Millions of asthma patients and any Britons who get the flu jab on the NHS should cut down on socialising to avoid serious illness caused by the coronavirus, a top doctor has warned.
The NHS deems adults with long term conditions, including respiratory diseases, necessary to receive a free flu jab every winter.
Jonathan Van-Tam, Deputy Chief Medical Officer for England, said the advice to social distance for those high risk groups was ‘very strong’.
It follows the Governments advice that those who are at increased risk of severe illness from coronavirus should be particularly stringent in following social distancing measures announced yesterday.
Asthma sufferers are more likely to get seriously ill if they get COVID-19. But they are not more likely to catch the bug than anyone else.
Speaking from Westminster, Professor Van-Tam said that social restrictions apply particularly to all those who would be given the flu jab, other than children.
Asked specifically about asthma sufferers, he told BBC Breakfast: ‘I don’t want to go into enormous detail into every single risk group but we are saying it is the people who are offered flu vaccines, other than children, who fit into that risk category, people for whom the advice is very strong about social distancing.’
Asthma affects more than five million people in the UK, according to Asthma UK. Some 200,000 have a severe form of the condition.
The leading charity said it was aware of increased concern among sufferers about what exactly this would mean for them.
The condition causes the airways – the small tubes that carry air in and out of the lungs – to narrow, making it harder to breathe.
Coronavirus is a respiratory illness, and so can exacerbate the symptoms of asthma. It could lead to a life-threatening asthma attack.
After a fever and persistent cough, COVID-19 can cause shortness of breath and chest in the pain, and in rare cases, pneumonia.
High-risk groups also include people with other chronic long term respiratory diseases, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), emphysema or bronchitis.
According to a study in China, around six per cent of COVID-19 patients who also had a chronic respiratory illnesses died.
The research, by the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention on 72,314 COVID-19 patients, also found 10 per cent of patients with heart disease did not survive.
Government guidance says that daily life disruption is expected to last for a long period of time, and that those with chronic conditions should be ‘shielded’ from social contact for around three months.