Multiple Sclerosis and Coronavirus: What Do You Need To Know?
Medical director of Andrew C. Carlos Multiple Sclerosis Institute offers practical advice for people with MS.
With coronavirus (COVID-19) in the news right now, many people with multiple sclerosis (MS) are seeking to learn more about the illness and how it may affect them. 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 may include people with MS who are on medications that could theoretically lower their resistance to viruses. I want to emphasize “theoretically.” These medications include Ocrevus, Rituxan, Tecfidera, Lemtrada, Gilenya, Mayzent, Mavenclad and Aubagio. As part of your MS care at Shepherd Center, we monitor your immune function through regular lab testing. It is important that you continue all of your medications.
Your best protection against coronavirus is handwashing and more handwashing – 20 seconds of vigorous handwashing. Or, in situations where handwashing is not possible, you may use a hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol.
The transmission of coronavirus is most likely from viral particles that have been left on a surface by a 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 a person’s cough or sneeze if you are within six feet of the infected person.
While masks are generally not needed by the general public, I might consider wearing one if you are in close proximity to people, such as on a plane or public transportation. As per CDC guidelines and as a precaution, our team advises people with MS against any air travel or cruises unless it is essential.
If you have symptoms suspicious of 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 primary care provider for further instructions. If you fall into one of those groups and have an appointment at the MS Institute, please contact our Call Center (for current patients only) at 404-603-5031 so we can reschedule your appointment.
BEN THROWER, M.D., is the medical director of the Andrew C. Carlos MS Institute at Shepherd Center. He recently received the 2019 Healthcare Provider of The Year award from the Georgia Chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.
Shepherd Center, located in Atlanta, Georgia, is a private, not-for-profit hospital specializing in medical treatment, research and rehabilitation for people with spinal cord injury, brain injury, multiple sclerosis, spine and chronic pain, and other neurological conditions. Founded in 1975, Shepherd Center is ranked by U.S. News & World Report among the top 10 rehabilitation hospitals in the nation. In its more than four decades, Shepherd Center has grown from a six-bed rehabilitation unit to a world-renowned, 152-bed hospital that treats more than 740 inpatients, nearly 280 day program patients and more than 7,100 outpatients each year in more than 46,000 visits.