Coronavirus Updates

Coronavirus (COVID-19): a message from your doctor

Over the course of the past several weeks, I have been closely following the news coverage and clinical updates from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and other medical professional resources about the spread and danger of the coronavirus (COVID-19).  Understandably, I have been asked questions from many concerned patients regarding what to do in the face of this new public health concern.  This is an evolving problem.  As I learn more about impact of COVID-19 world-wide and in our community, my recommendations regarding travel, ongoing medication use, and attending work and social gatherings are changing to keep pace with recommendations from national health agencies, mandates from our governor, and my clinical opinion as your doctor.

 

As you seek to find answers to questions that you may have, feel free to review the latest recommendations from the CDC and American College of Rheumatology  Here are some answers to frequently asked questions.  Our staff at Integrative Rheumatology will continue to monitor the current public health concerns closely and provide updates as new information arises.

 

Wishing you good health and wellness,

Charles A. Withers, II, M.D.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

1.

Who is at risk for catching coronavirus?

While anyone can catch coronavirus, older adults and people who have serious chronic illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes and lung diseases appear to be at highest risk.  While there are no official reports of increased cases of coronavirus in people on immunosuppressive medications, these medications may place you at higher risk of infection and serious complications.

2.

Should patients who are taking steroids (prednisone), DMARDs, or biologic medications stop their therapy?

At this time, the American College of Rheumatology does not recommend that all patients stop the immunosuppressive medications that they have been prescribed to treat their rheumatologic disease.  However, we must acknowledge that everyone’s situation is different – please contact us directly prior to stopping any medications.   However, as you were instructed prior to starting your immunosuppressive medication, please stop your medication IF YOU ARE SICK with any infection (i.e. the flu, UTI, pneumonia, coronavirus, etc.).

3.

What can patients with rheumatologic disease do to protect themselves against coronavirus?

The CDC and multiple other sources agree about the importance of good hygiene.  As you hopefully remember me telling you in clinic, “wash your hands, wash your hands, wash your hands!”  I would also encourage you to sanitize any potentially contaminated surfaces in your daily environment. If you are taking an immunosuppressive medication, please do your best to have increased caution, avoiding large crowds, sick people, and unnecessary travel (see CDC travel warning).   It is helpful to stay well hydrated and consider supplements that have vitamin C or other immune boosters such as elderberry or echinacea.  Personally fit-tested N95 masks have been shown to protect against transmission of the coronavirus; however, if you are not sick, wearing standard surgical or medical masks to protect yourself has not been recommended.

4.

Should I plan to keep my upcoming clinic appointment?

Our office will continue to serve patients as long as we are able.

If you are feeling healthy with no signs of infection or recent sick contacts, we encourage you to keep your appointment at Integrative Rheumatology.  We are taking extra precautions to keep our staff and patients safe, such as more frequent cleaning with hospital-grade disinfectants and enhanced contact precautions.

If you have signs of a contagious infection such as fever or cough, please call to cancel your appointment and make appropriate arrangements for evaluation with your primary care doctor.  We are currently working on telehealth options that will allow you to directly access our providers from home without coming into the office.  More updates on this option for your care will be posted in the upcoming days.