If you’re concerned about the effects of Coronavirus (Covid-19) because you have MS, this is normal and completely understandable. This is my MSers guide to educate yourself about the facts and help dispel myth and worry.
If you’d prefer to read about how Coronavirus may affect your current or proposed drug (DMT) as advised by a healthcare professional, then I suggest you read this piece from the Barts Blog by Professor Gavin Giovannoni and team in London, UK. I would say this is probably the most IMPORTANT post to read.
If you want to know more, there are a whole host of other great sources to find information which I’ll link at the end. However, I thought it would be helpful to chunk up what I think are the largest takeaways from the resources. Don’t forget, there’s no one uniform answer regarding MS.
Chunk 1 – forget the MS for a second.
The main goal now is to prevent the spread of the virus turning into a pandemic. It’s a virus, albeit a new one and one that scientists haven’t worked out exactly as of yet. It’s no more deadly to the individual than influenza.
Chunk 2 – as we can’t get in front of it like we do with the flu-jab, we need to act differently.
That is a back-to-basics common sense approach to handwashing. Lots of hand washing. More often than you think and for longer than you think.
In the UK we have come to rely on foreign expertise at the highest levels of the NHS such as specialists in fields like neuroscience and haematology. There are also a whole host of academic transfer programs with the aim of sharing knowledge and best practice. Theoretically, these may be impacted if the UK makes sweeping changes to the immigration requirements. This will not affect patients immediately but there is a potential impact.
Chunk 3 – where possible, wash your hands with soap and water
And really thoroughly for the time it takes to sing Happy Birthday. TWICE! If you haven’t got access to soap and water then alcohol hand sanitiser with a min 60% alcohol. (as my wife says: No frou frou smelly stuff then!)
Chunk 4 – Like the flu, Coronavirus is spread primarily via respiratory droplets—little blobs of liquid released as someone coughs, sneezes, or talks.
People pick it up through touching someone (eg their clothes) or a surface then touching their eyes, nose or mouth. We all do it all the time. (Source: https://www.the-scientist.com/news-opinion/how-covid-19-is-spread-67143)
Chunk 5 – If you have to be in contact with other people like on public transport, in stadiums, conferences, schools etc then you’re at a higher risk.
Think and act accordingly. I write this in my home office and it’s quite lonely. But, I’m much safer 😉
Chunk 6 – MS time now. This bit is about us!
If (IF) you take an immunosuppressant to treat your MS then you may be more vulnerable to catching the infection and it may be worse than if you weren’t on a DMT (one of the disease modifying drugs). MAY.
Chunk 7 – not all DMTs are the same and in the words of a leading expert, Professor Gavin Giovannoni at Barts in London, there is a hierarchy of risk.
He’s written a brilliant blog post which I’ll link in the resource section. Read it and think about it. If you’re not clear then leave a comment/question. The blog is as much for patients as it is for medical professionals.
Chunk 8 – The evidence.
I’ll bet that you’re still concerned. I am. I’ve put together a list of resources which I’ve found useful to get some key information and guidance. They’re all good and all of them are worth revisiting. Several MS-based by leaders in the field and several more generally useful to you and everyone you know.
A video from Dr Boster who is a great American neurologist. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_NpQOR7eXF8&feature=youtu.be
Also, his channel is great so do take the time to subscribe.
Prof G has more to say here https://multiple-sclerosis-research.org/2020/02/covid-19-pandemic-changes-the-rules/ Another one to subscribe to. Brilliant source of good information.
From the WHO (World Health Organisation) have a good website with several additional videos and downloadable items on here. https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=6&v=bPITHEiFWLc&feature=emb_logo
(some of it says 2019 as this has been a ‘thing’ for far longer than we’ve had an issue with it)
If you want to track the outbreak in near real-time then this map tool developed at John Hopkins in the US is the thing you want to use: https://hub.jhu.edu/2020/01/23/coronavirus-outbreak-mapping-tool-649-em1-art1-dtd-health/
Facemasks. Good idea or not? Turns out as an emphatic no. https://www.forbes.com/sites/tarahaelle/2020/02/29/no-you-do-not-need-face-masks-for-coronavirus-they-might-increase-your-infection-risk/#66727ca7676c
Chunk 9 – The main thing that will keep you safe is common sense and educating yourself.
The more you know, the less you’ll worry about things that aren’t real and not important. I’d argue that it frees you up to worry about real threats like dirty hands.
If you want a laugh: I was told today that there are some fringe believers that think this is all down to the 5G phone signal. Go figure.
Go forth, live life, be safe.
NOTE: This information was compiled on 02/03/2020. Make sure to talk to your healthcare provider before ANY treatment decision. Always seek the advice of a qualified health professional with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read or seen.
Dominic is a 50y old with MS. Dad to a 16y old daughter and though having a Canadian passport as well as a British one he has lived in the UK for 4/5 of his life. He has been diagnosed for 26y, has worked in pharma, IT, consulting, was a small business founder then as a mature student has recently completed a BA (Hons) History and an MSc in Politics with Research Methods.
When he was diagnosed back in the 90’s it was by a then eminent London professor. Although he says that he had a pretty good idea by the time of the consultation the Professor just said, “I’m afraid you have MS.” That was it. Dominic asked him, “What do you suggest?” and he replied, “Eat less red meat.” That was it. Really.
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