history.

Updated guidance from Public Health England (PHE) says clinicians should now disregard whether a patient has ‘epidemiological links’ and treat any patient as a potential virus carrier if they:

  • require admission to hospital; and
  • have either clinical or radiological evidence of pneumonia; or
  • acute respiratory distress syndrome; or
  • influenza-like illness.

This means GPs should immediately isolate the patient and wear personal protective equipment (PPE).

NHS England has told GP practices to identify ‘at least one suitable space/room in the practice for patient/patient group isolation’ in the case of suspected coronavirus.

GPs should avoid direct physical contact with the patient, including physical examination and exposure to respiratory and other secretions; and inform NHS 111 and Public Health England.

PHE has also updated its guidance regarding returning travellers, with anyone coming from anywhere in Italy since yesterday advised to self-isolate.

This comes as the Italian Government has taken the decision to quarantine 16 million people, including in the cities of Milan and Venice, in an attempt to slow the rampant spread of the virus in the country.

As of today, 373 patients had tested positive for coronavirus in the UK and six people have died. Over 26,000 people have been tested.

The news comes as the RCGP has complained that there is ‘confusion’ around the advice being given to GPs on triaging potential coronavirus cases.

And as the UK’s chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty has warned that ‘within 10-14 days’ the UK ‘will move to a situation where everybody who has even minor respiratory tract infections or a fever should be self-isolating for seven days afterwards’.


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