People who have undergone lung transplant surgery, or may be candidates for transplantation, are likely concerned about the threat of COVID-19.

In response to the pandemic, the American Society of Transplantation (AST) has answered frequently asked questions based on up-to-date information, with links to important resources.*

COVID-19

The COVID-19 outbreak is caused by a coronavirus called the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome 2 virus (SARS-CoV-2), and is now in nearly every nation. While coronaviruses cause the common cold, new strains like SARS-CoV-2 often lead to severe disease outbreaks.

  • No antiviral drugs or vaccines are presently available for COVID-19, though pharmaceutical companies are actively involved in their development.
  • Common disease symptoms are similar to flu and include fever, cough, breathlessness and, in some transplant recipients, pneumonia.

Frequently Asked Questions

Below are answers to several important COVID-19 questions by transplant recipients and candidates.

“Are transplant recipients at higher risk for the virus?”

There is no direct answer to this question. However, from experience with other viruses, it is known that transplant recipients may have more severe symptoms than healthy individuals because of their lowered immunity.

To help avoid infection, AST notes:

  • Most infection occurs from direct contact with an infected person, but some people may carry the virus and have mild or no symptoms.
  • An organ recipient’s odds of infection increase if in close proximity to infected people.
  • A person may also become infected by touching a contaminated surface (table, handle, etc.).

“What can I do to prepare for an outbreak of COVID-19 in my area?”

Transplant recipients should follow recommendations for the general public:

  • Stay home as much as possible.
  • Keep six feet between you and other people if going out is necessary.
  • Avoid crowds and people visibly ill.
  • Wash your hands frequently for at least 20 seconds, or use hand sanitizer.
  • Additionally, keep at least two weeks of medicines on hand.
  • Determine whether your insurance allows for a three-month supply of medicine.
  • Refill one-month prescriptions one week in advance.

“I am awaiting a transplant. Can I get COVID-19 from my donor?”

  • There is low risk of infection from organ donation.
  • Donors are being evaluated for symptoms and past exposure.
  • Donors are being tested for the virus by some procurement organizations.
  • Donors returning from high-risk areas are asked to delay donation for two to four weeks.
  • Travel and contact history is also being conducted on deceased donors.

Since testing is still limited and only done through health authorities, patients are advised to call their transplant team if they believe they have COVID-19.

Refer to the AST website for answers to eight other frequently asked questions.

*American Society of Transplantation. (2020, March 16). Coronavirus Disease-2019 (COVID-19): Frequently Asked Questions from Transplant Candidates and Recipients.