To say the start of 2020 has not been great would probably be a huge understatement. In Australia we were still dealing with bushfires in January (The Gospers Mountain Fire was active from October till January). In February we had floods. Then in March the spread of Covid 19 started to impact us. Social distancing began to be suggested more, businesses started to be affected and the great toilet paper saga began. But it has been more worrying for those who have a chronic condition during the 2020 pandemic.
A little background on Covid 19. Also known as Coronavirus disease, it’s an infectious disease caused by a new virus. It causes flu-like symptoms and is spread mostly by contact with people with the virus. This virus started in China in December 2019, and by my birthday at the end of January was declared by the World Health Organisation as a Public Health Emergency of International Concern. On 11 March 2020 it was declared a pandemic. At that stage the virus had spread to all areas of Italy and was beginning to impact the US.
Now for most people Covid 19 just causes mild to moderate respiratory symptoms. Some people infected with the virus have even reported not even feeling unwell, yet testing positive after being in close contact with other confirmed cases. And the information about is still evolving. But for those of us with chronic conditions, immune suppressed or compromised people and the elderly it is not such great news. As in the most severe cases require hospitalisation and possible ventilator use in the ICU. And the death rate from Covid 19 has varied from country to country, seeming dependent on the strategy governments and health authorities have taken in this pandemic.
At first I wasn’t so worried about having a chronic condition during the 2020 pandemic with my multiple sclerosis. Advice from MS Australia and neurologists was that we shouldn’t be at more risk of catching Covid 19 than anyone else.
But then more information started coming out about specific MS medications and the potential risks. You see not many people with MS have had the disease yet for them to really know how Covid 19 might affect MSers. And a lot of the medications available in Australia aren’t so in China where the majority of cases had occurred at that point in time. So specialists are making educated guesses on how they might affect each group of medications. My medication, Gilenya, has a mild to moderate risk of complications on current advice. But a real risk of relapse if medication is discontinued. However they ask if we do develop Covid 19 to contact our Neurologist as well as the other requirements of the Health authorities…so they can track the data more specific to the Multiple Sclerosis community world wide.
Not having a clear idea about how this pandemic is going to affect your family is worrying and exhausting. As a teacher I was required to be at my school until Monday 23rd March, until they finally brought through some guidelines allowing at risk people to work from home. Knowing how quickly things spread through schools of normal conditions like gastro and colds/flu, I was getting quite panicky at the risk of catching something that could land me in hospital. And every little symptom my family reports is a cause for thinking “Do I need to be worried about that?”
The only things we know for sure on how to help when you have a chronic condition during the 2020 pandemic is the strategies being advised to all people. Wash your hands well for 20 seconds (as we know sanitizer has been super rare since at least January) and maintain social distancing. In New South Wales we’re being recommended to keep 1.5 metres away from all people (tricky with preschoolers). And simply to not go out unless absolutely necessary and essential. And for the last 4 or 5 weeks we have been staying at home, seeing very few people…which is hard on all.
Facemasks at first were not recommended as effective in avoiding Covid 19. As the types that are able to keep the virus out are needed by medical personnel for if we do come down with it. But since I started writing this blog post the advice has varied as to whether you should be using them or not and the protection they offer. I do know that some medical practices in Australia have required patients attending to wear a mask whether displaying symptoms or not. I started sewing up a couple for us and a friend who needed a mask to see her doctors.
It has been a trying and scary time for all and I think the whole world is completely over the need for distancing from all other people! It’s just not natural for a social creature, which we humans are. But it’s even more trying and scary for those more at risk of complications than the average person. Living with a chronic condition can be hard enough at times without thinking about your own mortality and what the risk of going to the shops could hold. But as to following the advice for staying healthy, I think that my fellow chronic condition people are on top of being able to follow through on that, as it’s part of our regular lives anyway.
Stay safe everyone and let me know in the comments below how you have been feeling during this pandemic with a chronic condition.