Coronavirus – What should people with an asbestos lung disease do?

Posted: 23rd Mar 20 8:00 AM

We’re updating this page regularly with advice from the NHS and the Government about coronavirus and COVID-19 as it becomes available.

Last updated: 24/03/2020

If you live with an asbestos-related lung disease or another long-term lung condition, you will know it is good to avoid getting a virus, and you can take steps to reduce your risk of catching an infection.

The evidence so far shows that coronavirus can cause severe symptoms in people with long term conditions (such as an asbestos-related disease), people with weakened immune symptoms and older people.

As the outbreak spreads, you should keep an eye on the Public Health England website, as well as looking at guidance from the NHS.

Government advice as of 23/03/2020

As of Monday 23 March, the Government has put the UK into lockdown, instructing all citizens to stay at home. People can only leave their homes to exercise once a day, go shopping for food and medication, travel for medical needs or to care for a vulnerable person, and to travel to work only if essential.

Police will be able to enforce these restrictions.

All non-essential shops will close with immediate effect, as will places of worship, libraries, and playgrounds. Large events or gatherings of more than two people cannot go ahead, including weddings and other celebrations. Funerals can be attended, but only by immediate family.

What should I do now?

If you have either:

  • A high temperature
  • A continuous cough

You must stay at home and self isolate. Use the NHS 111 Online Coronavirus service to find out what to do.

Reduce your risk of getting coronavirus

The coronavirus can pass from surface to surface and hand to hand. It is very important to keep your hands clean to stop the virus from spreading. Below are some hygiene measures you should follow to reduce your risk:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds
  • If you can’t get to soap and water, use alcohol-based sanitiser gel
  • Avoid touching your face – this can transfer the virus from your hands to your eyes and mouth
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing and throw away the tissue as soon as you can
  • Always wash your hands or use sanitiser gel after coughing or sneezing
  • Avoid shaking or touching other people’s hands
  • Avoid touching objects in public places

Avoid crowds and busy places

It’s a good idea to avoid busy places and crowds. This is known as ‘social distancing’ and can really help slow the spread of coronavirus. Social distancing is recommended as the virus spreads further so you will need to start thinking about how you will manage.

  • Avoid people who are unwell, including children. You may want to help with childcare and look after your grandchildren, especially if schools are closed, but if they are ill or carrying the virus you will be at serious risk
  • Order your shopping online so it is delivered to your home, if you can
  • Make sure to order your prescriptions online and arrange for someone to collect them if you can’t get them delivered
  • If you need to use public transport, don’t travel at rush hour. If you need to travel to work, try starting and finishing earlier or later
  • Work from home if possible. Your employer should be making plans for this as a preparation in case the virus spreads more widely

What if symptoms of my asbestos disease flare up?

Even without the risk of coronavirus, you should know what the symptoms of your asbestos disease are, and what to do if they flare up. If you are unsure, it is important to speak with your doctor for clarification.

If you become unwell and you believe there is a risk of having coronavirus, the Government’s advice is to self-isolate and stay at home for 7 days. Signs of coronavirus and COVID-19 (the illness caused by coronavirus) include a high temperature and a continuous cough.

It is advised to use the NHS 111 service only if:

  • You feel that you cannot cope with your symptoms at home
  • Your condition gets worse
  • Your symptoms do not get better after 7 days

You should follow any and all advice given from NHS 111 or another health care professional – if you have any doubts, stay at home for 7 days.

How does cancer treatment weaken immunity?

Your immune system protects your body against illnesses and infections caused by viruses such as coronavirus. If you have a cancer, such as mesothelioma or asbestos-related lung cancer, you may have a weaker immune system, reducing your ability to fight these illnesses.

This can be because some treatments, like chemotherapy, can prevent your body from making enough white blood cells, which are an important part of your immune system. This effect can last for some time, even after the treatment ends.

When your ability to fight infection is lowered, the symptoms of any infection can be more severe and are often dangerous.

What is the advice for people with mesothelioma?

Talk to your cancer team if you have any questions or worries about the coronavirus and your health.

It is especially important to follow NHS advice to reduce your risk of getting coronavirus if you are having or recently had cancer treatment that lowers your immunity.

You also need to follow their advice if you have a relative or friend who is having or has recently had cancer treatment.

You can find advice and answers to frequently asked questions about coronavirus here.

If you have recently been diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease, such as mesothelioma, asbestosis, diffuse pleural thickening or asbestos-related lung cancer, and are worried about your health, get in touch with the National Asbestos Helpline today. Call us on Freephone 0800 043 6635 or send us an email to enquiries@nationalasbestos.co.uk and we will call you back.