The UK excludes COVID-19 from HCID category: What are high consequence infectious diseases and what does the exclusion mean?
Currently, the HCID list has diseases such as Ebola, SARS, MERS, and Nipah virus infection.
As of March 19th, 2020, the UK government excluded COVID-19 from its list of high consequence infectious diseases (HCID). Even though the disease is still considered to be dangerous enough to enforce lockdowns.
The disease was included in the HCID list earlier in January while we still didn’t have much information on the disease. This has lead to confusion on the perspective of the UK towards the disease. Are they considering it not to be dangerous? What does HCID actually mean? And most importantly, what does it mean now that COVID-19 is out of the HCID list?
High Consequence Infectious Diseases (HCID)
A high consequence infectious disease or HCID is defined by the UK as a disease which checks to the following criteria:
- It should be an acute infectious disease. An acute infection is one which shows a sudden onset of symptoms and resolves itself in a matter of days or months. Though, acute infections may have long term consequences and may put the patient at risk of developing chronic diseases later in life.
- It is usually difficult to recognise and detect quickly.
- It may not have effective preventive measures or treatment.
- It can spread in communities and healthcare facilities.
- It has a high mortality rate.
- It requires strict measures at the individual and community level to be managed safely, efficiently and effectively.
HCIDs could spread through direct contact or aerosols (like coughing and sneezing).
We now have new research and more information about the novel coronavirus than we did in January. And so, as per the UK government, since COVID-19 does not check all of the points mentioned in the criteria for HCID anymore - it is no longer eligible for the HCID list. Also, the mortality rate of the disease is comparatively low for it to be classified an HCID - so far the crude mortality rate for COVID-19 is somewhere between 3-4% as per the World Health Organisation. The rate may vary depending on various factors including the susceptibility of the population and availability of healthcare facilities.
Currently, the HCID list has diseases such as Ebola (fatality rate of 50%), SARS (mortality rate of 11%), MERS (fatality rate of 34.4%), and Nipah virus infection (mortality rate of 40 to 75%).
What does it mean for COVID-19 now?
As per the UK government public health information portal, just because COVID-19 is excluded from the HCID list does not mean that the UK does not consider it dangerous. It just means that the disease will not be treated exclusively at the HCID centres. The UK has a network of health centres that are responsible for handling high consequence infectious diseases.
Instead, now COVID-19 cases would be taken up under the national infection prevention guidelines (IPC) for COVID-19. These include:
- Washing your hands properly.
- Staying at a distance of 6 feet (2 meters) from other people (social distancing).
- Stay at home until you absolutely need to go out for important stuff like food, work or health reasons.
- Follow respiratory hygiene - use a tissue or the bend of your elbow to cough or sneeze. Discard the tissue properly after use.
- Do not touch your mouth, eyes, ears or nose.
For more tips, read our article on the COVID-19 Timeline.
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