Covid-19: UK records first death, as world’s cases exceed 100 000BMJ 2020; 368 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.m943 (Published 06 March 2020) Cite this as: BMJ 2020;368:m943
All rapid responses
I entirely agree with Elisabeth Mahase's coverage of covid-19. Apart from the current situation in the United Kingdom, she referred to the deaths throughout the world and the high numbers in China, South Korea, Italy and Iran. I am particularly worried that so many people require treatment on the intensive care unit (ICU). According to reports from Northern Italy (1), approximately 10 percent of people infected with covid-19 require ICU-admission, predominantly due to severe respiratory distress requiring mechanical ventilation.
Many infections in a short period of time are problematic, because patients requiring intensive care may outnumber available places. One way to tackle the problem could be collaborative efforts between countries that adaptively respond to the needs of severely affected regions by sending equipment, available ICU-staff, etc.
To prevent severe respiratory distress, it is also vital to inform people what they can do on their own to prevent respiratory distress. Smoking cessation may help all smokers who are able to quit smoking. Even if conclusive empirical evidence is lacking about the influence of smoking in people who contract covid-19, cessation would probably reduce inflammation, which may ultimately determine whether an infection progresses to severe respiratory distress. Another very simple recommendation for people at risk would be to soothe the respiratory tract by whatever can be done in their local region, e.g. regularly inhaling warm steam individually after boiling some water and adding a bit of salt (not collectively as this might spread pathogens; and people should make sure to avoid scalding). A key to bring down fatalities is to reduce severe respiratory distress requiring mechanical ventilation.
Competing interests: No competing interests