We have received some calls to our helpline about the recent news of COVID-19 and concerns about the impact it may have for people with multiple sclerosis (MS).
There is limited information and advice available specifically relating to MS. If you have MS, the risk of developing the virus is the same as the general population. This risk is currently considered low in the UK.
Generally, this virus can cause more severe symptoms in people with weakened immune systems, older people, and those with long-term conditions like diabetes, cancer and chronic lung disease. Having MS does not mean your immune system is weakened.
However, some disease modifying drugs supress the immune system. These include Lemtrada, Ocrevus, Tysabri, Mavenclad and Gilenya. A side effect of these drugs is increased risk of infection.
Professor Gavin Giovannoni has written a blog post for the Barts MS blog which talks about the risk factors of these drugs in more detail. You can read more here:
As with other health issues, such as flu, cold, bladder infection, or any other viral issues, you can have a temporary worsening of your MS symptoms. Symptoms will likely settle down once you have recovered from the infection/virus.
Any concerns, we would suggest speaking with your MS team. As things stand it is not being recommended to stop and DMT treatment – always speak to a health professional in the first instance.
To avoid catching or spreading the virus, the advice from the NHS is as follows:
- wash your hands with soap and water often – do this for at least 20 seconds
- always wash your hands when you get home or into work
- use hand sanitiser gel if soap and water are not available
- cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when you cough or sneeze
- put used tissues in the bin straight away and wash your hands afterwards
- try to avoid close contact with people who are unwell
- do not touch your eyes, nose or mouth if your hands are not clean
If you would like to chat through any concerns our helpline is available Monday to Friday, 9am – 5pm. Call 0800 783 0518.
The Helpline team