COVID-19 is a respiratory illness that can cause mild to severe symptoms. People with compromised immune or respiratory systems are among the most at risk for serious complications. Mesothelioma patients fall into this category.
The 2019 novel coronavirus was discovered in Wuhan, China. The SARS-CoV-2 virus is responsible for the outbreak. With the virus’s now global reach, many people are wondering how to protect themselves from the disease. Government agencies have recommended a number of precautions. However, many have not officially addressed how the virus may affect at-risk populations like mesothelioma patients.
We’ve compiled a list of important COVID-19 facts for mesothelioma patients.
#1. Mesothelioma Patients May Be More at Risk
As COVID-19 spreads, researchers worldwide are beginning to understand the virus more accurately. This virus can affect anyone. It does not discriminate based on age, gender, overall health or geographic location. There are separate risk factors for contracting COVID-19 and developing a serious case.
COVID-19 Risk Factors
- Living in densely populated areas
- Contact with exposed persons
- Workplace exposure
- Advanced age
- Underlying medical conditions
- Certain medications and procedures
Mesothelioma patients may fall into several of these high-risk categories. For instance, advanced age may lead to increased COVID-19 risk. The median age at diagnosis for mesothelioma patients is 74 years old.
Patients with respiratory diseases are also more at risk for serious COVID-19 complications. Pleural mesothelioma patients may develop severe symptoms due to their compromised respiratory systems.
Some mesothelioma patients may also be undergoing chemotherapy and radiation treatments. These mesothelioma treatments have side effects, such as immune system suppression. This can make fighting off infections, such as COVID-19, particularly difficult.
As an at-risk population, mesothelioma patients should observe preventative practices to keep themselves safe.
#2. Patients Should Strictly Follow All Recommended Safety Precautions
Everyone should be observing safety precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19. However, individuals at risk for particularly serious cases of the coronavirus need to be extra vigilant. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a list of ways to protect yourself from contracting COVID-19.
To avoid contracting COVID-19, patients should:
- Wash their hands often. Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. This is especially crucial after touching anything in a public space, coming into contact with new people or caring for sick people. You may also use hand sanitizers with at least 60% alcohol content.
- Avoid close contact. Also called social distancing. The easiest way to avoid the coronavirus is to never come into contact with it. When at work or in public, do your best to maintain the recommended six feet of distance. If someone in your household has the virus, you should observe distancing measures in the home.
- Cover their airways. Wearing a cloth face covering can protect you from getting sick. A face covering can also help prevent sick individuals from spreading the virus to others. Continue social distancing and handwashing even when wearing a face mask.
- Cover coughs and sneezes. Even in your own home, you should cover your airways when coughing or sneezing. Use a tissue or other disposable product and throw it away immediately. Be sure to wash your hands thoroughly after doing so. If you cough or sneeze frequently, consider keeping your tissues, 60% alcohol hand sanitizer and a covered trash can nearby.
- Clean and disinfect. Cleaning and disinfecting is a two-step process. Begin by cleansing surfaces with detergent or soap and water. Next, use a household disinfectant on the surface. Practice this sanitizing process daily to help keep your home virus-free.
- Be alert. Pay attention to your own health and the health of those around you. Take your temperature and catalog any symptoms that may indicate COVID-19.
#3. COVID-19 Symptoms Can Be Vague
Anyone may develop COVID-19 symptoms, regardless of their risk factors. However, older adults with underlying conditions are among the most likely to display serious symptoms.
According to the CDC, COVID-19 symptoms include:
- Congestion or runny nose
- Fever or chills
- Muscle or body aches
- Nausea or vomiting
- New loss of taste or smell
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Sore throat
Many of the COVID-19 symptoms may also indicate the common cold, mesothelioma or a number of other conditions. You can use the CDC’s COVID-19 symptom checker to provide guidance on your symptoms. Do not ignore these symptoms. As the infection progresses, they may become more serious and even life-threatening.
If you experience any of the above symptoms, contact your doctor immediately.
#4. Medical Care May Be Delayed
As a result of the quick spread and severity of COVID-19, medical facilities are taking precautions to prevent new cases. Some cancer centers and hospitals may cancel your appointments to avoid infecting new individuals. Non-essential appointments may unnecessarily expose vulnerable individuals to germs.
Many medical facilities are also experiencing high levels of demand during the COVID-19 pandemic. These facilities may need to divert their resources to treating serious COVID-19 cases. As a result, you may experience delays in non-emergency follow-ups or treatment appointments.
For follow-ups and consultations, you may be able to shift to a telehealth appointment. These appointments allow patients to stay in their homes while still accessing medical care.
Check your mesothelioma cancer center’s website to find more information on how they are dealing with COVID-19 demand.
#5. Shortages May Cause Difficulty Finding Supplies
The early days of the COVID-19 outbreak in the United States included supply shortages and confusion. Now, your local grocery stores and wholesale clubs may restrict the number of goods allowed for purchase per person. Stores may limit the purchase of disinfectants, disposable masks, paper towels and toilet paper.
These shortages were worse in early spring, but are still worth keeping in mind. Take a thorough inventory of your pantry and cleaning supplies before making a shopping list. By planning ahead, you will avoid finding yourself without essential supplies.
To alleviate issues for at-risk populations, some stores are offering specific hours for vulnerable individuals. If you are a mesothelioma patient, a senior or have another underlying health condition, check with your local supermarket to find the best hours for your visit.
The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) compiled a list of some supermarkets offering special hours for senior shoppers.
#6. Stay Informed to Stay Ahead
The global pandemic has caused fear and panic worldwide. To keep yourself and your family safe, prepare for what’s ahead.
To keep up with the latest news on COVID-19 support and legislation consult:
- Online news sources
- News magazines
- Broadcast news
To stay informed about the United States COVID-19 response and recommendations, visit the coronavirus section of the CDC’s website.
To learn about the global response and recommendations, visit the World Health Organization’s (WHO) pandemic page.
Beyond staying informed, be sure to also stay in contact with your friends and family. Zoom, Skype and FaceTime are all ways to get the benefits of social interaction without leaving the safety of your home. Patients may want to learn how to play virtual games, such as solitaire and chess, to stay connected to loved ones. If you’re missing family meals or movie nights, moving events to a virtual platform may be a safe option.
If you’re spending a lot of energy checking on family members, remember to take breaks to keep up with your own health. A global pandemic is unprecedented, and staying safe and informed may ease the burden we’re all feeling.