Chris Jackson, COVID-19 Clinical Lead for the Cancer Control Agency and Cancer Society Medical Director says all treatment facilities are available to operate during this lockdown period. Dr Jackson discusses the balance of risks and benefits of some treatments. Listen here for this important update.
In response to the COVID-19 situation in New Zealand, the LBC Support Services team are working hard to continue to meet the needs of our haematology patients and families/whanau. We have made some changes to how we will be providing our support over the coming months with alternative ways to meet our patients’ and families/whanau needs using technology. We will be:
Our Support Services staff continue to be available via phone and online. Please contact your local Support Services Coordinator on 0800 15 10 15 for further information. Please also join one of our 7 private Facebook groups for peer support across the country.
In late 2019, a new strain of a coronavirus was recorded called COVID-19. For the latest health updates on COVID-19 visit the Ministry of Health website here. People who suspect they have COVID-19 should call a dedicated healthline for free on 0800-358-5453. People who are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and are visiting a GP or hospital, please phone the facility ahead of time before arriving.
They symptoms of COVID-19 are similar to a range of other respiratory illnesses such as the flu. They include fever, cough and difficulty breathing. Difficulty breathing is a sign of possible pneumonia and requires immediate medical attention.
These viruses are transmitted through direct contact with respiratory droplets that occur through coughing or sneezing of an infected person in close proximity. It can also be contracted through touching contaminated surfaces.
Blood cancer and its treatment can affect the bone marrow’s ability to produce adequate numbers of healthy blood cells. Your blood count (the number of white cells, platelets and red cells circulating in the blood) will generally fall within a week of having your treatment.
The point at which the white blood cell count is at its lowest is called the nadir. Your treating team may also tell you that you are neutropenic (which means you are low in infection-fighting white cells known as a neutrophils). This is usually expected 10 to 14 days after having chemotherapy.
During this time, you will be at a higher risk of developing an infection. While your white blood cell count is low, you should take sensible precautions to help prevent your exposure to infection. Viruses such as influenza and the common cold typically have peak periods of infection each year, but they can be contracted at any time.
While your white blood cell count is low, you should take sensible precautions to help prevent infection. Here are a few ideas for avoiding illness and infection, particularly when you have a compromised immune system.
There is currently no available vaccine for COVID-19. However vaccinations, including the flu jab, can reduce your chance of getting certain infections. But if you’ve had a treatment recently, you may not be able to have some vaccinations. Speak to your specialist about which vaccinations you can have and when.
You must contact your doctor or the nursing team for advice immediately (at any time of the day or night) if you are feeling very unwell, or if you experience any of the following:
* A normal body temperature is between 36 and 37°C
Those who are living with or are having treatment for a blood cancer are more susceptible to infection.
If you’re not feeling well, you should avoid and limit contact with those with a blood cancer diagnosis. If this is unavoidable, you should take sensible precautions to help prevent the spread of infection.
One of the most effective infection-control methods is frequently washing hands (up to the elbow, where possible) with soap and water. When this is unavailable use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser.
Thoroughly washing your hands is key – washing between fingers and on the back of hands for 15-20 seconds is the aim.
Rinse with water and then dry your hands in the same manner with a paper towel or hot air (avoid using fabric towels).
Wash your hands not only after you sneeze or cough but also after using the toilet and before you eat or prepare food.
Good infection control means coughing and sneezing into the crook of your elbow – not your hands – or into a tissue. If using a tissue, it’s important these are disposed of in bins with closed lids, and your hands are washed. It is also good practice to avoid close contact with people (like hugging and touching) while you’re unwell.
Masks are an important tool in preventing the spread of viruses. For people with compromised or suppressed immune systems, avoiding contact with the general public as much as possible is key to avoid contracting viruses.
If this is unavoidable, a mask is a practical measure. Speak with your treating team or your GP to understand if this option is appropriate for you and what type of mask you should wear.
There are many simple and easy practices that can reduce the likelihood of infection spreading. Be aware of your body and any changes and refer to the list on when to contact your doctor. If you’re concerned you are becoming unwell, contact your doctor for advice.
Check the New Zealand government’s safetravel.govt.nz website for the latest travel advice before planning any travel.
If you are travelling overseas, check with your doctor or specialist nurse about what vaccinations you may need.
With thanks to Leukaemia Foundation of Australia for supplying aspects of this information.