We have been asked by several people for advice regarding the current coronavirus COVID-19 outbreak. First, it is important to keep things in perspective. For the majority of people (81%), symptoms will be mild, and little more than an inconvenience, and some people don’t have any symptoms at all. Of those who are more seriously affected, 14% will experience severe symptoms but only 5% will become critically ill. The death rate globally is around 1-2%, which is on par with a moderate flu season.
GBS / acute variants
The advice for people who have had GBS is the same as for anyone else. A common misconception is that people who have had GBS have a weakened or damaged immune system – this isn’t the case, and you are no more or less likely to contract the coronavirus or to be adversely affected by it.
CIDP / chronic variants
For those of you living with CIDP, or another of the chronic variants, you may have a suppressed immune system, depending on the treatment you receive. If you are unsure, ask your GP or neurologist.
The most useful thing for everyone to do is to protect yourself as you would from colds and flu, by washing your hands frequently and thoroughly, using hand sanitiser gel when you’re out and about, and avoiding unnecessary close social contact such as shaking hands, hugging friends when you meet them, etc. Don’t bother rushing out to buy surgical-type face masks as they will not protect you from being infected. If used correctly, the most they will do is stop you spreading your own germs to other people. However, they must be used and disposed of carefully, or they do more harm than good.
- wash your hands with soap and water often – do this for at least 20 seconds
- always wash your hands when you get home or into work
- use hand sanitiser gel if soap and water are not available
- cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when you cough or sneeze
- put used tissues in the bin straight away and wash your hands afterwards
- try to avoid close contact with people who are unwell
- touch your eyes, nose or mouth if your hands are not clean
People in ‘at-risk’ groups
If your immune system is suppressed or weakened due to a different condition, or if you are in another one of the ‘at risk’ groups for whom the NHS recommends a seasonal flu vaccination, then you could potentially be more at risk from other viral flu-type infections, such as coronavirus than the rest of the population.
So, if you;
- are 65 years old or over
- are pregnant
- have certain medical conditions (listed on the NHS website pages for flu vaccinations advice)
- are living in a long-stay residential care home or another long-stay care facility
- receive a carer’s allowance, or you’re the main carer for an elderly or disabled person whose welfare may be at risk if you fall ill or living with
then it is sensible to take whatever precautions you can that will cause relatively little disruption to your daily life. For example, if you are able to, you may choose to work from home, and if you need to travel on public transport, take some anti-bacterial wipes with you to wipe arm-rests, etc and use hand sanitiser gel frequently. When you’re shopping, use your debit card for contactless payments to avoid handling cash, and if you wish to avoid contact with other people, try to keep a distance of least 2 metres away.
This advice may change as more people in the UK and Ireland are identified as having coronavirus, so keep an eye out for official updates on the news or government website