Here’s useful info from the American Parkinson Disease Association (APDA) on COVID-19 and Parkinson’s Disease.
Basic Information About Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) & the Parkinson’s Disease Community:
Coronavirus Disease 2019 also known as COVID-19 is a new disease which first caused illness in China and has now been detected in multiple countries around the world, including the United States. It is a viral respiratory illness. The spread of the disease has been closely documented in the media, but for the most accurate information about the virus, please focus on reliable websites such as the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC).
Many people with Parkinson’s disease (PD) may be wondering if this virus will affect them any differently because they have Parkinson’s disease.
The answer is not clear cut because we currently have limited information. There have been so few cases in the US that most doctors will likely not have any specific experience in treating PD patents with COVID-19. The best we can do at this time is extrapolate from experiences of
· people with PD and other viral respiratory illnesses
· people with other chronic diseases and COVID-19
PD and other viral respiratory illnesses
PD motor and non-motor symptoms can be exacerbated by any medical illness, including a viral respiratory illness like COVID-19. This means that in addition to the respiratory symptoms of the virus, people with PD may feel that they are slower and stiffer and that their meds don’t seem to be working as well. Hallucinations may start in a person who never experienced that symptom before. Recovery from the illness can be more drawn out. It would be reasonable to assume that someone with PD who contracts COVID-19 could experience these complications as well.
Because of these reasons, people with PD are always strongly encouraged to protect themselves from infection as much as possible. Vaccines such as the flu vaccine are strongly recommended. (COVID-19 does not yet have a vaccine because it is so new).
Other chronic diseases and COVID-19
There appears to be a wide range of clinical reactions to COVID-19 infection – from very mild to severe. Most people who contract the virus will recover fully. People with underlying medical problems, such as asthma, heart disease or diabetes, as well as those over the age of 65 however, are more susceptible to COVID-19 (which is in line with what is seen with many other infections). The CDC estimates that people in these categories are at twice the risk of developing serious outcomes from COVID-19 as compared to those who are younger and healthier.
PD patients who are under 65 who do not have another underlying medical illness may be wondering if having PD alone is enough to make them more susceptible to the virus. This is a difficult question to answer since PD is such a variable illness and each person is therefore very different. If you are under 65, have mild PD and are healthy and fit otherwise, you may not have an increased risk from COVID-19. Practically however, we do not have enough clinical data yet to be sure of that.
People with more moderate PD may start to experience decreased mobility, with more risk of falls. As PD advances it can cause additional problems including swallowing difficulties, urinary dysfunction and weight loss. All of these elements can contribute to general frailty and increased risk of infection, including increased risk from COVID-19. In addition, PD patients are often over 65, which is another demographic category with increased COVID-19 risk.
Steps to take to prevent contracting COVID-19
Frequent hand washing is the best way to stop transmission of this and most other viruses. The CDC also recommends:
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
- Stay home when you are sick.
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipes.
What if you are quarantined?
Around the country, there have been cases of people needing to be quarantined because of an inadvertent contact with someone who has a confirmed case of COVID-19. A quarantine is a public health tool used to stop interactions between people by keeping them confined to their homes or a specific area in order to slow an infection from spreading. In anticipation of possible quarantine, people should make sure now that they have enough medication and supplies on hand to get through a 14-day quarantine, just in case.
Should you attend a PD support group/exercise class? What about a larger public event?
There is no uniform policy on this topic because each area of the country is different in terms of the risk of such gatherings. Risk factors include the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the area, the size and scope of the event, the venue, the audience demographics, etc. Regarding upcoming APDA-hosted events, each APDA Chapter or Information & Referral Center around the country will be following the guidance of local public health officials, in addition to the venue where the event is being held. This guidance is rapidly changing so people should stay tuned before each event to see if it is taking place. Regardless of the event you are considering attending, for your own safety and the safety of others, it is important for you to stay at home if you are feeling ill and contact your physician.