COVID-19 – advice for you
As the corona virus continues to spread throughout the world, FESCA wants to support you who are affected by scleroderma, with relevant information.
1. Am I more at risk of catching coronavirus because of my condition/the medication I am taking?
Coronavirus is passed from human to human – the government measures are in place to reduce everyone’s risk of catching this and spreading it, but especially those they have identified as being more vulnerable to having more severe symptoms if they did catch it.
2. Am I more at risk of developing severe symptoms because of my condition / medication I am taking?
It is thought that coronavirus can cause more severe symptoms in people with weakened immune systems and the elderly. The governments in the countries are advising those who are at increased risk of severe illness from coronavirus to be particularly stringent in following social distancing measures. Please check the official pages of your healthcare system in your country.
3. Should I stop taking my medication as a precaution?
You should continue to take your medication, unless directed otherwise by your rheumatology team.
4. Should I be social distancing myself even if I don’t have any symptoms?
It is advised that everyone is to take measures to reduce social interaction between people in order to reduce the transmission of coronavirus (COVID-19). It is intended for use in situations where people are living in their own homes, with or without additional support from friends, family and carers. People who are at increased risk of severe illness from coronavirus are advised to be particularly stringent in following social distancing measures. Please follow the guidelines from the government in your country as they differ from country to country.
5. What is social distancing?
Social distancing measures are steps you can take to reduce the social interaction between people. This will help reduce the transmission of coronavirus (COVID-19).
- Avoid contact with someone who is displaying symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19). These symptoms include high temperature and/or new and continuous cough
- Avoid non-essential use of public transport, varying your travel times to avoid rush hour, when possible
- Work from home, where possible. Your employer should support you to do this.
- Avoid large gatherings, and gatherings in smaller public spaces such as pubs, cinemas, restaurants, theatres, bars, clubs
- Avoid gatherings with friends and family. Keep in touch using remote technology such as phone, internet, and social media
- Use telephone or online services to contact your General Practitioner/Doctor or other essential services.
6. Should I be self-isolating?
The same guidance applies to the general population and those at increased risk of severe illness from coronavirus (COVID-19). If you develop symptoms of COVID-19 (high temperature and/or new and continuous cough), self-isolate at home by following the guidelines of your national healthcare system.
You can also update yourself on the recommendations by European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control here.
There are lots of resources out there for managing self-isolation and social-distancing:
- stay in touch with family and friends over the phone or on social media, to help you avoid feeling low or lonely
- try to keep yourself busy – you could try activities like cooking, reading, online learning and watching films’
- do light exercise, if you feel well enough to
For more tips on how to cope with quarantine / isolation, click here.
General Information on Corona-virus (Covid-19)
1. What is COVID-19?
The name ‘COVID-19’ has been assigned to the new strain of coronavirus that first emerged in Wuhan, China in December 2019. Like other coronaviruses, it has come from animals; most of the first cases were in those who either worked in/or regularly visited a wet market in the city of Wuhan. As a group, coronaviruses are fairly common across the world, and in humans cause respiratory tract infections. COVID-19 in particular can cause pneumonia. Based on the WHO’s declaration that this is a public health emergency of international concern, the UK Chief Medical Officers have raised the risk to the UK from low to moderate
2. How does infection with COVID-19 occur?
Human-to-human transmission has been confirmed, but as it is a new strain of virus, scientists are working to understand the full mode of transmission.
3. What are the symptoms? What do I do if I get the symptoms?
Reported symptoms of COVID-19 are coughs, fever and breathing problems, which may progress to pneumonia. In severe cases, there can be organ failure. It is important to note that some individuals may spread the virus before they notice any symptoms, as with other illnesses such as the flu. Evidence thus far suggests that most cases are mild.
Travellers returning home from the below locations should stay indoors and avoid contact with other people immediately if you’ve travelled from:
- Hubei province in China in the last 14 days, even if you do not have symptoms
- Iran, lockdown areas in northern Italy or special care zones in South Korea since 19 February, even if you do not have symptoms
- Other parts of mainland China or South Korea, Hong Kong, Japan, Macau, Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan or Thailand in the last 14 days and have a cough, high temperature or shortness of breath (even if your symptoms are mild)
- Other parts of northern Italy (anywhere north of Pisa, Florence and Rimini), Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar or Vietnam since 19 February and have a cough, high temperature or shortness of breath (even if your symptoms are mild)
If there is a chance you have coronavirus, you may be asked to self-isolate for at least 14 days to help reduce the spread of infection.
This means that you should:
- Stay at home
- Not go to school, work or other public places/events
- Not use public transport or taxis
- Try to avoid visitors to your home – friends, family and delivery drivers can come to do errands or drop off food, however.
You should not go to a General Practitioner/Doctor , hospital or pharmacy. Call them instead.
4. I am intending to travel soon, should I change my travel plans?
You should keep up with and follow all the latest travel advice provided by your national authorities.
5. How can I protect myself?
Please ensure that you are following the current government advice in regards to social distancing and self-isolation. Other general advice for protection against COVID-19 is as follows:
- Wash your hands very regularly for at least 20 seconds using soap and water. Dry hands thoroughly afterwards.
- Try to avoid touching your face.
- Coughing or sneezing should be into an elbow or tissue paper and the latter should be discarded safely.
- Use disposable tissues.
- Wear a mask when you are ill; if there are no symptoms it is not necessary to wear a mask. The mask cannot completely prevent virus transmission, but it is a good reminder of not touching your face and serves to warn others that you may not be well.
- Practice sensible social distancing especially from people who appear to be ill, e.g. coughing or sneezing.
- We should greet each other without shaking hands and avoid hugs.
- Try to avoid busy public transport and large groups of people.
Do not embark on unnecessary travel at this time to certain geographical areas – please pay attention to public health advice to guide you in this. (Source: EULAR Guidance for patients COVID-19 outbreak)
If you do have specific medication concerns or symptoms you are worried about, you should speak to your General Practitioner/Doctor or contact your scleroderma specialist. Please do this by telephone, do not go in person to a hospital or your General Practitioner/Doctor unless you have been advised to do so.
Find information in your own country – start visiting our member’s pages:
Official reliable pages
European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control
EULAR – Guidance for Patients COVID-19 outbreak
European Medicine Agency on COVID-19.
World Health Organization / Europe
Stay physically active during self-quarantine:
How to cope with quarantine / isolation:
news & events
Article by doctor Susana Oliveira, graduated Hospital Assistant and Systemic Sclerosis Consulting Coordinator at the Professor Doutor Fernando Fonseca Hospital
Artikel von Maria José Guimarães, Pulmonologin, Koordinatorin des pneumologischen Dienstes des Krankenhauses von Luz-Guimarães.
Opinion article by Dr. Maria José Guimarães, Pulmonologist, Coordinator of the Pneumology Service of the Luz-Guimarães Hospital