Given the recent spreading of the novel COVID-19 strain of the Coronavirus, it is important to be aware of the causes, symptoms, and prevention methods for avoiding the effects of this virus, especially for patients with pulmonary fibrosis and other chronic respiratory illnesses.
What is Coronavirus?
Coronaviruses are among a large family of viruses, with some strains causing illness in people and others circulating among animals. The current spreading of the SARS-CoV-2 Coronavirus, which causes COVID-19, demonstrates the rare occasion in which an animal coronavirus strain has infected humans who have been exposed to infected animals, leading to spreading of the disease in larger-scale populations. Since humans have not developed immunity to this new virus, the illness and symptoms associated with it could be severe if not treated, especially for elderly patients or those with compromised immune systems. There is currently no vaccine to prevent COVID-19.
Pulmonary Fibrosis and COVID-19
Coronaviruses generally cause respiratory diseases. The novel coronavirus is thought to rapidly invade human lung cells. The destroyed cells fill the patient’s airways with debris and fluid which exacerbates the shortness of breath already experienced by patients with PF. This also sets off the immune response resulting in the influx of cytokines which further add to inflammation and respiratory distress. Lung infections can be serious for PF sufferers and are a leading cause of acute exacerbation in pulmonary fibrosis. Common lung infections such as influenza and pneumonia can preempt an acute episode. Thus, for patients who are trying to avoid the acceleration of their symptoms, it is important to take preventative measures, especially when it comes to avoiding the contraction of any other illnesses affecting the respiratory system.
What are the symptoms?
It is thought that COVID-19 spreads when an infected person coughs or sneezes, spraying droplets that can transmit the virus to anyone in close contact. It can also stay on surfaces such as door knobs for a few hours and infect people who touch them. The milder symptoms associated with CoVID-19 include fever, cough, and shortness of breath. If the infection were to progress further, it could lead to pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure, and even death. Individuals with pulmonary fibrosis could be more susceptible to the advancement of COVID-19 due to their already compromised lung function, so taking precautions is crucial for prevention.
There are several steps that you can take to prevent the contraction of COVID-19 as a patient with pulmonary fibrosis:
- Frequently wash your hands for at least 20 seconds at a time with soap or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick
- Disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces throughout your home
- Monitor any suggestive symptoms and call a healthcare provider right away if noticed
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue or into your arm/elbow and throw the tissue in the trash
If any lung infection is contracted in a patient with IPF, it is very important that the infection is treated immediately to avoid an acute illness. Any lung condition that occurs must be treated with professional medical assistance at the earliest. Do not hesitate to seek after-hours emergency treatment, if needed.