The American Association of Kidney Patients (AAKP) recently held a webinar about coronavirus and kidney patients in partnership with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Shannon Novosad, MD, MPH, a medical officer with the CDC’s dialysis safety team, discussed tips for kidney patients to protect themselves at home, in the community, or in healthcare facilities, including general advice on handwashing and social distancing. She also suggested that patients have a plan in case they become ill and that they have several weeks’ worth of medications and supplies. It is important, she added, that they not postpone dialysis treatment.
“Missing dialysis is the worst thing a patient can do,” said nephrologist Stephen Fadem, MD, FACP, FASN, a clinical professor of medicine with Baylor College of Medicine in Houston and chair of the AAKP medical advisory board. “Dialysis units have been working on this for a long time. If a dialysis patient has a fever or cough, they should let the unit know, and they will send you to another unit specifically designed to handle this.”
Fadem recommends that patients wear masks if they go out, because 20% of people with COVID-19 may be asymptomatic and capable of transmitting the virus. In addition, he said, people with kidney diseases should continue their regular diet and medication regimen, and have at least 2 to 3 weeks’ worth of medicines on hand.
“You don’t know if your friendly pharmacist is going to be the next guy to get sick,” Fadem said. “There have been so many surprises with this disease that the old Boy Scout slogan to be prepared is the best thing I can recommend.”
Patients also have been concerned about what to do if they share a home with a sick family member, he said.
“That’s the most difficult because most people can’t just move out, but the CDC is recommending they isolate as much as possible,” he said. This could mean using a separate room or separate part of the house, a separate bathroom, and cleaning every common touchpoint, including doorknobs.
Richard Knight, MBA, AAKP president and a kidney transplant recipient, quarantined himself at home for 2 weeks after a meeting in New York, where he was exposed to someone with COVID-19. Fortunately, he did not become ill himself.
“There’s a lot going on in this arena that gives patients concern, but there is hope,” Knight said. “We will get through this.”
There are things on the horizon that are hopeful, Fadem added. Several centers have been deploying rapid COVID-19 tests and nasal swabs that could make it easier to collect the virus for testing and get better information at the point of service about who has the virus. Tests for antibodies against the virus also are being deployed in some areas, which should give healthcare providers a better understanding about SARS-CoV-2. Some acute therapies and vaccines also are being tested.