Julius Laine | 26.2.2020

Coronavirus – information and guidelines for Heltti members

Updated 19th of March 2020 – Read in Finnish

Heltti Member Newsletter: Coronavirus – Heltti’s Actions for Controlling the Epidemic

The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared the novel coronavirus outbreak a pandemic. People who have travelled to areas affected by coronavirus or have been in close contact with an infected person have a risk of infection. If this is not the case, the symptoms can be caused by a common influenza virus, but when time passes it is getting more difficult to know. During the influenza season, and also keeping the coronavirus in mind, it is important to have good hand hygiene. It is also more hygienic to cough into a tissue or your inner elbow. Respiratory masks are only needed in special circumstances.

What should I do if I think that coronavirus is causing my symptoms?

Typical symptoms of coronavirus include sore throat, fever and difficulty breathing. Other possible symptoms include headache and muscle pain.

If you suspect coronavirus infection, you can use Omaolo (in Finnish) service to assess your symptoms. If you have mild symptoms, rest at home. If you are having symptoms and you belong to risk groups or you are having severe symptoms, contact your own public health center or Medical Helpline 116 117. You can also contact Heltti, if you are not sure about your symptoms.

Coronavirus tests and examinations are carried out by the public health service and some private providers and in accordance with the instructions of the health center. Heltti does not have the ability to confirm coronavirus infection by examinations. Don’t go to a doctor or nurse straight away. Always call first or use the chat to get instructions. It is critical to minimise contact with the elderly and with people with underlying conditions. Health care clinics are often visited by people with underlying conditions who have a particularly high risk of an infection presenting severe symptoms.

General information about coronavirus

Coronavirus (COVID-19) was first diagnosed in Wuhan, China, at the beginning of December. Since then, it has spread in Asia and to other continents. In addition to China, cases have been confirmed in Iran, Japan, South Korea and Italy. The number of infections has remained low outside China. Like influenza, coronavirus infection is dangerous especially to the elderly and people with multiple diseases. It is significantly less risky for people under 50 years old, and children don’t belong to the risk group.

How does coronavirus spread?

It is not fully understood how contagious the virus is, but it is highly unlikely to be infected by a person with no symptoms. Coronavirus is primarily transmitted through droplets, i.e. secretions from the respiratory tract. Coughing causes a particularly high risk. Direct infection is also possible if you touch a surface or material that an infected person has coughed on.

How to prevent coronavirus?

The Finnish Institute of Occupational Health (TTL) has prepared guidelines for workers to prevent coronavirus infection. These guidelines apply to Heltti’s health care professionals and other personnel, and we recommend that our members read and follow them as well. The Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) actively posts up-to-date information about the coronavirus situation on its website. This website is Heltti’s primary source of information, and we consider THL’s estimates very reliable.

The Finnish Institute of Occupational Health: Guidelines for workers to prevent novel coronavirus infection
The Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare: Coronavirus COVID-19 – Latest Updates 

The Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare: The coronavirus situation has changed – the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare has updated its instructions

Both web pages are updated as TTL and THL receive new information. Heltti recommends that you follow these websites to keep updated.

The most important ways to prevent coronavirus are washing your hands and coughing correctly.
(THL: Information materials – Infectious diseases)

Always wash your hands:

  • When you come indoors
  • Before preparing and eating food
  • After using the toilet or changing a diaper
  • After blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing
  • After touching the same surfaces as someone who is sick
  • Before using snus

The best way to wash hands is to use soap and warm water

Cough correctly:

  • Cover your nose and mouth with tissue when coughing or sneezing
  • If you don’t have a tissue cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve, not your hands
  • Discard the used tissue immediately into a mixed waste bin

When do I need a half-face mask (respiratory mask)?

A half-face mask is a good idea if you have been diagnosed with coronavirus infection and you are in public places where you are in close contact with others OR if a close family member or another person you are in close contact with has a coronavirus infection.

What should I do if I experience flu symptoms but the above risks don’t apply to me?

The majority of flu symptoms are caused by viruses and, at the moment, nearly all viruses causing respiratory tract infections are other viruses and not coronavirus. If the above risks don’t apply to you, it is very unlikely that the cause is coronavirus. If the flu symptoms are not severe and you feel that you are able to cope at home, there is no need to contact occupational health or a health centre.

A flu with mild symptoms is not treated with antibiotics or antiviral drug (except in special circumstances), and treatment is usually symptomatic. For rhinitis, there are medicines that relieve a stuffy nose (e.g. Nasolin, Otrivin) and nasal sprays containing cortisone (e.g. Flixonase, Mommox). These are available over the counter. Ibuprofen and paracetamol help to reduce fever. You can take three of these a day when you have flu. Resting and drinking enough water are most important but you must also get enough energy. If you don’t have an appetite, try juice soup. When started 24–48 hours within the first symptoms, zinc and vitamin C can also alleviate symptoms and shorten the duration of the flu.

Julius Laine

Julius Laine: Toimin Heltissä yleislääkärinä, ja olen kiinnostunut erityisesti sairauksien ehkäisystä ja hyvinvoinnin edistämisestä. Sairauksien hoito on Suomessa varsin hyvällä tasolla, joten jatkossa tulisi yhä vahvemmin keskittyä hyvinvoinnin lisäämiseen. Hyvinvointi ja terveelliset elämäntavat kulkevat rinnan ja niiden parantaminen on erittäin tehokas keino ehkäistä sairauksia. Terveysteknologia ja sen hyödyt ja haitat lääketieteen ammattilaisille ja erityisesti tavallisille kuluttajille ovat lähellä sydäntäni.