MS and coronavirus – What do you need to know?

March 06, 2020
Advice from Dr. Ben Thrower, senior medical advisor
Coronavirus (COVID-19) is a hot topic in the news right now. So, where is the hype and where is reality? Coronavirus causes a respiratory illness that results in a fever, cough, and shortness of breath. The severity of the illness varies greatly from person to person, with some people having no symptoms at all. Unfortunately, there have been deaths from coronavirus, typically in the elderly or those with other underlying health problems.

The average person with MS should not be at any higher risk for contracting coronavirus than the general public. Exceptions might include people with MS who are on medications that could theoretically lower their resistance to viruses. I want to emphasize “theoretically.” While we may see a slightly higher risk of upper respiratory infections with certain medications, we don’t know if this might mean a slightly higher risk of contracting coronavirus. It is important that you continue all of your medications.

Your best protection against coronavirus is handwashing, handwashing, and handwashing. Twenty seconds of vigorous handwashing or the use of a 60 percent alcohol hand sanitizer should do the trick. The transmission of coronavirus is most likely from viral particles that have been left on a surface by cough or sneeze. If you touch that surface and then touch your mouth, nose, or eyes, you may introduce that virus into your body. The virus could also be potentially transmitted directly by cough or sneeze if you were within three feet of the infected person. While masks are generally not needed by the public, I might consider wearing one if you are in close proximity to people, such as on a plane or public transportation.
If you have symptoms suspicious for COVID-19 infection, have traveled to a high risk area, or have been in close proximity to a person who meets one of those two criteria, please call your MS provider for further instructions. I would advise calling rather than just showing up at the MS center or healthcare facility.

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