Respiratory illnesses like coronavirus can be extremely dangerous for patients with mesothelioma.
Coronavirus symptoms may resemble symptoms of mesothelioma, making things especially worrisome and confusing for people who were exposed to asbestos. Health officials warn that those with weakened immune systems are at greater risk for infection.
What Is Coronavirus?
Coronaviruses are a group of viruses that can cause a range of different illnesses — including the common cold, but even more alarming, serious respiratory disease and death.
Although coronaviruses were first discovered in the 1960s, in December 2019, a new type of coronavirus was discovered in China. This quick-spreading virus is called COVID-19.
Common Coronavirus Symptoms
- Body aches
- Loss of smell or taste
- Runny nose
- Shortness of breath
- Sore throat
Coronavirus symptoms usually appear 2-14 days after infection. Symptoms are usually mild, and many of those infected actually do not have any symptoms.
However, if a coronavirus infection becomes more severe, additional symptoms may appear.
Severe coronavirus symptoms may include:
- Breathing problems
- Chest pain or pressure
- Difficulty staying awake
- Inability to speak or move
- Lips or face turning blue
Anyone with extreme symptoms should seek emergency care, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Severe coronavirus cases can lead to bronchitis, pneumonia, kidney damage, and death.
Due to weakened immune systems, mesothelioma patients are likely to be at greater risk for serious complications. For this reason, patients and caregivers alike should pay close attention for coronavirus symptoms.
How Is Coronavirus Spread?
The CDC states that coronavirus is mostly spread from person-to-person contact.
This can occur when:
- Someone who is infected coughs or sneezes and respiratory droplets spread the virus
- Someone within 6 feet of respiratory droplets breathes them in
- Someone comes into contact with surfaces containing the droplets and then touches their mouth or nose
“Studies suggest that coronaviruses (including preliminary information on the COVID-19 virus) may survive on surfaces for a few hours or up to several days… If you think a surface may be infected, clean it with simple disinfectant to kill the virus and protect yourself and others.”
– World Health Organization (WHO)
What Do Mesothelioma Patients Need to Know?
Since COVID-19 is still relatively new, there is not a lot of information specific to cancer patients. It is suggested, however, that mesothelioma patients follow recommendations to prevent being infected.
Mesothelioma patients in active treatment and those who are finished with treatment should be especially cautious, as they are at higher risk for getting very sick from coronavirus.
How Can I Protect Myself?
Mesothelioma patients and their caregivers should take precautions such as cleaning household objects and surfaces that are touched frequently.
Objects that should be disinfected often include:
- Remote controls
Face masks should also be worn if patients or family members go into public spaces.
The CDC states, “cloth face coverings are recommended as a simple barrier to help prevent respiratory droplets from traveling into the air and onto other people when the person wearing the cloth face covering coughs, sneezes, talks, or raises their voice.”
Some additional tips include:
- Make sure to wash your hands well (at least 20 seconds) and frequently
- Do not touch your face, especially your eyes and nose
- Do not come into close contact with anyone who is sick
- Avoid non-essential travel
- Avoid crowds
- Practice social distancing (staying 6 feet away from others)
Where Do I Find Coronavirus Information I Can Trust?
The coronavirus situation is ever-changing, which means there is a flood of information out there.
It is especially important for a mesothelioma patient, already at greater risk, to find a coronavirus update from a trustworthy source.
Several reputable organizations include:
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
- World Health Organization (WHO)
- Local and state health departments
These organizations can give you the most accurate and up-to-date information about the coronavirus, both locally and around the world.
Can I Travel for My Mesothelioma Treatment?
The decision on traveling for mesothelioma treatment should be made with your doctors. It may be safer to avoid travel in many cases.
“As much as patients can get the treatments they need on an outpatient basis, that is the best. And If you can talk to your doctor or nurse practitioner over the phone [or] via video visit, if you can have prescriptions sent in electronically, [if] you can have any treatments done outside of the normal hospital setting, the better at this present time.”
– Dr. Daniel Sterman, Mesothelioma Specialist
If you must travel by plane for treatment, it is important to consult both your local health care team and the medical providers you must travel to see.
What to Do If You Have Coronavirus Symptoms
If you or someone you love is experiencing severe coronavirus symptoms, it is urgent to contact your doctor immediately.
Mesothelioma symptoms may resemble coronavirus symptoms, which can make the outbreak especially worrisome for people who were exposed to asbestos in the past.
If you experience coronavirus symptoms and were exposed to asbestos in the past, it is important to notify health care providers. This may lessen the chance of a misdiagnosis that could delay treatment.