It is clear that Covid-19 will be with us for some time and, like so many health challenges, the responsibility for assessing our risk of infection and more serious or persistent disease like long Covid now rests firmly in our own hands. That means understanding how protected you may be, so that you can take appropriate measures to keep yourself healthy, avoid time off work, reduce the risk of transmitting SARS-CoV-2 to more vulnerable people, and avoiding serious illness including possible hospitalisation, intensive care or worse, as well as the emerging problems of Long Covid.
Many holidays and most travel involve an increased risk of exposure to Covid. Some holidays, such as cruises or chalet skiing, represent the perfect conditions for picking up an infection, which can ruin the holiday and force an extended period off work on return. Some individuals find themselves wrestling with more severe illness abroad or being transferred from a cruise ship to a healthcare facility somewhere along their route. Although personal immunity is complex and multi-factorial, there is growing evidence that it makes considerable sense to understand more about your individual antibody status and protection before you travel.
For many, after months of restrictions, holidays involve both visiting elderly relatives or lots of socialising… or both. As we age we can become far more susceptible to severe illness, and SARS-CoV-2 has hit senior citizens hard: the majority of Covid deaths have been in the elderly regardless of their vaccination status. Besides the obvious personal distress associated with having Covid-19 over the holiday season, it’s worth considering how protected you are and thus how much of a risk you pose to your more vulnerable relatives.
Covid-19 has proved to be serious, and even deadly, to those with risk factors or underlying health issues. It is vital you have a measure of your current levels of antibody immunity, so that you may take appropriate measures for self-protection, whether medical e.g. seeking a booster vaccination, or behavioural e.g. wearing a mask or avoiding crowds. Individuals in the following groups should consider understanding their degree of immunity:
Immunocompromised or individuals on any kind of immune system suppressive medications
More senior and elderly individuals
Individuals with hypertension and heart disease
Individuals with diabetes
Individuals who carry significant excess weight, especially in the above groups too
Quite apart from the responsibility employers have for their workforce safety and wellbeing, high Covid-19 infection rates play havoc with work continuity and service delivery. Additionally, many industries have staff groups who face an increased risk of exposure, and as seen so clearly with airlines, staff absence can cause severe disruption and loss of revenue. The following are some professions at greater exposure to Covid-19:
Travel industry professionals e.g. airline cabin staff
Hospitality, including restaurants, nightclubs and hotels
Teachers, especially as children are frequently asymptomatic
However, any industry where staff work in close groups or where staff absence causes significant economic and service delivery issues to their employers, represents an opportunity to better understand the workforce immunity profile and take measures to reduce risks and maintain business continuity.
The lasting effects of Covid-19 are only now being properly understood. Long Covid, a collection of late or lasting effects from Covid-19 infection, can be debilitating and devastating to livelihoods, leaving individuals unable to properly engage in work and normal life, to the extent of being confined to a wheelchair or unable to leave home. Long Covid risk appears to be related to repeat infections with Covid-19, although some individuals develop it after a single infection. Obviously, the best way to avoid Long Covid is to avoid Covid-19 by understanding your degree of immunity or protection and taking measures accordingly to protect yourself where necessary e.g. by getting a booster vaccination.