Lupus & COVID-19
By Dr. Robert Katz
About COVID-19 & lupus
COVID-19 is a coronavirus – one of a large family of viruses that are common in people and many different species of animals. 80% of people who contract the virus will have mild symptoms. COVID-19 began in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China and has since spread to many countries and the United States.
Are people living with lupus at greater risk of infection from COVID-19?
People living with lupus are at greater risk of infection due to their autoimmune disease and some of the medications they may be taking.
It is important to continue taking your prescribed medication and taking care of yourself as you have been for lupus.
If I have lupus should I keep my regularly scheduled doctor’s appointments?
If you have lupus and do not show any symptoms of COVID-19 and have not been exposed to COVID-19 then you should continue to keep your regularly scheduled doctor’s appointments.
Be sure to take precautions to avoid infection when you go out (see below)
What actions should I take if I have lupus and am at higher risk?
If you are at higher risk for serious illness from COVID-19 because of lupus, it is extra important for you to take actions to reduce your risk of getting sick with the disease.
- Stock up on supplies
- Take everyday precautions to keep space between yourself and others, wash your hands often – especially after going out.
- When you go out in public, keep away from others who are sick, limit close contact and wash your hands often.
- Avoid crowds as much as possible.
- Avoid cruise travel and non-essential air travel.
- During a COVID-19 outbreak in your community, stay home as much as possible to further reduce your risk of being exposed.
What are the symptoms of COVID-19?
Reported illnesses have ranged from mild symptoms (80% of cases) to severe illness and death for confirmed coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) cases.
The following symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure.*
- Shortness of breath
What are the emergency symptoms of COVID-19?
If you develop emergency warning signs for COVID-19 get medical attention immediately. In adults, emergency warning signs*:
- Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
- Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
- New confusion or inability to arouse
- Bluish lips or face
*This list is not all inclusive. Please consult your medical provider for any other symptoms that are severe or concerning.
What should I do if I think I have COVID-19 but not emergency symptoms?
- Stay home and call your doctor
- Call your healthcare provider and let them know about your symptoms. Tell them that you have or may have COVID-19. This will help them take care of you and keep other people from getting infected or exposed.
- If you are not sick enough to be hospitalized, you can recover at home. Follow CDC instructions for how to take care of yourself at home.
- Know when to get emergency help (see the emergency symptoms above)
- Get medical attention immediately if you have any of the emergency warning signs listed above.
What should I do if I have COVID-19?
If you do become ill consult your doctor about continuing versus holding your lupus medications temporarily. Don’t stop steroids (prednisone) abruptly.
How does COVID-19 Spread?
The virus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person.
- Between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet).
- Through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.
- These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs.
Can someone spread the virus without being sick?
- People are thought to be most contagious when they are most symptomatic (the sickest).
- Some spread might be possible before people show symptoms; there have been reports of this occurring with this new coronavirus, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.
Can I prevent getting COVID-19?
There is currently no vaccine to prevent COVID-19.
Try to avoid air travel for now, until the epidemic quiets down. There’s a risk of being quarantined at home or elsewhere if you come into contact with someone who has a coronavirus infection.
The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to this virus. However, as a reminder, CDC always recommends everyday preventive actions to help prevent the spread of respiratory diseases, including:
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
- Stay home when you are sick.
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
- Follow CDC’s recommendations for using a facemask.
- CDC does not recommend that people who are well wear a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory diseases, including COVID-19.
- Facemasks should be used by people who show symptoms of COVID-19 to help prevent the spread of the disease to others. The use of facemasks is also crucial for health workers and people who are taking care of someone in close settings (at home or in a health care facility).
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
- If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty.
References and resources
Statement from the Lupus Research Alliance (LRA) https://www.lupusresearch.org/coronavirus-disease-info-for-people-with-lupus/
CDC COVID-19 Website: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html
American College of Rheumatology announcement on COVID-19: https://www.rheumatology.org/announcements
Cook County/CDC Fact Sheet – click here