Mesothelioma patients who undergo aggressive treatments like chemotherapy and radiation tend to be immunocompromised, meaning they have compromised immune systems and are at risk for infection. Treatments like chemotherapy can destroy healthy immune cells, which reduce the patient’s ability to fight off illnesses.
On March 11, the COVID-19 outbreak was characterized as a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO). According to the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a global pandemic occurs when a new virus emerges that can spread person-to-person worldwide as a result of no pre-existing immunity. There is currently no vaccine for COVID-19.
If you are a mesothelioma patient, you may be at elevated risk for contracting the virus. There are some precautions you can take to reduce your risk of complications from COVID-19. Here are four COVID-19 facts for mesothelioma patients.
Coronaviruses Have Been Found In Humans Since The 1960s
Coronaviruses (CoV) are a family of viruses that cause illnesses ranging from common colds to severe diseases. The viruses are transmitted between animals and people, known as zoonotic.
Human coronaviruses were first distinguished in humans in the 1960s. Several new human coronaviruses have been identified within the last two decades, according to the CDC. The identified viruses are associated with both upper and lower respiratory tract diseases.
A new strain, called SARS-CoV-2, was first discovered in humans in 2019. The novel (new) virus was first detected in China but has now been diagnosed in multiple countries around the world, and on every continent excluding Antarctica. The disease in which the virus causes has been named coronavirus disease 2019, or COVID-19.
Mesothelioma Symptoms Can Be Similar to Those of Coronavirus
COVID-19 is a respiratory illness that targets the lungs and is similar to the flu or common cold. Signs of infection may include respiratory symptoms like trouble breathing, fever, cough, and shortness of breath. Severe cases may lead to pneumonia or kidney failure.
Since pleural mesothelioma affects the lungs and the lining of the lungs, similar symptoms may occur. Symptoms of mesothelioma and COVID-19 include tiredness, cough, sore throat, breathing troubles, and diarrhea. Contact your health care provider if you develop new flu-like symptoms or suspect someone you have been in contact with has COVID-19.
Mesothelioma Patients Could Be At Risk of Complications
Cancer patients, those at risk of respiratory infection, and the elderly are among those who have elevated risks for contracting severe forms of COVID-19. Once tested positive, immunocompromised patients may experience even more complications.
Environments involving large populations, like nursing homes, hospitals, or large gatherings, can increase the risk of contracting COVID-19. Coming into contact with just one sick individual can significantly increase the risk.
The pandemic has overwhelmed hospitals and medical care facilities across the United States and the rest of the world. The high demand for medical care among potential and confirmed COVID-19 patients decreases the quality of medical attention among cancer patients.
Additionally, when cancer patients show COVID-19 symptoms, their treatment may be delayed or postponed to accurately diagnose an illness. This may delay the progress of treatments from chemotherapy, radiation, or even surgery.
There Are Precautions You Can Take To Reduce Your Risk
Scientists don’t expect a vaccine for COVID-19 until 2021, and there is no specific way to treat it. Cancer patients especially need to take extra precautions to avoid contracting the virus.
The best way to prevent the virus, and similar illnesses like the flu, is to avoid exposure. According to the CDC, the spread of COVID-19 can be prevented by:
- Eliminate non-essential travel by cruise ship and air
- Restrict large social gatherings
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick
- Avoid touching your face (eyes, nose, and mouth)
- Limit unnecessary person-to-person contact (handshakes)
- Maintain several weeks of essential medications
- Stay home as much as possible
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds
It’s important for mesothelioma and all cancer patients to learn how to protect their health. Additional resources with more information are available from: