We understand that transplant patients may have questions and concerns about risks of COVID-19 to them and their families. At the moment, there is limited data on whether transplant recipients or those with chronic diseases could be more severely affected by the coronavirus.
Here we answer some questions that we’ve been receiving from transplant patients. As always, if you have any questions or concerns, please reach out to your transplant care team.
What are the symptoms of COVID-19?
Symptoms of this virus are very similar to other seasonal respiratory ailments like colds and influenza, or “the flu.” They can include fever, cough, runny nose, new loss of sense of taste or smell, chills (which can be shaking), headache, sore throat, diarrhea, stomach upset, and/or difficulty breathing.
Most patients with COVID-19 have only mild, flu-like and respiratory symptoms which can be managed at home. However, some patients may develop severe pneumonia and breathing problems that require hospitalization.
Are transplant patients at higher risk for COVID-19?
We do not have specific information yet on whether COVID-19 will be more severe in transplant recipients. Other viruses can cause more severe disease in people who are immunocompromised, so transplant recipients should take extra precautions to avoid being exposed to COVID-19.
We will be keeping in close touch with transplant patients to make sure you are appropriately treated. If you are not feeling well, call your transplant provider.
What can I do to protect myself from this infection?
- Avoid close contact with anyone who is sick.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
- Practice cough etiquette – sneeze and cough into your elbow or a tissue, not your hand, and wash your hands after coughing/sneezing.
- Clean and disinfect high touch objects and surfaces using a household cleaning spray or wipe.
- Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom, before eating, and after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing.If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
- Avoid all crowded areas including restaurants, bars, sports venues.
- If COVID-19 is in your community, stay home as much as possible.
- If you work, try to work from home as much as you can.
- Determine who can provide you with care if your caregiver gets sick.
- Avoid all travel for now.
- Wear a cloth face covering in public settings where other social distancing measures may be difficult to maintain. More information about how to cover your face and other protective measures can be found on the CDC website.
What should I do if I think I may have COVID-19?
- Call your transplant provider immediately.
- Do not show up at a health care facility without first calling the provider/facility. We are taking special precautions to prevent further transmission of this infection, and that means we want to prepare for your visit to limit your contact to others while we are evaluating you.
- Call 911 if you develop difficulty breathing, lasting pain or pressure in your chest; new confusion and extreme sleepiness; or bluish lips or face.
What guidelines are available for pre-transplant and post-transplant patients?
In addition to the guidelines provided for the general population by the CDC, we recommend that both pre-transplant and post-transplant patients avoid sick people and crowded situations. It is also recommended that all patients try to stay at home as much as possible and wash hand frequently with soap and water or alcohol-based sanitizer.
If you don’t feel well, call your transplant coordinator for further guidance. Please refer to guidelines posted on the American Society of Transplantation website, which are also being regularly updated.
What should I do about my medications?
Continue to take all of your medications as prescribed unless otherwise notified by your provider. Try to keep a one-month supply available at all times. If you have specific questions, please call your provider who may be able to order an emergency supply.
Will my transplant be delayed?
Our top priority is always the safety of our patients. At this time, we are not delaying transplant for those who are critically in need. However, we are carefully assessing all donors to ensure that there is no risk of COVID-19.
If your potential live donor or a deceased donor has any risk factors suggestive of active or recent infection or exposure, we will not be using that donor. Live donors who are well with resolved infection may be considered at a later time.
Priority scheduling of medically-necessary appointments and procedures – Effective March 13, 2020
In an effort to protect our patients and staff, and to prioritize the needs of those who may require immediate care, we will be rescheduling some patient appointments and procedures over the next two weeks. We will contact you directly if your outpatient visit, procedure, or surgery is postponed until a later date.
We will also be working to move some patients to virtual visits and home care, as appropriate. During this time, all Penn Medicine facilities will remain open in order to care for patients who require in-person visits and time sensitive care.
General visitation guidelines – Effective March 23, 2020
The health and safety of our patients, employees and communities remain our top priority at Penn Medicine. In accordance with the CDC and the Pennsylvania and New Jersey Departments of Health, we have revised our visitor policy for all Penn Medicine’s hospitals and outpatient facilities.
In inpatient facilities, no visitors will be permitted except under special circumstances. These include:
- Patients nearing the end of life
- Labor/delivery and post-partum (one designated support person)
- Neonatal Intensive Care
For special circumstance exceptions, visitors are limited to one person, over the age of 18. Visitors will be required to complete health screening procedures upon entry and have periodic monitoring while in the facility. They will be required to restrict their mobility within the facility as much as possible during the visit.
For all outpatient appointments:
- No visitors will be permitted.
- Health screening procedures will be required in exceptional circumstances where a visitor may be necessary to facilitate care. Visitors will be required to restrict their mobility within the facility as much as possible during the visit.
If you have any questions or need more information about the visitor policy, please speak with your doctor or care team.
We are following the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) recommendations for evaluation of patients who may be at risk of developing this new virus. Teams throughout our health system are working closely with leaders from the CDC, the Pennsylvania and New Jersey Departments of Health, and local health officials to monitor and respond to this evolving situation.
Additional resources are available at the following websites:
For more general information from Penn Medicine, visit pennmedicine.org/coronavirus.