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People with Down syndrome ‘may not show typical symptoms’

By Mindo - 10th Apr 2020

It is not yet known if people with Down syndrome are significantly more vulnerable to contracting Covid-19. However, they are vulnerable to other respiratory viruses such as respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), according to Down Syndrome Ireland. 

“We do know that they may be less able to tell us when they are sick, and that they may not show typical symptoms,” Ms Nicola Hart, Head of Member Services, Down Syndrome Ireland, informed the Medical Independent (MI) on 2 April.  

People with Down syndrome may have abnormal temperature regulation and may also experience difficulty recognising and communicating that they are unwell.

Following recent correspondence from HSE Chief Clinical Officer Dr Colm Henry, Down Syndrome Ireland has reassured families “ there is an awareness of difficulties and differences” and GPs are able “to consider referral for testing and treatment even if typical symptoms are not all present.”

According to the organisation, Dr Henry advised that a GP will be able to refer individuals for Covid-19 testing if they fit the case definition or if they clinically judge that specific conditions pertaining to the individual case are such that fever may be masked and there is evidence of an acute respiratory infection.

If people with Down syndrome do become ill, they are likely to be extremely vulnerable to respiratory complications, noted Ms Hart. 

“When faced with a new disease that has a specific impact on the lungs, we believe that families are right to be concerned and to seek active management.”

The organisation fully support prioritisation of healthcare staff for Covid-19 testing and considers family carers also provide healthcare in many instances. As soon as there is capacity, “we would like to see them have access to rapid testing.”

Supports need to be in place to ensure prompt access to emergency respite care in safe environments, it said.

It also advised that care workers may not all have the equipment or training to prevent contagion in disability services. “This needs to be remedied immediately for the protection of the many vulnerable people in these settings.”

Full feature on challenges faced by intellectual disability services

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