Should I Worry More About Coronavirus if I Have MS?
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a progressive neurodegenerative disorder caused by the immune system mistakenly attacking the myelin sheath, the protective covering of nerve fibers. This disrupts the conduction of electrical impulses between the brain and the body, causing symptoms that range from muscle spasms and spasticity to fatigue and pain.
Most MS treatments aim to dampen the immune system to reduce or prevent such attacks, which can leave patients susceptible to infections from bacteria and viruses.
What are coronaviruses?
Coronaviruses (CoV) are a large family of zoonotic viruses, meaning they are transmitted between animals and people. These viruses are common, and infection can result in symptoms that range from a mild common cold to fever, cough, and breathing difficulties. In severe cases, infection can lead to severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure, and death.
A new coronavirus strain called COVID-19 is now showing an ability to spread rapidly from person to person. COVID-19, officially designated SARS-CoV-2 (for severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2), was first detected in Wuhan, capital of the Hubei Province in China, in late 2019, and has not been previously reported in humans.
This virus is related to SARS-CoV, the SARS-associated coronavirus that caused an outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in 2002–03, but the two are not the same.
COVID-19 is thought to spread primarily via respiratory droplets. Symptoms can appear anywhere between two to 14 days after infection.
Is there a link between MS and coronaviruses?
Coronaviruses have always been present in humans. At least one study has suggested these viruses may contribute to the progression of MS symptoms in some patients.
Recent research also suggests that a strain of human coronavirus, called HCoV-OC43 and associated with respiratory tract infections, might be able to infect the brain and induce neurological diseases with unknown origins, such as MS, encephalitis, Parkinson’s, and Alzheimer’s disease.
Am I at greater risk of catching COVID-19 as an MS patient?
COVID-19 is a new strain of coronavirus and, as such, not much is known about its characteristics and pathogenicity.
Many MS treatments are disease-modifying therapies (DMTs) that modulate or suppress the immune system. As such, patients using DMTs can be at greater risk of viral infections, including that of COVID-19.
Should I see my doctor about COVID-19?
If you develop a high fever, cough, or have difficulty breathing, make sure you to inform your neurologist or doctor without delay.
You should also be tested for this virus if you have been in close contact with an infected person, or have recently been in an area where the virus is known to be active and infecting people.
What can I do to protect myself?
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not yet approved any treatment protocol for COVID-19. But taking simple, preventative measures every day can help you avoid this virus.
These preventative measures include:
- Washing your hands often with soap, lathering front and back of hands and fingers for at least 15 to 20 seconds. If soap is not available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol
- Avoiding close contact with someone who is ill; remain at least 6 feet or 1.8 meters apart
- Staying at home when you are sick
- Covering your cough or sneeze with a tissue paper, then disposing of it
- Disinfecting frequently touched surfaces and objects
- Avoiding touching eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) do not recommend that people who are not ill wear face masks to prevent infection. But those who might be vulnerable — like MS patients — should consult with their doctor or specialist, and use a face mask if it is recommended.
Last updated: March 3, 2020
Multiple Sclerosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.