Don’t underestimate the importance of a preventative examination

Article

08. 05. 2020

The current coronavirus pandemic hasn’t magically made all other health problems disappear, there are many patients still suffering from acute and chronic non-corona related illnesses. This is why it is so important to place high importance on prevention, so that minor health issues don’t spiral into life-threatening diseases. Find out more in the following interview with Dr. Miluše Vostradovská, internist & adult GP and Waltrovka clinic’s chief physician.

Dr. Vostradovská, the current coronavirus pandemic has greatly affected the healthcare sector- how have Canadian Medical’s GP’s been affected?

All of our clinics and doctors are still working, albeit to a somewhat limited degree- some specialities are able to operate through the means of telemedicine (telephone/email consultations), but all of our medical fields are still available to our patients. In the early stages of the pandemic, telemedicine was more utilised, however, now we are returning back to more standard (contact) operating hours. During the shortened working hours, we tried our hardest to be at our patient’s/client’s full disposal. In specialities where visual contact is necessary, we made use of modern communication methods- skype, videocalls, etc. Currently, we are working on slowly increasing our operating hours, in an effort to return back to our full operational capacity prior to the COVID-19 era.  

Some patients, especially those suffering with chronic illnesses such as diabetes or cardiovascular diseases, will still require continuous, non-coronavirus related care even during the ongoing state of emergency, is that so?

That is very true. COVID-19 isn’t the only illness out there at the moment, although it may sometimes seem like that. Patients still have high blood pressure, chest pain, breathing difficulties, abdominal pain, gynaecological problems, eye problems, and many other health issues. It’s also important to remember that not every respiratory infection is COVID-19. We continue to perform all standard laboratory testing and instrumental examinations, and we are still vaccinating both children and adults.

What medical tests should people not forget about as part of preventive healthcare?

The type of medical examination recommended is determined by the age of the patient. We follow recommendations given by professional societies, and the periodicity of preventive examinations is clearly set out. The basis of each preventive examination should be taking a medical history (or updating a previous one) and performing a clinical examination. Appropriate lab tests are indicated at each individual age category, having more specialised ones with increasing age- such as testing for occult (hidden) bleeding, PSA (prostate-specific antigen= prostate cancer marker), mammogram screening and gynaecological examinations.

What about vaccinations? The tick-borne encephalitis vaccine is very relevant during these months, but adults should also remember the importance of vaccinations against tetanus, jaundice…

As part of preventative examinations, every general practitioner update and monitor their patient’s vaccination dates- and the COVID-19 pandemic isn’t going to change that. After 10-15 years of age, we vaccinate against tetanus, where we always consider the appropriateness of using a vaccine that also prevents against whooping-cough. As a standard, we recommend getting vaccinated against tick-borne encephalitis, and for patients over 65 years old we provide vaccines against pneumococcal infections.

I strongly believe that we will be able to travel again, and in the same extent as we were able to in the past, which means that we need to keep an eye on vaccinations recommended for travelling abroad, especially to exotic regions- jaundice type A & B, typhoid fever, yellow fever, rabies and others.

Naturally, all vaccines are available at our clinics.

As a physician,  how do you feel about the current restrictions and emergency measures being taken during the coronavirus pandemic?

Every restriction is a limitation, both in our private and professional lives. In the early stages of the pandemic, the restrictions were very strict, but also very necessary, but there comes a time where we have to return back to our normal lives- both within our working and personal lives, but also within our social lives. If the economy is brought to a complete halt- as it is now- we will not be prepared for possible future waves of other infections. We need to move on. Extremely strict restrictions will not cause the virus to just magically go away, the virus is here, and it will continue to be among us. Collective (herd) immunity will be of great importance, most of the population will created antibodies for the common infections which would protect us for a certain period of time (we’re talking about 1-2 years). We will have to learn how to live with the coronavirus. It will become the norm to pay a lot more attention the hand and surface hygiene, and when someone gets a respiratory infection, it will be normal to wear a face mask, no one will ever look twice. We will also be investing a lot more into our health and building up our immune system.  

Do you think we will be faced with more of this type of virus in the future? Should we be prepared?

As discussed in my previous answer- we certainly will. Coronavirus is here to stay. I firmly believe that the vaccine against the infection will be developed successfully, and if it needs to be renewed every year (as with the flu vaccine), it will be great. Recent talk is about the disease having a second wave during autumn. We have plenty of time to prepare for such a case- whether that be in terms of equipping clinics and hospitals with personal protective equipment, or be it psychologically (being mentally prepared for increased stress resulting from concerns about your or your family’s health, your employment, etc…)

In general, can people prepare themselves to reduce the risk of contracting such an infection by strengthening their immunity, having a good diet, physical activity, etc.?

Yes. Adhere to a healthy lifestyle, do regular physical exercise, stop smoking, reduce your alcohol intake. After a stressful day at work, prioritise your rest- active and passive (getting enough sleep). There are also plenty of vitamins available- both in their natural state (diet) and in tablet forms. Also, pay close attention to the control of any chronic diseases you may have- go for regular health check-ups and aforementioned preventive examination.

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