Coronavirus (COVID-19) is on everyone’s mind. Our patients who need medicines to suppress an overactive immune system may be particularly concerned. So far there is no data to support that such patients are more at risk for getting this particular virus. The consequence of not taking medicine for inflammatory diseases is likely to result in disease flares, which can cause misery. Panic is not a good approach to dealing with any virus! Remember that the flu virus kills hundreds of thousands of people every year and we don’t seem to give it much thought.
As for our rheumatology practice, if you do not have any current symptoms of sickness, then both your doctor and your team here feel it is safe to continue with infusions as well as oral medications to control your disease. Just as we do here, be sure to wash your hands frequently, avoid sick contacts, clean home surfaces, and avoid unnecessary travel or dense public spaces. Uncertainty can be scary, but keep in mind that it’s very likely that almost everyone who contracts COVID-19 experiences it as a mild illness, not a severe one. In the event you experience any symptoms after your treatment, make sure you call either your referring doctor’s office or your primary care physician and follow their instructions on how to proceed. For medications that affect the immune system, it is a judgment call for the individual prescribing physician. But, it is reasonable to say that a patient whose underlying disease is uncontrolled carries as much risk for viral infection as a patient who receives appropriate immunosuppression for a serious chronic illness.