UPDATED: Advice regarding Coronavirus (Covid-19) from the Australian Rheumatology Association

The following is advice regarding Coronavirus (Covid-19) from the Australian Rheumatology Association:

Download WHO ‘Reduce risk of coronavirus infection’ poster

Due to the increasing number of infections in Australia from Coronavirus (Covid-19), we are aware of growing concerns raised by patients with chronic illnesses and medications that affect their immune system.

If you are an older adult with a chronic illness or you are taking medications that affect your immune system you may be at a higher risk of more serious Covid-19 disease. If you are at increased risk, it is especially important to take actions to reduce your risk of exposure.  If you think you have been exposed or have developed symptoms, you should also contact your doctor early in the course of your illness, even if it is mild, and let them know if you are taking immune-suppressing drugs.

The Department of Health (DoH) advises:

  • Practising good hand and sneeze/cough hygiene.
  • Self-isolation of asymptomatic travellers who have left/transited through China, South Korea, Iran and Italy (see DoH for up to date advice).
  • If you have concerns about Covid-19 infection, ring your GP/health clinic or hospital before arriving at the clinic or hospital.

Additionally, we would advise:

  • Flu vaccination when available and appropriate (early April).
  • Consider pneumococcal vaccination in appropriate patients.
  • If you have questions about your immune suppressing medications, contact your rheumatologist/immunologist or other prescribing specialist for advice.

Currently, there is no need to stockpile medications as our medications are sourced widely.

COVID 19 and advice for patients on Immune-suppressing medications from the ARA

IF YOU ARE WELL

There is no evidence to suggest that WELL patients, without fever or signs of infection should change or stop any of their regular prescribed medications including:

  • Usual DMARDs (methotrexate, hydroxychloroquine, leflunomide, mycophenolate, azathioprine, sulfasalazine)
  • Biologics (bDMARDS) eg. etanercept, adalimumab etc or targeted DMARDS (tDMARDS) eg. tofacitinib, baricitinib
  • Anti-inflammatories (ibuprofen, meloxicam, celecoxib etc)
  • Steroids (prednisone or prednisolone)

If you are on a biologic medication and someone close to you is proven to have COVID infection, talk to your GP or rheumatologist about about delaying your next dose.

We would encourage our patients to get the annual Flu vaccination when available.  We would also recommend following general public health advice including:

  • Frequent handwashing
    • before eating and after being out in general community areas (schools, shops, after touching lifts, escalators, shopping trolleys etc)
    • 20 seconds with soap and water (hand sanitiser if this is not available)
  • Sneeze / cough into a disposable tissue or your elbow and then wash your hands
  • Limit touching your face
  • Sanitise your phone, computer and work surfaces regularly
  • Avoid crowds and sick people (eg concerts, church services, sporting events, etc)

IF YOU GET SICK

We recommend patients seek medical advice from either their usual general practitioner or hospital emergency department.If you have fever or cough, we suggest you CALL FIRST and tell them you are on immunosuppressive medications.

If you are an older adult with a chronic illness or you are taking medications that affect your immune system you may be at a higher risk of more serious COVID-19 disease. If you are at increased risk, it is especially important to take actions to reduce your risk of exposure. If you think you have been exposed or have developed symptoms, you should also contact your doctor early in the course of your illness, even if it is mild, and let them know if you are taking immune-suppressing drugs.

MEDICATIONS

Currently, there is no need to stockpile medications as Australian medications are sourced widely.

This is GENERAL advice. If patients have specific questions about their situation, they should discuss this with their specialist.

Download:  COVID 19 and advice for patients on immune-suppressing medications

More information:
For the latest advice, information and resources, please refer to Department of Health. (www.health.gov.au/resources/collections/novel-coronavirus-2019-ncov-resources). There are resources available for both health professionals and public. There are also resources available in Farsi and Chinese.Numbers to call – National Coronavirus Health Information Line 1800 020 080 – operates 24 hours, seven days a week. If translation or interpreting services needed, call 131 450.The phone number of your state or territory public health agency is available: www.health.gov.au/about-us/contact-us/local-state-and-territory-health-departments