A Tauranga autoimmune disease sufferer living in a motel is bypassing a global shortage of hand sanitiser by making her own.
This comes as people with compromised immune systems are urged to take special care while the country stays on high alert for coronavirus.
There are five confirmed cases of Covid-19 in New Zealand, all of which are now being cared for at home as of yesterday.No cases have been confirmed in the Bay of Plenty.
Ōtūmoetai solo mother Aimee Harborne has Crohn's disease - chronic inflammation of the bowel - and takes medicines that suppressed her immune system to manage the condition.
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Her pre-existing health conditions meant she had to change her everyday behaviour, such as missing out on attending her daughter's school production, but she was living in a motel on an emergency housing grant which compounded her concerns about getting ill.
She was concerned about catching illnesses - coronavirus or otherwise - from other guests.
To get around the hand sanitiser shortage, Harborne had started making her own to supplement the stock she had bought to ensure she had enough in the midst of the shortage.
Harborne uses her own recipe, but the World Health Organisation publishes a recipe on its website for making small volumes of hand sanitizer.
Victoria University immunologist Professor Anne La Flamme said people with weakened immune systems were at a greater risk of not just coronavirus, but also secondary infections from other viruses or bacteria.
"For respiratory viral infections such as Covid-19 or influenza, bacterial pneumonia is a common secondary infection which can be life-threatening," she said.
Elderly people with weakened immune systems were also at risk.
People with weakened immunity - including elderly people - and their immediate family, should start being more vigilant about hygiene and travel, she said.
Anti-bacterial products and facemasks were not the only way to protect against disease, too.
While facemasks could be helpful to prevent spread through the area, La Flamme said masks were not "foolproof" and people needed to consider how to minimise exposure through the air.
"Think about crowds, airflow, distance, and duration and keep abreast about any potential cases in your community."
The Ministry of Health advised that people with underlying medical conditions, such as a compromised immune system and cancer, along with liver, kidney and heart disease, needed to take more precautions to protect themselves against all infections, including Covid-19.
The Ministry recommended people with weak immune systems avoid close contact with people with cold or flu-like illnesses, cover coughs and sneezes with disposable tissues or clothing and wash hands for at least 20 seconds with water and soap and dry them thoroughly.
Meanwhile, Tauranga doctor clinics have requested that people who were showing possible symptoms of coronavirus or think they might have the virus call ahead of visiting the clinic.
A Foodstuffs spokesperson said there was a significant global demand for hand sanitiser and there was no estimated timeline of when stores would be restocked.
Toi Te Ora Public Health medical officer of health, Dr Jim Miller, previously told the Bay of Plenty Times symptoms of Covid-19 were similar to a wide range of other illnesses and included fever, a cough and difficulty breathing.
If someone had recently travelled overseas, or are concerned they may have been in close contact with someone with Covid-19 and are unwell, they should first contact Healthline for free advice on 0800 358 5453 (or +64 9 358 5453 for international SIMs).
The Bay of Plenty District Health Board have been approached for comment.
Advice if you are immune-compromised:
- Avoid staying with a person who is self-isolating
- Stay at least a metre away from people who are unwell
- Everyone needs to protect the safety of immunocompromised people. For example, if you're unwell, avoid contact with someone who is immune-compromised.
- Check safe travel advice about Covid-19 if you plan overseas travel.
- A mask is unlike to decrease risk of catching Covid-19 at this time, but wear a mask if your healthcare provider recommends this.
Source: Ministry of Health