Around the globe, people who are at a higher risk for developing complications from COVID19 have been making their voices heard.
The hashtag #HighRiskCovid19 has been trending on Twitter with stories of people of all ages who are immunosuppressed or have a risk factor — like diabetes, heart disease, or lung disease — for the viral respiratory infection.
The COVID19 disease that develops from coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) is fairly mild in the vast majority of people who get it. But nearly 20 percent trusted Source of those who get COVID19 can develop a much more severe illness and experience a range of serious complications.
The risk of those who are immunosuppressed
There’s a wide range of conditions that may cause someone’s immune system to be weaker, including transplant people who take immunosuppressant drugs, people over 60, people with cancer undergoing chemotherapy, and those with chronic disease like diabetes, pulmonary disease, or cystic fibrosis.
People with a weakened immune system have an increased risk of developing a more severe illness or complications like pneumonia because their immune system isn’t strong enough to fight diseases like COVID19.
A few moments ago, I announced that at 5pm tonight bars will be closed and restaurants will be take-out or delivery only statewide. Our top priority at this time is to keep Wisconsinites safe and healthy by reducing the spread of COVID-19, especially for those who are high-risk.
— Governor Tony Evers (@GovEvers) March 17, 2020
“In the event that someone is immunosuppressed, their immune system has slowed down and is not aggressive at recognizing other things as well, like outside infections from viruses and bacteria,” Dr. David Mulligan, the chief of transplant surgery and immunology for Yale Medicine and president of UNOS, told Healthline.
Allyson, a 20-year-old from northern Virginia, has a rare autoimmune disorder called Wegener’s disease.
The disease causes her cells to attack and inflame her blood vessels which can hurt her organ function. Allyson takes immunosuppressants, which she says, “causes the strength of my immune system to be lowered.”
The fear immunosuppressed people face
Those who have a compromised immune system are understandably on edge right now.
Kirsty Muir, a 26-year-old in Glasgow, Scotland, has autoimmune hepatitis and takes immunosuppressant medication due to a liver transplant she had in 2013.
She’s worried that some people who aren’t at risk for COVID19 won’t take the pandemic as seriously unless they personally know someone who has a heightened risk of developing complications.
Protecting people with immunosuppression
Mulligan and his team work hard to protect transplant patients who are immunosuppressed.
They’re often prescribed antibiotics to help reduce the impact of viral infections and lower the risk of bacterial infections. “It’s a lifelong process, and we always watch patients for infections after transplant,” Mulligan said.
The most important thing people can do right now is to stay home and keep a distance of about 6 feet from others.
This pertains to large group get-togethers and smaller ones as well — the goal is to avoid accidentally exposing others to anything we may cough up or sneeze out, says Mulligan.