The COVID-19 global pandemic has attacked old and young alike, regardless of race, ethnicity, political affiliation, or faith. No one is immune, and all are at risk. People living with a lung disease such as pulmonary fibrosis (PF) are at particular risk for developing a severe case of the disease if it’s contracted. COVID-19 primarily affects the lungs, and the lungs of people with PF have already been compromised.

Fortunately, we now have more information about this disease, and new data come in every day. Read on to find out more about COVID-19 and how you can protect yourself.

What is COVID-19?

COVID-19 is a respiratory illness caused by the new coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 that first appeared in the Wuhan province of China in December 2019 as pneumonia cases of unknown origin. Coronaviruses are common in diverse animals such as cattle, bats, and camels. Though they can also be found in people, they rarely spread from animals to humans. SARS-CoV-2 is one of those rarities.

The virus is thought to spread among humans through droplets from coughs and sneezes, whether transported in the air and inhaled, or when touched on surfaces and transferred to the eyes, nose, and mouth where it’s absorbed through the mucous membranes.

What Should I Watch for as a PF Patient?

Although some of those infectedare asymptomatic, people living with PF can experience significant complications.

Since SARS stands for “severe acute respiratory syndrome,” some of the symptoms to watch out for are:

  • difficulty breathing/shortness of breath
  • chest pressure or pain
  • fever (100.4° or higher)
  • dry, intensifying cough
  • body aches and fatigue
  • confusion or inability to focus
  • bluish tinge to lips or face

If you experience the above symptoms, seek medical attention immediately.

Approximately 80% of COVID-19 patients recover without special treatment, but about one out of every six becomes seriously ill.

If you are one of those at higher risk, it’s critical that you take steps to protect yourself.

How Can I Protect Myself from the Virus?

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends the following steps to protect yourself and others from infection by the COVID-19 virus.

  • Stay at home.
  • Disinfect high-traffic surfaces frequently with household cleaners.
  • Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • If soap and water are not available, use hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
  • Avoid touching your face, especially your eyes, nose, and mouth, with unwashed hands.
  • Cough or sneeze into a tissue, then immediately discard it. Alternately, cough or sneeze into the elbow of your sleeve, then change your shirt and launder it.
  • If someone in your home is sick, ask them to wear a mask and avoid common areas.
  • If you go outside, wear a face mask and stay a minimum of six (6) feet from others.
  • If you need medical attention, call the doctor’s office before you go and describe your symptoms.

If you think you require COVID-19 testing, contact your personal health care provider or local health department. If they determine that your symptoms warrant a test, they will give you a referral and help you locate a testing site near you. Screening supplies are limited, and tests require an appointment.

How Do I Deal with Isolation and Support My Mental Health?

The social isolation needed to flatten the COVID-19 curve can be incredibly challenging. For some, it may lead to:

  • anxiety and fear
  • inability to focus or sustain attention
  • interrupted or poor quality sleep
  • depression and boredom
  • anger, frustration, or irritability
  • increased use of alcohol, drugs, or tobacco

To help reduce stress and anxiety, experts suggest the following steps to boost your mood, support your mental and emotional health, and stay connected:

  • Stay up-to-date but limit your news consumption. Stick to reliable news sources such as the CDC and WHO for necessary information, but avoid negative stories and statistics.
  • Make healthy lifestyle choices. Eat fresh foods, drink water, exercise and stretch, schedule both play time and quiet time.
  • Stimulate your mind. Read, watch movies, take online classes, play music, do puzzles, make art.
  • Establish routines. Order and structure lend a sense of normalcy to an abnormal situation.
  • Strengthen social bonds and create new ones. Call, text, or video chat with family, friends, and neighbors; join online book groups, support groups, religious services, or other gatherings.
  • Advocate for yourself. Access resources and seek ways to meet your needs.

What Are Some Helpful Resources?

There are many resources available to help you cope during this trying time. Some of these include:

PF-Related Health Resources
Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation
Responsum for PF
National Consortium of Telehealth Resource Centers

Mental Health Resources
SAMHSA’s National Helpline / 1 (877) 726-4727
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline / 1 (800) 273-8255
American Psychological Association

Financial Resources
Patient Advocate Foundation
HealthWell Foundation

U.S. COVID-19 “Drive Thru” Testing Sites
GoodRx List of COVID-19 Testing Sites