MPN Patients and COVID-19
We at MPNRF have been fielding many questions from the patient community about the Covid-19, or Coronavirus, situation. While information is still coming in and what we all know continues to emerge, Dr. Scherber suggested that she could answer for the public some questions she has received from patients in her practice. We have included them below along with other resources from trusted health sources. The MPN research foundation and us as MPN physicians will continue to monitor and keep you updated as best we can should this change. To make sure you receive updates register for our email and newsletter at no charge by clicking here.
FAQs With Dr. Scherber
Am I most susceptible to coronavirus because I have an MPN?
We don’t know yet, so it is best to show appropriate caution and follow guidelines from the CDC and WHO about hygiene and avoiding large gatherings. The data to help answer the questions as to whether coronavirus is going to be a huge problem or more of a nuisance for most patients with MPN is just not there. Although most folks that have severe COVID19 virus injections have serious underlying comorbid health issues—even to us physicians they really haven’t been told the details what most of those are. Most cases that I have heard of suggest that underlying lung or heart disease seems to be the most problematic. It is true that we know that some viral infections can be more frequent and/or more severe in those with MPN-- more in MF, somewhat more in PV, and less in ET. However, if we take the flu (which is also a viral infection) as an example, I have only known a few MF patients ever have
the flu severe enough to be hospitalized and only one that I can think of that has passed from it. I have known no ET or PV patients who have ever needed to be hospitalized from the flu. Thus, it stands to reason that most patients will be okay.
I have a job that I work with a lot of people, such as working at a school. Should I not go to work?
It makes sense to be reasonably cautious when possible. I would take every allowable precaution that your workplace (with the help of your physician) will allow you. For those with jobs that may put them directly in touch with large groups of people such as those who work as a teacher, in healthcare, education, etc. , I have in the past offered to help them and their employer to find a reasonable accommodation for the job, just as phoning in for meetings or events, moving their workspace to more secluded spot, and allowing work from home at times. Hand hygiene, “social distancing,” and staying away from those that have symptoms is the best idea regardless of your infection risk. I also urge you to talk with your physician. If you and your doctor agree that you are at higher risk, they are able to help you with the paperwork needed to file such as (Family & Medical Leave Act) FLMA or state unemployment benefits.
Should I still go to my doctor’s visit? Aren’t hospitals the worst place to be?
I would recommend calling your doctor’s office first. The policy about who is to come in may have changed in light of Covid and/or they may have some questions to ask you to help keep you and the other patients safe. At our center - University of Texas San Antonio Medical Center-, we are implementing protocols to screen people when they check-in for their visit for possible coronavirus symptoms and see them in specific rooms or locations in order to keep other individuals safe.
Availability of medicines that people with MPN use
MPNRF has checked with several suppliers of medicines used by people living with an MPN and none have reported to us that they would be impacted by the disruption that has been caused by Covid-19. We will continue to alert the community should this change.
Dr. Ruben Mesa offers guidance
Dr. Ruben Mesa, Director, Mays Cancer Center, UT Health San Antonio, MD Anderson, offers guidance for patients with myeloproliferative neoplasms (MPNs) in dealing with the Coronavirus (Covid-19).
managing anxiety and Self Care
It’s natural to feel stress and anxiety during times of uncertainty. As the Coronavirus situation evolves, it’s important to remember to take care of your mental health as well as your physical health. Please keep in touch with your hematologist, follow guidance from trusted sources such as CDC, and do all you can to maintain a positive outlook.
Here are a few resources that could help you ease your anxiety and reduce your negative thoughts during this unpredictable time.
How to Separate Coronavirus Fact from Fiction from Patient Empowerment Network
COVID-19 Lockdown Guide: Managing Anxiety and Isolation During Quarantine from the Anxiety and Depression Association of America
Journal article touting the benefits of an online yoga program for MPN patients
10 Ways to Ease Your Coronavirus Anxiety article from the New York Times
LLS COVID-19 Patient Financial Aid Program - Thanks to the generosity of LLS partners, eligible blood cancer patients will receive an individual one-time $250 stipend per patient to help with non-medical expenses, such as food, housing, utilities, transportation, and other needs. Patients do not need to have a COVID-19 diagnosis and there are no income criteria to qualify.
While the Foundation does not have a program to assist with expenses, in addition to the LLS COVID-19 Patient Financial Aid Program, we have a financial assistance page located on our website to assist MPN patients to find the resources they need.
More than anything, follow the advice of trusted and credible sources:
Coronavirus: What Precautions Should Cancer Patients Be Taking? - Patient Power
Common questions about the new coronavirus outbreak - The American Cancer Society
4 Things Cancer Patients need to know about coronavirus - Leukemia & Lymphoma Society
Coronavirus: what cancer patients need to know - Fred Hutch Cancer Research Center
Viruses & blood cancer – what you need to know - Australia’s Leukaemia Foundation
Coronavirus and blood cancer - Bloodwise, UK’s blood cancer charity
Cancer and Coronavirus (COVID-19) - Macmillan Cancer Support