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Coronavirus Information for Transplant Patients

Governor Cuomo announced "Matilda's Law" – to protect New York's most vulnerable populations, including individuals age 70 and older, those with compromised immune systems and those with underlying illnesses. The measure requires this group of New Yorkers to stay home and limit home visitation to immediate family members or close friends in need of emergency assistance. If it is necessary to visit such individuals, the visitor should get prescreened by taking temperature and seeing if person is exhibiting other flu-like symptoms. Both individuals should wear a mask for the duration of the visit.

 

We understand that transplant patients may have questions and concerns about risks of COVID-19 to them and their families. Although there is limited data on whether transplant recipients or those with chronic diseases could be more severely affected by the coronavirus, in general, immunocompromised patients such as transplant patients and patients with kidney failure are at higher risk for being infected or develop a serious disease when they are infected.

Here we answer some questions that we’ve been receiving from transplant patients. As always, if you have any questions or concerns, please reach out to your transplant care team at 315-464-5413.

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What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

Symptoms of this virus are very similar to other seasonal respiratory ailments like colds and influenza, or “the flu.” They can include fever, cough, runny nose and difficulty breathing.
Most patients with COVID-19 have only mild, flu-like and respiratory symptoms which can be managed at home. However, some patients may develop severe pneumonia and breathing problems that require hospitalization.

Are transplant patients at higher risk for COVID-19?

Although, we do not have specific information yet on whether COVID-19 will be more severe in transplant recipients but in general, any viral disease in immunocompromised patient can cause serious side effects. Thus, we recommend that you take all precautions seriously at this time.

What can I do to protect myself from this infection?

  • Avoid crowed and direct contact with others and stay home as much as possible.
  • When it is necessary to go out, take general precautions like frequent handwashing and use of gloves and mask when grocery shopping to prevent the spread of any virus, including seasonal flu, which is still active across the U.S.
  • Avoid close contact with other, such as handshaking, hugging or kissing others.
  • Avoid anyone who is sick to visit you.
  • If you have not received your flu shot, it is not too late. For additional advice on flu facts and prevention, visit cdc.gov/flu.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Practice cough etiquette – sneeze and cough into your elbow or a tissue, not your hand, and wash your hands after coughing/sneezing.
  • Heightened awareness of touching items that are “public use” (i.e. door handles, shopping carts, faucets, etc.)
  • Clean and disinfect high touch objects and surfaces using a household cleaning spray or wipe.
  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom, before eating, and after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
  • Avoid all crowded areas including restaurants, bars, and sports venues.
  • If COVID-19 is in your community, stay home as much as possible.
  • If you work, try to work from home as much as you can. Our providers are happy to provide you with an out of work letter for your employer. Please call if you need this.
  • Determine who can provide you with care if your caregiver gets sick.
  • Avoid all travel for now.
  • Heed the recommendations of public health officials in your area.

What should I do if I think I may have COVID-19?

  • Call your transplant provider immediately.
  • Do not show up at a health care facility without first calling the provider/facility. We are taking special precautions to prevent further transmission of this infection, and that means we want to prepare for your visit to limit your contact to others while we are evaluating you.
  • Call 911 if you develop difficulty breathing, lasting pain or pressure in your chest; new confusion and extreme sleepiness; or bluish lips or face.

What guidelines are available for pre-transplant and post-transplant patients?

In addition to the guidelines provided for the general population by the CDC, it is recommended that both pre-transplant and post-transplant patients avoid sick people and crowded situations. It is also recommended that all patients try to stay at home as much as possible and wash hand frequently with soap and water or alcohol-based sanitizer.

If you don’t feel well, call your transplant coordinator for further guidance. Please refer to guidelines posted on the American Society of Transplantation website, which is being regularly updated.

What should I do about my medications?

Continue to take all of your medications as prescribed unless otherwise notified by your provider. Try to keep a one-month supply available at all times. If you have specific questions, please call your provider who may be able to order an emergency supply.

Will my transplant be delayed?

Our top priority is always the safety of our patients. At this time, we are continuing to asses all deceased donor organ offers for our actively listed patients. We are working with the Organ Procurement Organization to carefully assess all donors to determine the risk of COVID-19.
We are delaying living donor transplants at this time and will reach out to all of our scheduled patients to reschedule at a later date.

Priority scheduling of medically-necessary appointments and procedures – Effective March 16, 2020
In an effort to protect our patients and staff, and to prioritize the needs of those who may require immediate care, we will be rescheduling as many patient appointments and procedures over the next eight weeks. We will contact you directly if your outpatient visit, procedure, or surgery is postponed until a later date.

We will also be working to move some patients to virtual visits and home care, as appropriate. During this time, the transplant clinic will remain open only to care for patients who require in-person visits and time sensitive care.

Additional Information

Click here for the list of Upstate patient blood draw locations

Patients are encouraged to sign up for a MyChart account in order to stay on top of their medical needs and keep in contact with our providers. For instructions on how to sign up and access a MyChart account, click here or go to https://mychart.upstate.edu/MyChart/signup to sign up

 

Tips for Telemedicine Visits

We are currently conducting some appointments through video chat and other telemedicine options in an effort to keep our patients safe while still delivering quality patient care. For instructions on how to set up your device for an upcoming telemedicine appointment, click here.

In addition:

  • Follow the instructions for downloading WebEx or signing on to the platform provided to you via MyChart, email, the mail, or on the telephone before the day of your appointment
  • If you have any questions about WebEx or your appointment, call the clinic ahead of your scheduled appointment to ask
  • Answer your phone and check your email the day of your appointment
  • The link to your appointment may end up in your email's junk folder - please check there if you do not receive it
  • Disconnect your device from all blue tooth devices or headphones
  • Be ready for your virtual appointment 10 minutes prior to the scheduled time
  • Try to locate yourself in an area that protects your privacy and minimizes distractions
  • Post-transplant patients: Have your transplant blue book and pill box handy if you're still utilizing it
  • Pre-transplant patients: Have the folder and all of its contents that were mailed to you ready for review
  • Have any vital sign measurements (i.e. blood pressure, pulse, temperature, weight) available for review
  • Have paper and something to write with available to you so you can write down any possible changes or requirements made by the team during your appointment

 

Additional resources are available at the following websites:

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