COVID-19 and transplant patients
By NHCOA Media. This article originally appeared on the NHCOA blog.
Although it is not known exactly if COVID-19 will be more severe in transplant patients, it is known that the disease is frequently more severe in people with weak immune systems—which includes transplant patients. Immunosuppressants are drugs that weaken the immune system to reduce the chance that the body will reject the transplanted organ. However, it is more difficult for a weakened immune system to fight an infection.
The best way to stay healthy if you receive immunosuppressive treatment is to avoid being exposed to the virus. Continue to practice daily preventive actions to help reduce your risk of getting sick, such as:
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Stay home when you are sick, except for medical appointments.
- When coughing or sneezing, cover yourself with a tissue and throw it away.
- Wash your hands frequently with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
- Clean and disinfect frequently-touched surfaces and objects.
However, many transplant patients have doubts about this process and how it has changed because of the pandemic. Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about COVID-19 and transplants.
Can you get infected with the virus from an organ from a living donor?
The risk of getting COVID-19 from the organ of a living donor is low because all donors are evaluated for symptoms of the virus and their exposure history (for example, travel) is determined. In general, living donors who have been in high-risk areas, who have been exposed to people with coronavirus, or who are being tested, are asked to postpone donation until 14 to 28 days after their travel or last interaction with others. Living donors are also asked not to travel to high-risk areas for at least 14 days before donation and to monitor for possible symptoms.
Can you continue to be evaluated for transplant if you have had COVID-19?
Yes, however the healthcare team will notify you when you are free of the infection. Also, depending on your current health status and the effects of COVID-19 on hospital staff and supplies, your transplant could be delayed or postponed.
Is it risky to have surgery right now?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) made recommendations on elective surgeries and non-essential procedures that include transplantation. Transplants should not be postponed in highly acute/unhealthy patients, but transplant centers will base these decisions on issues such as the level of circulating COVID-19 infections in their areas and/or operational issues.
As a transplant patient, there could be other situations that increase your risk of getting the virus. Please continue with the preventive measures to protect yourself from COVID-19.
American Kidney Fund:
National Kidney Foundation:
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Diverse Elders Coalition.