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Concern over ‘stigma’ discouraging Covid checks

AN ENNIS doctor is urging people with any symptoms of respiratory, or other infections, to see their GP and get tested for Covid-19, if advised to do so.

Dr Máire Finn of Ennis Medical said people are presenting with a range of different symptoms and that there is a growing list of signs of Covid-19, as the scientific and health communities learn more about the disease.

Our knowledge of the symptoms is developing all the time,” Dr Finn said. “At first, we were aware of a very defined set. We have since seen people coming in with urinary symptoms and gastro-intestinal symptoms which have been linked to Covid-19. We’ve even seen an appendicitis case, where the Covid test came back positive. It’s difficult to tell if that was coincidental or if the appendicitis was triggered by the virus. Right now, we’re looking at any infective symptoms as potential indicators. As GPs, we will triage people and assess who needs to be tested. It can be an inexact science, because the information is changing as we learn more about the disease.”

Dr Finn also said her practice has noticed that some people are reluctant to go for a test, even when advised to do so. “We are finding that some people are reluctant to go forward for testing when they are referred,” she said. “In some cases, it’s because there’s a fear of being stigmatised, and sometimes people will tell us that the symptoms they’re having are a seasonal illness or something they have regularly. What I would really emphasise though is, if people have symptoms, they do need to see a GP. If they are referred for testing, they really do need to go and get the test. Otherwise, we’re defeating the whole system of public health and contact tracing.”

Dr Finn added that the numbers of people being referred has increased since July, as has the rate of general presentations with non-Covid illnesses. “We are definitely seeing a change,” she said. “Over the summer, people have been interacting a lot more and all of the regular viruses that you would expect are in circulation again. Before the re-opening, we weren’t really seeing any sick kids, for example, because people weren’t in contact with each other, but that’s no way to live. So, people are getting sick again and coming down with various illnesses, but, apart from a recent small spike in Ennis, our practice hasn’t seen huge numbers of Covid cases. A lot of the cases we’re picking up are coming to light because of the contact tracing system, so the good news is that that is working.”

In terms of the age profile of those being diagnosed, Dr Finn said that the situation in Clare was in line with the national picture. “We are seeing younger cases,” she said. “Part of that is because the older population are still being very careful and cautious. What I really think is awful is that teenagers are being blamed for spreading Covid, I don’t think that’s justified. You also have a situation where very vulnerable groups, like people living in Direct Provision are more likely to be exposed and to be blamed and that’s a real problem.”

The lockdown of Counties Kildare, Offaly and Laois, Dr Finn remarked would provide important information on the strategy of imposing regional restrictions. “If they manage the outbreak, that will tell us a lot,” she said. “If it is not brought under control within a fortnight, that will give rise to concerns.”

About Fiona McGarry

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Fiona McGarry joined The Clare Champion as a reporter after a four-year stint as producer of Morning Focus on Clare FM. Prior to that she worked for various radio, print and online titles, including Newstalk, Maximum Media and The Tuam Herald. Fiona’s media career began in her native Mayo when she joined Midwest Radio. She is the maker of a number of radio documentaries, funded by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI). She has also availed of the Simon Cumbers Media Fund to report on development issues supported by Irish Aid in Haiti. She won a Justice Media Award for a short radio series on the work of Bedford Row Project, which supports prisoners and families in the Mid-West. Fiona also teaches on the Journalism programmes at NUI Galway. If you have a story and would like to get in touch with Fiona you can email her at fmcgarry@clarechampion.ie or telephone 065 6864146.

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