Updated 7 April 2020
The respiratory illness COVID-19 (also known as Coronavirus) is a new virus that is the subject of a health alert in Australia, and has been declared a pandemic by the World Health Organisation.
Symptoms of COVID-19 can range from mild illness to pneumonia. Some people will recover easily, and others may get very sick very quickly. People with coronavirus may experience:
- flu-like symptoms such as coughing, sore throat and fatigue
- shortness of breath
The Australian Government Department of Health provide a daily update on medical advice about COVID-19 here.
Some parts of the world are more affected by COVID-19 than others. In Australia, there are travel restrictions in place for all countries as described here.
The Federal Government has announced a range of initiatives to support Australians during the COVID-19 pandemic including funding to allow doctors, nurses and mental health professionals to deliver services via telehealth to people with chronic diseases or who are immunocompromised. More information can be found here.
What does COVID-19 mean for people with IBD?
The spread of this virus internationally is rapidly evolving, so it is important that you keep up to date with information about COVID-19.
Advice from GESA
The Gastroenterological Society of Australia (GESA) has provided information for people with gastrointestinal disorders. Click here to read the latest recommendations from GESA.
While immunosuppressed people are not at a greater risk of acquiring COVID-19 than the general population, it may have an impact on their ability to recover should they contract the virus.
Those who are on immunosuppressive medication [azathioprine, mercaptopurine, methotrexate, prednisolone, infliximab (Remicade, Inflectra), adalimumab (Humira), ustekinumab (Stelara), golimumab (Simponi), vedolizumab (Entyvio)] should make sure they follow all the measures to prevent person-to-person spread with:
- Social distancing (1.5m)
- Handwashing with soap or alcohol based gels
- Avoidance of crowded areas
- Good basic hygiene- avoid touching your face and nose
If this is you, please also think about whether you can take additional measures to reduce contact with others, such as working from home where you can, or self-isolate in organisations that have large groups of people.
It is important to protect yourself against other respiratory infections that are common at this time of year. Therefore, it is recommended that all patients with reduced immunity have the Influenza Vaccine (flu-shot) as soon as it is available.
There are no shortages of medication to treat IBD as a result of COVID-19 related demand at the moment. Some community pharmacies and hospitals are experiencing delays of a few days for delivery of some medications.
The government has restricted pharmacists to dispensing a one month supply for some medications, as a precautionary measure. This includes some pain relief and gastroenterological medications. For more information go to: https://www.tga.gov.au/media-release/covid-19-limits-dispensing-and-sales-pharmacies
People with IBD should be eligible for free delivery of medications once per month. For more information speak to your local pharmacy or visit: https://www.health.gov.au/resources/publications/covid-19-national-health-plan-home-medicines-services-information-for-consumers
Children and school
Children and young people with living IBD should follow the advice provided by GESA (above). Specialist paediatric hospitals are advising children and young people with IBD that they don’t need to stay home from school at present, but should follow the decision of individual schools they are attending.
Mental health support
Beyond Blue have set up a resource page to help people manage their mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic. View their advice here.
The Australian Psychological Society has also provided tips on coping with COVID-19 related anxiety. Read those tips here.
Smoking can worsen IBD and according to the WHO it can increase your risk of COVID-19 infection and serious lung conditions such as pneumonia, see why here.
If you need support to stop smoking, visit QUIT.
COVID-19 worldwide database
A consortium of international IBD research organisations has established a worldwide database to rapidly define the impact of COVID-19 on patients with IBD and how factors such as age, comorbidities, and IBD treatments impact COVID-19 outcomes. GPs and gastroenterologists can add case reports to the database as soon as the diagnosis is made.
CCA encourages people with IBD who contract COVID-19 to discuss with their doctor inclusion of their case report on the COVIDIBD database. To date two cases have been recorded in Australia and 326 worldwide.
CCA Support Groups
CCA Support Groups have been suspended. Please see the following statement for more information and alternative arrangements. Click here (updated 18 March 2020).
Toilet paper queries
CCA understand that some of our members are experiencing difficulties in purchasing toilet paper. This can be a stressful predicament for someone living with IBD.
Whilst we hope the supply of toilet paper will increase as hoarding behaviour declines, please know that the team at CCA are actively trying to find a solution to this issue. CCA has reached out to supermarket retailers and Australian manufacturers of toilet paper to investigate possible solutions.
We will continue to communicate with these retailers and manufacturers and provide any updates to our members.
We were pleased to see Woolworths take action to support people living with Crohn’s and Colitis who are taking immunosuppressive medication or are required to self isolate. For more information, visit this link.
For guidance regarding your IBD, Crohn’s & Colitis Australia continues to operate its support services:
- Crohn’s & Colitis Helpline: for individual help, information and guidance on Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis.
Call 1800 138 029 (option 1, then option 1).
- Crohn’s & Colitis NurseLine: To book an appointment to speak with a Registered Nurse with specialised knowledge of Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis (an IBD Nurse) who can help you with education, support and help you build your own personalised care plan.
Call 1800 138 029 (option 1, then option 2)
- iConnect: Trained support crew and registered IBD nurses can be reached online for a confidential conversation should you, a family member or friend, need support. Click here.
For advice specific to your condition, it is strongly recommended you speak with your treating specialist or GP.