Coronavirus vs. Transplant Patients

“Coronavirus kills 9 people in Washington State”…. “Coronaviruses are common worldwide”… “Chinese doctors perform world’s first double-lung transplant for coronavirus victim”… WHAT THE HELL?! I try my best to hold my tongue and watch my language but everyone is freaking out about COVID-19 but this is hell on earth for all transplant recipients – more so heart patients.

Let me put this in perspective… You are already at risk for infections and diseases but now you’re at an even higher risk of death – great. And even with all this talk in the news I want to break this down for not only transplant patients but people that are what you would call healthy. But before I even talk about what the virus is, how you can contract it, symptoms and how to protect yourself, I think it’s important to understand why this post is so informational and important for transplant patients.

The immune system of a transplant patient.

Heart. Liver. Intestines. Lungs. Kidney… Those are some of the most common organs that are in need every single day by those who are on the transplant list.  Thousands of people undergo organ transplant surgery each year and get a second chance to lead healthy lives. While there are risks involved in any surgery, those who undergo an organ transplant also face the possibility that their immune system will reject their new organ and that they will always be at a higher risk for infections. Regardless of how well-matched a donor and recipient are, the recipient’s body will still try to reject the new organ since it is made completely of foreign cells. And that’s where immunosuppressant drugs come in…

To prevent rejection, immunosuppressant drugs will be given to decrease the body’s normal immune response. These drugs will need to be taken for the rest of the patient’s life. Since these drugs reduce the immune system’s ability to fight infections, a combination of antiviral, anti-fungal, and antibiotic medications may also be prescribed. So now that the immune system is suppressed and not in the best shape, let’s throw in a worldwide virus. So what is the “Coronavirus”?

A closer look at COVID-19.

Coronaviruses are a type of virus. There are many different kinds, and some cause disease. A newly identified type has caused a recent outbreak of respiratory illness called COVID-19 that started in China. This virus probably originally emerged from an animal source but now seems to be spreading from person to person. COVID-19 has been detected in people throughout China and 24 other countries, including the United States (wonderful). So what are the symptoms? Cough, fever and shortness of breath.

Is it contagious? Yes, the virus can spread from one person to another, most likely through droplets of saliva or mucus carried in the air for up to six feet or so when an infected person coughs or sneezes, or through viral particles transferred when shaking hands or sharing a drink with someone who has the virus. Often it’s obvious if a person is ill, but there have been some cases where people who did not yet feel sick had the virus and could spread it.

Just like anything else, prevention should be taken seriously for immunosuppressed individuals. Obsessive hand washing, covering mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing, thoroughly cooking meat and eggs. Avoid close contact with anyone showing symptoms of respiratory illness such as coughing and sneezing. There’s no real need to be in quarantine but use common sense. If someone is sick, take time away from them. If you feel ill, don’t go to work or school. If you think someone might be sick, sit that event out and take precautions. Until next time…

xoxo, B.

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