Everyone seems to be talking about, worrying about and asking questions about coronavirus, and that includes polio survivors. As we have seen this is a rapidly evolving situation and what we know today may change next week or next month.
Some facts that are not likely to change are:
- Polio and the late effects of polio do not, in themselves, cause immune compromise. Therefore, polio survivors are no more likely to contract a coronavirus infection or develop serious illness from it than people who never had polio!
- Most polio survivors in the United States and Canada are over 60 years old which places us in the “higher risk” category with a greater likelihood of developing severe disease after being infected with the virus than younger people.
- Polio survivors who had breathing muscle involvement with their original illness and/or now have respiratory problems of any kind are at “high risk” when they become ill with any respiratory infection, including coronaviruses.
- Just as it is for people who never had polio, if a polio survivor has diabetes, heart disease, severe kidney disease, or are immunocompromised due to a medical condition or certain medications, then they are at high risk of developing complications if they contract COVID-19.
What you can do: follow CDC guidelines about infection control—washing hands frequently, disinfecting frequently touched surfaces, covering coughs and sneezes, and staying home and avoiding non-essential trips. If you must go out, the CDC recommends wearing a mask and maintaining at least six feet between yourself and others. Those who use wheelchairs can find additional advice at https://mednet-communities.net/?zphgv0by.0. If you have a caregiver or have people come into your home to provide services, it’s important that they, too, follow the recommended guidelines, including wearing a mask.
If it can be safely done, you should try to maintain your usual activity and/or exercise levels. We realize that your normal routine has probably been interrupted by the pandemic – pool and gyms have closed; some may not feel safe walking in more densely occupied neighborhoods. Yoga for Post-Polio Patients, available for viewing on Polio Place at www.polioplace.org/resources/yoga-post-polio-patients, is one example of a moderate exercise program that can be safely done in one’s own home. There are other examples on www.polioplace.org in the Living With Polio section under the category Exercise.
In the event you do develop cough or fever (temperature over 100.4 degrees F), especially if you have had known contact with someone who has coronavirus, call your doctor for advice about what to do next. If you have increased trouble breathing, you probably need to be seen by a doctor at a hospital but have someone call ahead so that the emergency room is prepared for your arrival. Likewise, if an ambulance is called to transport you please let them know in advance that you may have coronavirus so they can take appropriate precautions.
For the latest information about the coronavirus, check the CDC’s website at www.coronavirus.gov. If you have any specific health questions about yourself, contact your physician.