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Expert Advice: Autoimmune Disease and COVID-19…What You Need to Know

Expert advice autoimmune disease and COVID-19

On Friday, April 3, AARDA was honored to co-hosted a briefing with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and in conjunction with the National Coalition of Autoimmune Patient Groups (NCAPG) on the risks associated with COVID-19 and patients with autoimmune diseases. The response was overwhelming, with more than 4,500 registrants, many of whom submitted more than 1,600 questions.

We learned so much from our panel of experts – doctors on the front line in the battle against COVID-19. Many thanks to our outstanding panelists:

  • Dr. Georgina Peacock, CDC COVID-19 Task Force Lead and Director, Division of Human Development and Disability at the National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities
  • Dr. Aline Charabaty, gastroenterologist, Clinical Director of the GI Division and Director of the IBD Center, Johns Hopkins-Sibley Memorial Hospital
  • Dr. Nancy Carteron, rheumatologist, University of California – Berkeley, School of Optometry, former Chair of the Medical & Scientific Advisors for the Sjogren’s Foundation
  • Dr. Eric Chow, COVID-19 Response: Medical Care and Countermeasures Task Force, Epidemic Intelligence Service Officer, Influenza Division, National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Disease

And, special thanks to our moderator, Dr. Betty Diamond, the chairperson of AARDA’s Scientific Advisory Board and the Head of the Center for Autoimmune, Musculoskeletal and Hematopoietic Diseases at The Feinstein Institutes for Medical Research.

The physicians confirmed the grim reality we’ve been hearing — patients with autoimmune diseases and other underlying medical conditions and our elder population are at higher risk for COVID-19 and increased complications. Throughout the webinar, the doctors reminded us that it is absolutely critical that those with compromised immune systems strictly adhere to CDC recommendations. Patients should continue taking prescribed medicines and recommended treatments including in-home infusions, where possible. Some physicians are reducing the amount of prednisone to 20 mg per day for selected patients as a precautionary measure to avoid the possibility of increased risk and non-effectiveness of the steroid.

In addition to fever, cough, and shortness of breath, autoimmune patients may experience other symptoms that could possibly indicate the virus. Patients should be on high alert for symptoms they do not regularly experience and contact their healthcare professionals with questions and concerns. It is also recommended that patients utilize telemedicine apps to connect with medical professionals and postpone non-essential testing and procedures.

We received hundreds of questions and responded to many of the queries during the live webinar. Doctors, nurses, and other healthcare specialists at NCAPG* and other partner organizations from the specific autoimmune disease associations are preparing responses to additional questions. Answers will soon be posted on the AARDA website. Additional questions can be submitted by clicking here.

There are a variety of helpful resources and registries available to connect with healthcare professionals and stay abreast about the latest about the pandemic, self-help tools, and other information:

CDC COVID-19 Resource Page

CDC 24-hour hotline: 1-800-985-5990

CDC text “TalkWithUs” to 66746

AARDA COVID-19 Resource Page

If you missed the webinar, you can review the slide presentation and listen by clicking here.

It was a privilege for AARDA to co-host this informative discussion with our panel of extraordinary experts. We sincerely hope this is the first of many. We look forward to your continued engagement. On behalf of AARDA and the autoimmune community, we sincerely hope everyone stays safe and healthy.

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