In light of the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, many transplant patients may feel concerned as to what precautions to take. Transplant patients do have a lower immune system, which can cause complications like pneumonia. It’s important to note that while the coronavirus is the top headline of the day, transplant patients must actively limit exposure to germs, bacteria and viruses. Here are some common questions regarding the best ways to take care of yourself during this time.
1. Are transplant patients at higher risk for COVID-19?
While there isn’t a definitive answer to that question, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that other viruses, such as influenza, are severe for immunocompromised populations. If infection occurs, it will likely lead to pneumonia. Therefore, COVID-19 should be treated like any other type of virus.
2. How is COVID-19 spread?
As of right now the virus is not known to be airborne, meaning that the germs spread by floating through the air after someone sneezes or coughs. The virus is transmitted by droplets, which means the germs travel inside a droplet that are sneezed or coughed from an infected person, regardless of whether they show visible symptoms. These droplets can travel up to 6 feet. It is also possible to get infected by touching a surface that has been infected and then touching your eyes, mouth or nose.
3. How do I protect myself against the virus?
The best way to protect yourself against the virus is to avoid crowded areas and maintain proper hygiene by washing your hands as often as possible. You should also make sure to do the following:
• Avoid nonessential international or domestic travel This includes cruises and domestic areas where the virus is widespread within the community.
• Avoid contact with anyone who you know has recently traveled to the countries mentioned above or has become infected with the virus.
• Arrange for non-infected friends or family to help you run errands such as grocery shopping or picking medications.
• Keep a social distance of 6 feet.
• Wash hands frequently and use hand sanitizer, encourage your family members who live with you to do the same.
• Cover your cough
• Avoid touching your face, eyes and mouth.
4. Is wearing a mask recommended for transplant patients?
This a common question! It’s important address the proper use of wearing a mask. If your doctor has recommended you use a mask, please do so. The CDC recommends you use a surgical mask. While this method may not protect you a 100% from the COVID-19, it will help with decreasing the instances you touch your mouth and nose. The best practice is to avoid crowds as much as possible.
5. What should I do if I start to experience flu-like symptoms?
The first thing to do is not panic. There could be many reasons you might be experiencing flu-like or respiratory symptoms such as fever, cough, sneezing and shortness of breath. Right now, getting the flu is more likely than COVID-19. Regardless of the type of virus, it’s important to contact your local transplant center and notify your transplant coordinator. Let them know your symptoms, and if you have come into contact with anyone who might have been exposed to the virus.
Presently, there is no medication or vaccine to treat or prevent COVID-19. It is estimated that a vaccine will be ready in eight to 12 months. We encourage all transplant patients to stay informed of what is happening in their community. Taking extra precaution during this time can make a big difference. For the most up to date information, visit the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention.