Updated 18 May 2020
The respiratory illness COVID-19 (also known as Coronavirus) is a 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.
The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners has released a fact sheet regarding the COVIDSafe app. Read the fact sheet 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.
Video and Fact Sheets: IBD and COVID-19, questions answered
We asked Professor Michael Grimm, a leading Australian gastroenterologist, to answer questions from people living with IBD during the COVID-19 outbreak.
Watch the video below to learn more.
We appreciate and thank Professor Michael Grimm for taking the time to answer these questions as we all live through this pandemic together.
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
IBD medicine restriction criteria lifted
PBS restriction criteria for some IBD medicines have been lifted to avoid medical appointments during COVID-19 pandemic. Prescribers can apply for an exemption for some medicines if a patient has had them prescribed before. Some biologic medicines used to treat IBD are included. For a full list of medicines and further details, visit: http://www.pbs.gov.au/info/news/2020/05/pharmaceutical-benefits-scheme-restriction-requirement
Children and young people living with IBD should follow the advice provided by GESA (above). GESA have provided paediatric specific advice to gastroenterologists:
- Recognition that age is a major risk factor for COVID-19 outcomes, but to be cautious about this as new information is collected
- Postponement of all non-urgent endoscopy procedures and guidance on safe endoscopy practices for urgent cases
- Using temporary MBS funded telehealth consultations where appropriate
- The need for patients to continue treatment unless a change is agreed with their IBD team.
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.
As at 18 May four cases have been recorded in Australia, and 1,074 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).
As a result of COVID-19, some council areas around Austraila have closed various public toilet locations. Before commencing any necessary travel, we recommend contacting the local council in that area to check on open locations. The National Public Toilet Map can be found here.
Toilet paper supply
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.
In March, 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.
A huge thank you to the team at Quilton who have generously donated 6,000 rolls of toilet paper to CCA to distribute to members who are most in need, as part of the Quilton 1 Million Rolls donation initiative.
Proudly supported by Roche Australia
Survey: Health and Anxiety through COVID-19
COVID-19 has affected our everyday lives.
To help understand whether this worry helps or harms community members, researchers from Central Adelaide Local Health Network and the University of NSW have developed a survey to capture insights into how the pandemic has affected many aspects of their everyday life.
If you have 15 minutes, you’re encouraged to share your thoughts through this anonymous survey.
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.