- Part 1. Advice regarding the Coronavirus outbreak in UK
- Part 2. Implications for blood cancer patients. Updated on March 30th.
- Part 3. Implications for our MDS local patient group meetings
- Part 4. Travel precautions
The information below has been taken from the NHS websites, as well as advice given by our scientific advisors, One Cancer Voice, Bloodwise and Leukaemia Care.
Part 1. Advice regarding the Coronavirus outbreak in UK - Updated on March 30th 2020
Overview - Coronavirus (COVID-19)
COVID-19 is a new illness that can affect your lungs and airways. It's caused by a virus called coronavirus.
What's the risk of coronavirus in the UK?
The UK Chief Medical Officers have raised the risk to the public from moderate to high.
Health professionals are working to contact anyone who has been in close contact with people who have coronavirus.
Symptoms of coronavirus
The symptoms of coronavirus are:
- a cough
- a high temperature
- shortness of breath
But these symptoms do not necessarily mean you have the illness.
The symptoms are similar to other illnesses that are much more common, such as cold and flu.
How coronavirus is spread
Because it's a new illness, we do not know exactly how coronavirus spreads from person to person.
Similar viruses are spread in cough droplets.
It's very unlikely it can be spread through things like packages or food.
Shielding: Guidance on how to protect extremely vulnerable people from COVID-19
Extremely vulnerable people have a high risk of getting seriously ill with coronavirus (COVID-19) requiring admission to hospital.
Shielding is a practice used to protect extremely vulnerable people from coming into contact with coronavirus.
You are extremely vulnerable if you:
- have had an organ OR STEM CALL TRANSPLANT in the last 6 months or are still taking immunosuppressant medicine
- are having active chemotherapy or radical radiotherapy for lung cancer
- are having immunotherapy or other continuing antibody treatments for cancer
- are having other targeted cancer treatments which can affect the immune system, such as protein kinase inhibitors or PARP inhibitors
- have blood or bone marrow cancer, such as leukaemia or MDS
- have a severe chest condition, such as cystic fibrosis, severe asthma or severe COPD.
- have a rare disease and inborn errors of metabolism that significantly increase the risk of infections (such as SCID, homozygous sickle cell)
- You are on immunosuppression therapies sufficient to significantly increase risk of infection.
- You are pregnant with significant heart disease, congenital or acquired.
The NHS has identified over 1,000,000 extremely vulnerable people who should practice social shielding, and they should have all received an official letter from the NHS. If you have not received a letter or have not been contacted, but you think you fall into this group, you can register yourself on this gov.uk website. Contact your GP or clinician after you register with this service.
It is also particularly important for people who:
- are 70 or over – AS IS THE CASE FOR ABOUT 80% OF MDS PATIENTS
- have a long-term condition – MDS INCLUDED
- have a weakened immune system – AS IS THE CASE FOR MANY MDS PATIENTS
What do you need to do if you are extremely vulnerable?
- You should stay at home at all times and avoid any face-to-face contact for at least 12 weeks
- Visits from people who provide essential support to you such as healthcare, personal support with your daily needs or social care should continue.
- All people coming to your home should wash their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds on arrival to your house and often whilst they are there.
- Have an alternative list of people who can help you with your care if your main carer becomes unwell.
- You can also contact your local council for advice on how to access care.
- If you think you have developed symptoms of COVID-19 such as a new, continuous cough or fever, seek clinical advice using the NHS 111 online coronavirus service or call NHS 111. Do this as soon as you get symptoms.
If you have someone else living with you:
- They are not required to adopt these protective shielding measures for themselves.
- They should do what they can to support you in shielding
- They should stringently follow guidance and reduce their contact outside the home.
If you care for someone who is extremely vulnerable you should still stringently follow this guidance on social distancing and stay at home.
- Only go outside for food, health reasons or work (but only if you cannot work from home)
- If you go out, stay 2 metres (6ft) away from other people at all times
- Wash your hands as soon as you get home
- Do not meet others, even friends or family.
You can spread the virus even if you don’t have symptoms.
As the situation is changing each day, please keep checking the this Government web page, or with your healthcare team if necessary, for the most up-to-date advice.
Worried about contact with coronavirus? How to self-isolate
Call 111 or use 111 online if any of these apply to you:
- You think you might have coronavirus or
- You’ve been in contact with someone with coronavirus do not leave your home. This is called self-isolation.
If you are self-isolating, you must:
- not leave your home for any reason, other than to exercise once a day – but stay at least 2 metres (3 steps) away from other people
- not go out to buy food or collect medicine – order them by phone or online, or ask someone else to drop them off at your home
- not have visitors, such as friends and family, in your home
- You can use your garden, if you have one.
- Do not visit your GP, pharmacy or hospital.
You may need to do this for up to 14 days to help reduce the possible spread of infection.
Read more coronavirus self-isolation advice.
Treatment for coronavirus
There is currently no specific treatment for coronavirus.
Antibiotics do not help, as they do not work against viruses.
Treatment aims to relieve the symptoms while your body fights the illness.
You'll need to stay in isolation away from other people until you've recovered.
Part 2. Implications for blood cancer patients
If I have blood cancer, is there anything else I need to do?
If you are at higher risk you are advised to:
- Be more meticulous about doing everything advised above.
- Limit the time you spend with other people.
The NHS should have contact by Monday 30 March 2020 if you are at particularly high risk of getting seriously ill with coronavirus to give specific advice about what to do.
If you think you fall into one of the categories of extremely vulnerable people listed bellow and you have not received a letter or been contacted by your GP, you should register here and then discuss your concerns with your GP or hospital clinician.
Your team may find ways to reduce you spending unnecessary time in the hospital too, for example by doing more telephone consultations or offering home/local blood tests.
Many of the MDS consultants have already put such plans in place. Call your Nurse to find out if this is an option for you.
If I have blood cancer, am I more at risk?
For many people, their body will be able to fight off coronavirus like other viruses and colds. However, coronavirus can have more serious effects on anyone who has a long-term health condition or a weakened immune system, including some people with cancer. This includes:
- People having chemotherapy, or who’ve had chemotherapy in the last 3 months.
- People having immunotherapy or other antibody treatments for cancer.
- People having targeted cancer treatments that can affect the immune system, such as protein kinase inhibitors.
- People who’ve had a bone marrow or stem cell transplant in the last 6 months, or who are still taking immunosuppression drugs.
- People with some types of blood cancer which affect the immune system, such as MDS, chronic leukaemia, lymphoma or myeloma, even if no treatment is being given.
If I look after or spend time with someone with blood cancer, is there anything else I should do?
To protect yourself and the person with blood cancer, follow the guidance on social distancing described above to reduce your risk of catching coronavirus. Stay at home. More advice here
Part 3. Implications for our MDS UK local patient group meetings
MDS UK has taken the decision to postpone all of their local patient groups – as a precaution.
This is following the advice of our clinical team and some of the hospitals where our groups are due to meet.
We are sorry for the disruption this will no doubt cause – but we would rather be safe than sorry.
The sooner everyone acts to curb the potential spread of the virus, the quicker the epidemic will slow down.
We also do not want our patients to feel they are missing out on a meeting – because they are being cautious.
The local group coordinators have been informed and notifications are going out to all our members by email and letters.
Thank you for your cooperation and understanding.
We will monitor the situation and update everyone as news and advice progresses.
Please keep checking our website.
Part 4. Travel advice about coronavirus
Upcoming travel plans
The Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) now advises British people against all non-essential travel worldwide. This advice takes effect immediately and applies initially for a period of 30 days.
The COVID-19 pandemic has led to unprecedented international border closures and other restrictions. All countries may restrict travel without notice.
If you now need to change or cancel your travel plans, follow these steps:
- contact your airline, travel company, cruise line or other transport and accommodation providers
- get in touch with your insurance provider
- continue to follow the NHS coronavirus guidance
The FCO was already advising against all but essential travel or all travel to some areas or countries due to risks that do not relate to COVID-19. This advice remains in place. Check FCO travel advice pages for the latest information.
Symptoms of coronavirus
The symptoms of coronavirus are:
- a cough
- a high temperature
- shortness of breath
These are also symptoms of other common conditions such as a regular cold, virus or flu. Having these symptoms does not necessarily mean you have coronavirus.
But if you are worried, you can call 111 or use 111 online to check your risk.
If you feel unwell
If you feel unwell, contact your healthcare team as usual.
Getting help in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland
- Scotland: call your GP surgery or call 111 if your surgery is not open
- Wales: call 111
- Northern Ireland: call 111
Check if you need medical help
NHS 111 has an online coronavirus service that can tell you if you need medical help and advise you what to do.
Use this service if:
- you think you might have coronavirus
- in the last 14 days you've been to a country or area with a high risk of coronavirus – see our coronavirus advice for travellers
- you've been in close contact with someone with coronavirus
Do not go to a GP surgery, pharmacy or hospital. Call 111 if you need to speak to someone.