Coronavirus Covid-19: Latest Government advice and what it means for people with ME/CFS | 17 March 2020


Dr Charles Shepherd, Hon, Medical Adviser, ME Association.

The UK Government has released new advice and recommendations that will affect people with ME/CFS.

The Prime Minister and Chief Medical Officer yesterday announced some very important changes in official guidance on measures to take when coronavirus is suspected or confirmed, and on social distancing.

We strongly recommend that everyone reads the latest Government advice and take action accordingly.

The key points are:

1.  From now on anyone with coronavirus symptoms (i.e. dry cough and fever) should self-isolate, along with every member of their household, for 14 days.

2.  Everyone now needs to be taking strict social distancing measures, which involve avoiding:

  • unnecessary social contact with other people
  • unnecessary travel, meetings and public gatherings
  • going to bars, restaurants, cinemas, theatres etc.

3.  The Government are advising that those who are at increased risk of severe illness from coronavirus (Covid-19) infection are particularly stringent in following social distancing measures.

In addition to the elderly and people who have pre-existing medical conditions (CS note: ME/CFS included), pregnancy has been added to the list – although information on the effect of this virus on both pregnant women and the unborn child remains uncertain.

Two further personal points relating drugs

1.  If you are taking any prescribed medication it’s worth making sure that you renew your prescription in good time – in case shortages now start to occur.

2.  There is some limited evidence emerging to suggest that the ibuprofen (Brufen) group of anti-inflammatory drugs could exacerbate the effects of this infection. So, to be on the safe side, the over the counter drug of choice for pain relief and temperature reduction is paracetamol.

What is social distancing?

The following has been taken from the UK Government Guidance published 16th March 2020. We strongly recommend you read this guidance in full.

Social distancing measures are steps you can take to reduce the social interaction between people. This will help reduce the transmission of coronavirus (COVID-19).

They are:

  1. Avoid contact with someone who is displaying symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19). These symptoms include high temperature and/or new and continuous cough.
  2. Avoid non-essential use of public transport, varying your travel times to avoid rush hour, when possible.
  3. Work from home, where possible. Your employer should support you to do this. Please refer to employer guidance for more information.
  4. Avoid large gatherings, and gatherings in smaller public spaces such as pubs, cinemas, restaurants, theatres, bars, clubs
  5. Avoid gatherings with friends and family. Keep in touch using remote technology such as phone, internet, and social media.
  6. Use telephone or online services to contact your GP or other essential services.

Everyone should be trying to follow these measures as much as is pragmatic.

For those who are over 70, have an underlying health condition or are pregnant, we strongly advise you to follow the above measures as much as you can, and to significantly limit your face-to-face interaction with friends and family if possible. This advice is likely to be in place for some weeks.

  • The latest ME Association guidance was also published yesterday, before the Government announcement. We will continue to update our information and aim to release it as necessary with a comprehensive blog every Monday morning.

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