What IBD patients should know about the 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19)
Published: March 26, 2020
We understand that there’s a lot of information in the news about the coronavirus (COVID-19) and you may be concerned. The Foundation is here to help you make sense of the information and take the precautions recommended by the Centers for Disease Controls and Prevention (CDC).
What is the coronavirus (COVID-19)?
There are many types of coronaviruses that can affect both humans and animals. In humans, some of these viruses are common and cause mild symptoms like the common cold, while other types of human strains can be more severe.
A new coronavirus affecting humans was identified at the end of 2019 (named COVID-19). Reported illnesses have ranged from mild to severe, including death. There have been confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the United States. You can obtain the latest situation summary from the CDC here.
The COVID-19 virus is thought to be spread through:
- Contact with an infected person (via respiratory droplets from a cough or sneeze)
- Contact with infected surfaces or objects
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Key terms to know
What are the symptoms of the coronavirus?
From the cases reported on COVID-19, the symptoms that have been observed may include:
- Shortness of breath
Many patients have also experienced pneumonia as a complication of the virus. See IBD Patient Guidance for more information on IBD and the coronavirus.
General recommendations: healthy practices
There are preventive actions you can take to protect yourself from exposure to the virus and prevent the spread of the disease. The CDC recommends the following ways to limit your risk of infection:
- Avoid having close contact with people who are sick.
- Do not touch your nose, eyes, and mouth if you have not washed your hands.
- Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. To ensure you wash for the appropriate amount of time, sing “Mary Had a Little Lamb” or another short song two to three times to reach 20 full seconds.
- If soap and water are not available to you, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Check the label to confirm the amount of alcohol.
Many communities have implemented social distancing measures including canceling public events and encouraging remote work. Please follow the specific guidance being issued by your local health department.
Here are some other actions to take if you are feeling ill or you think you may have been exposed COVID-19:
- Stay home if you are feeling sick
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, and throw it in the trash
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects
- Contact your doctor
- If you are feeling unwell and are not at high risk (see IBD Patient Guide for high risk and IBD specific information), monitor symptoms, and contact your doctors via phone or telemedicine.
- If you need an in-person visit at the office, ER or Urgent Care, please call ahead. This will allow the office/ER to take measure to prevent any possible spread of infection.
- Wear a facemask if you are showing symptoms or have been diagnosed with COVID-19. Wearing a mask will reduce the potential spread of the virus to others.
The Foundation has compiled specific IBD recommendations from the CDC, World Health Organization and other credible sources. Please review the information links below for all IBD patients along with specific information for pediatric caregivers and patients.
The Foundation will update this information as the CDC and public health departments provide additional information and guidance. You can find additional information on COVID-19 on the CDC's and the World Health Organization's websites.
Can people be tested for the coronavirus?
Contact your healthcare provider as soon as possible if you have symptoms of coronavirus or have a known exposure to a COVID-19 positive person. If experiencing symptoms, please self-quarantine (stay at home), and follow instructions per your healthcare team for the next steps of management before going to emergency departments or urgent care centers.
There is currently no vaccine available to protect against the virus; however investigations are underway.
All information is reviewed by the Foundation's National Scientific Advisory Committee