Coronavirus: What you need to know

  1. What is COVID-19?
    Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a respiratory illness that can spread from person to person. The virus that causes COVID-19 illness is a new coronavirus (a type of virus that causes respiratory infections) that was first identified in Wuhan, China in December 2019. Since then, there has been worldwide spread of COVID -19 to nearly every continent. Initially spread appeared to be from those who had traveled from Wuhan, China to other parts of the world. However, at this time it is known that COVID-19 is affecting individuals who have not traveled or have had any contact with travelers. This is considered “community spread.”
  2. What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

    Most people who contract COVID-19 will have mild symptoms. Symptoms can include fever, cough, increased fatigue and difficulty breathing (shortness of breath).

  3. How does COVID-19 spread?
    COVID-19 can be spread from person to person; particularly if there is close contact (within 6 feet) with someone who is infected. This spread occurs from respiratory droplets produced when the infected person coughs or sneezes directly on another person. COVID-19 can also spread when droplets (from coughs, sneezes or contaminated hands, land on surfaces and another person touches the contaminated surface with their hands and then touches their nose, mouth or possibly eyes with their hands. Spread is more likely when groups of people congregate together. We are following the recommendations from President Trump to avoid gatherings of greater than 10 people.
  4. Are people with MS considered a “higher – risk” group?
    The CDC identifies certain conditions as placing people at “higher risk” for infection or complications from COVID-19. This includes people with neurological conditions, such as MS. MS itself does not increase the risk of getting COVID-19, however, certain factors associated with your MS may increase your risk of infection or complications:
    • Taking certain disease modifying therapies
    • Chronic medical conditions, such as lung disease or heart disease
    • Significantly restricted mobility, such as needing to spend most of your day seated or in bed
    • Age 60 or older

    Sometimes, the body’s response to infections, including COVID-19, may cause a temporary worsening of MS symptoms. For example, you may have more trouble with fatigue, thinking, mobility, vision or other symptoms. Typically, these symptoms settle down once the infection clears up.

  5. How can I protect myself and others?
    There are actions you can take to help prevent the spread of respiratory viruses, including COVID-19.
    These include:
    • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are not available.
    • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
    • Cover your cough or sneeze with a flexed elbow or tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
    • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
    • Practice ‘social distancing’. Based upon recommendations from President Trump, social distancing means avoiding gatherings (greater than 10 people) and maintaining distance (approximately 6 feet) from others when possible.
    • Stay home and contact your primary care provider if you develop symptoms of COVID-19, have been in close contact with a person known to have COVID-19, or if you have recently traveled from an area with widespread or ongoing community spread of COVID-19.
  6. What should I do about my MS disease modifying therapies (DMT) because of COVID-19?
    There are recommendations about DMTs and COVID-19 coming from multiple individuals, groups and organizations. While each has attempted to provide clarity and sound guidance, differences in the recommendations have created a significant amount of confusion. Decisions regarding disease modifying therapies (DMTs) are made based upon multiple factors, including:
    • Your MS disease course
      Other medical conditions you may have
    • Allergies to DMTs
    • Other medications that are not compatible with certain DMTs
    • Risks (including infections) vs. benefit of DMT
    • Your values and risk tolerance

    The National MS Society, based upon advice from our National Medical Advisory Committee, has developed guidance on the use of DMTs during the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, we endorse the global advice provided by the MS International Federation (MSIF) – but emphasize that DMT decision making must be individualized and based upon multiple factors, including those listed above.
    Both the National MS Society DMT guidance and the MSIF global advice are endorsed by the Consortium of MS Centers and the MS Coalition.

  7. Additional Resources

If you have other questions, please email us Nancy Chazen at nancy.chazen@mscare.org.