Washing hands

Coronavirus (COVID-19) and the Immunocompromised


Written by: CDHF

Updated: November 30th, 2022

COVID-19 has taken the world over it seems, and the everyday lives of people all over the planet have been completely disrupted. But what does this mean for people who are immunocompromised? First, let’s take a look at what these terms mean.

What does it mean to be immunocompromised?

Someone who is immunocompromised has a weakened immune system that does not respond properly to invading infections or pathogens. Meaning your body cannot fight off things like the coronavirus as well as a person with a fully functioning immune system.

A person can be immunocompromised for many reasons. Some of the factors that may play into a weakened immune system are: recent surgeries, age, genetics, having a chronic illness or by taking certain medications. Immunosuppressants are one such example. Immunosuppressants play an important role in actively suppressing an overactive immune system in patients with auto-immune diseases. By dialling down the immune system, a patients disease and some of the associated symptoms are well managed or controlled. So, what kind of extra precautions should someone who is immunocompromised be taking during this pandemic? We need to first look at how this virus is spread to understand how to protect ourselves. 

How does COVID-19 spread?

COVID-19 is actually a close cousin of the common cold. It comes from a group of viruses (called coronaviruses) that cause respiratory infections. Some of these include other serious infections such as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS). Anyone who is immunocompromised is at greater risk of respiratory infections than the average person

COVID-19 is the most recently discovered member of the coronavirus family. Symptoms include cough, sore throat, fever, sneezing and shortness of breath. The World Health Organizing (WHO) is continuing to closely asses new research on COVID-19 and how the virus is spread. So far, we have learned through research that COVID-19 is mainly spread through contact with droplets that have been expelled from the lungs of an affected person. Usually by coughing or sneezing. 

You can contract the virus if:

What extra measures should the immunocompromised and their care givers take during this crisis?

If you are suffering from a chronic illness and/or are on any kind of immunosuppressant, your immune system is compromised, and you are high-risk. This means if you are to contract the virus, there is higher risk that your symptoms will be more severe. In the worst cases, COVID-19 infections can result in death, so it is paramount that you follow the measures outlined below carefully. 

If you are a caregiver of someone who is immunocompromised, it is equally as important that you remain vigilant, to avoid spreading the virus to the person in your care. 

To reduce the spread of COVID-19, we recommend the following steps:

Should you still be going to your infusion centre?

If you receive your medication by IV infusion, yes, but with a few exceptions. If you are not feeling well or showing symptoms, please reschedule your appointment. For the time being, infusion centers are no longer allowing visitors to enter the clinic with patients. For a run-down of the types of protocols infusion centers have in place to ensure the safety of their patients who rely on them, please click here.

Once again, if you are on a biologic, biosimilar, immunosuppressant, steroid or any other medications that are in place to help you manage your chronic disorder, it is IMPERATIVE that you continue to take your medication. Failure to do so could result in hospitalization and put you even more at risk. 

What to do if you start to show symptoms:

If you begin to show persistent symptoms, self-isolate immediately. Do not go to emergency, do not make a face to face appointment with a health care professional. Call your doctor to let them know that you are now showing symptoms of COVID-19 and suspect you have been infected. Make sure to also let your public health authority know and follow your province’s guidelines closely.

If it is an emergency, make a call to 911 and explain that you are an immunocompromised patient that is now showing multiple COVID-19 symptoms. They will assist you further. 

This resource is financially supported in part by sponsorship from:

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