Dr. Mark Dransfield Receives 2020 Solovy Award for COPD Research

Respiratory Health Association (RHA) is pleased to name Mark Dransfield, MD, Medical Director of the Lung Health Center at University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), as recipient of the 2020 Solovy Award for his work to improve lives through COPD research.

The award is funded by the Kathleen Hart Solovy and Jerold S. Solovy Endowment for COPD, and recognizes researchers who have worked to improve the lives of those living with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we were unable to formally present the award at our Summer Reception, but plan to recognize Dr. Dransfield in-person at a future date.

2020 solovy award winner Dr. Mark Dransfield

“I am humbled and honored to be the recipient of the 2020 Solovy Award, following in a line of incredible lung health researchers,” said Dransfield. “This award opens the door for young investigators to pursue research developing and testing new diagnostic, preventative, and treatment strategies for COPD. And most importantly, it can help positively impact the lives of those living with COPD across the county and the world.”

Dr. Dransfield’s body of work in COPD includes research into many therapies currently used to treat the disease, as well as ongoing investigations into new treatment options and potential medications. He has written nearly 200 original manuscripts and has made multiple important discoveries throughout his career. He developed and oversaw a clinical trial examining the effectiveness of a pneumonia vaccine for patients with COPD, and recently completed a study examining the effects of beta-blockers to treat COPD. This research found that beta-blockers, commonly used to treat those living with COPD, do not reduce the risk of COPD exacerbations and in some instances may cause harm. These findings could lead to changes in treatment recommendations for those living with moderate to advanced cases of COPD.

The impact of his research is significant – and is a reminder lung disease research is historically underfunded.

“Despite the public health impact of COPD, the financial support for COPD research is less than that for other common conditions including heart disease, cancer, and diabetes,” he said. “The Solovy award provides money critical to jumpstart projects that may otherwise not get the support they need, laying the groundwork for innovations in treatment and hopefully one day a cure for COPD.”

Each year Respiratory Health Association awards early-stage research grants to promising projects covering lung diseases such as lung cancer, idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Learn more about RHA’s research program and funding opportunities.

Her Father’s Fight Propels Lindsay to the Finish Line

Written by Amanda Sabino

With a heavy beat booming through her headphones, Lindsay Condon sets off on another run. After a year on the sidelines with an injured ankle, she welcomes the return to activity. And now, each run is a step forward in her training for the 2020 Chicago Marathon.

Lindsay with her dad, Mike.

The marathon looms large in Condon family lore – Lindsay’s father Mike ran in 1996. This year, Lindsay will run as a tribute to him – two years after he was diagnosed with lung cancer.

When she told her father, his reaction was a humble one.

“Lindsay, that was really nice of you,” he said, “but you don’t have to do that.”

“I know it means something to him,” she reflects.

As an occupational therapist from a family of healthcare professionals, running for lung health was already a perfect match for Lindsay. But the Condon’s lives have been profoundly impacted by lung cancer.

Mike was diagnosed with stage 3 lung cancer in the spring of 2018. He began chemotherapy and radiation therapy for five months followed by nine months of Infinzi, a stage 3 immune therapy. The side effects of the chemotherapy drugs were horrific. Mike lost 35 pounds and had an allergic reaction to one of the drugs. He had difficulty lifting his feet and had swollen hands. Usually a huge jokester and life of the party, Mike’s boisterous voice was reduced to a strained whisper.

“At his lowest point, he couldn’t walk from the bed to the bathroom,” Lindsay recalls.

Mike, a lifelong chiropractor, was forced to retire after 30 years running his own practice. Lindsay describes her father as someone who cares deeply for his health and the health of his clients. Now lung cancer was forcing him to leave his dream.

For all his difficulty, after a year of treatments it seemed as though he had turned a corner – the drugs worked, and Mike had entered remission. But at the end of 2019, he got pneumonia. A scan in January showed his tumor re-appeared bigger than before and had spread to his lymph nodes. He began three months of weekly chemotherapy. For the next two years, he will continue to take Keytruda, a stage 4 immune therapy which he receives once every three weeks.

Lindsay and her dad.

“It’s a roller coaster,” Lindsay says. “One day his tumor has shrunk, and a couple months later it’s bigger.”

Lindsay is fueled by what her dad has accomplished throughout his life and her vision for what his life could be in the future with more funding for lung cancer research. She’s seen firsthand the challenges cancer has brought to her father and her family – but they still cherish each day.

“We’re sticking together through all this. I’ve never had to go through any of this alone.”

The COVID-19 pandemic makes things more challenging. Lindsay has to avoid contact with her father, but despite the difficulty of separation, she’s still afforded a few glimpses of her parents.

“They’ll drive by my house just to wave,” she says. “We’re just thankful for the time we have now.”

Now more than ever, she knows not to take her youth and health for granted. And when she gets tired, her strength of will runs in step with his indomitable spirit.

“I just tell myself, ‘You can do this. Because your dad can’t, you can do this, and you’ve got this.’”

Her advice to other runners? “It’s all mental. Your body can take you there. It doesn’t matter if you walk. As long as you finish.”

To support Lindsay’s run with Respiratory Health Association’s Lung Power Team and further research, education and advocacy around lung cancer and other lung diseases, donate here.

Lindsay with her parents.

Together We Are Working to Prevent Lung Disease and Promote Clean Air

This year we have faced extraordinary challenges, and made remarkable progress. Your dedicated support makes it possible for us to have an impact in communities throughout Illinois and beyond. As we come to the end of our program year, we want to share some of our work to prevent lung disease, promote clean air and help people with lung disease live better lives.

COVID-19 Response

COVID-19 presented an unprecedented lung health challenge. We immediately turned toward providing credible information and support to vulnerable communities, including people with chronic lung disease, and our team worked to understand and address health equity issues causing more harm to underserved communities. RHA is also providing funding for important research into COVID-19 and acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS).

Emergency Asthma Medication in Schools

In Illinois, more than 280,000 children are reported to have asthma. After successfully advocating for the law to allow schools to keep emergency asthma medication on hand, we worked with Illinois Department of Public Health to develop guidelines for schools and have proposed legislation to make medications available so that all schools can create a safer environment for students.

Peoria Coal Plant Closure & Settlement

For more than 50 years, the E.D. Edwards power plant has burned coal and contributed to dangerous levels of air pollution in central Illinois. This year, with the help of environmental partners and our pro bono legal counsel, we won an $8+ million settlement that will be reinvested in the local community, and the plant will close.

Chicago Transportation Authority Air Pollution & Health Study

With support from the Joyce Foundation and University of Chicago, we studied the relationship between exposure to air pollution and chronic illness. The study was the first of its kind in Chicago and showed that people living near high volume bus routes and garages have more lung health problems. We will use the findings to advocate for cleaner transportation and stronger air protections.

Asthma Education Expanded

Our school-based asthma education reached hundreds of additional students across Illinois. With support from the Illinois State Board of Education, we were able to reach students with asthma in high-need communities from outside St. Louis to Waukegan and everywhere between.

smiling family with award help prevent lung disease

Justin Broome, recognized as a Next Generation Advocate in lung health, and his family at our 2019 Fall Reception.

Vaping Response & Resources

This year we saw youth e-cigarette use skyrocket and an outbreak of vaping-related lung injury. We developed resources aimed at dispelling myths about vaping and e-cigarettes, including a guide for parents to help them talk to their kids about the dangers of vaping. These resources were shared with parents in partnership with local schools.

National Tobacco Programs

We took our evidence-based quit smoking programs to Trinity Health locations across the country. Courage to Quit® is now offered in healthcare settings from California to Connecticut. In addition, hundreds of medical professionals have learned how to talk to patients about quitting through RHA’s Counsel to Quit® course for healthcare professionals.

COPD Hospital-to-Home Guide

We worked with University of Illinois at Chicago’s (UIC) Population Health Sciences Division to help COPD patients and caregivers transition to home after a hospital stay. The goal is to help patients stay healthy at home and reduce hospital readmissions.

Lung Cancer Research

We funded Loyola University professor Dr. Maurizio Bocchetta’s lung cancer research. He and his team are investigating whether a certain enzyme can be used to stabilize lung cells and prevent cancer growth. Researchers like Dr. Bocchetta work to increase knowledge and understanding of disease development to support those affected by lung cancer.

Your support made all this possible. Thank you. Together we will keep taking steps to prevent lung disease and promote clean air, whatever the future holds.

To learn more about the educational programs, research, and policy work your contributions support, as well as to receive updates on our work toward healthy lungs and clean air for all, sign-up for our monthly newsletter.

The need for RHA’s work is greater than ever during the COVID-19 pandemic, and our programs and events depend on the support of our community. We understand many are experiencing hardship during these times, but if you are in a position to donate, we need your help. If you’d like to support RHA’s work to prevent lung disease and promote clean air, you can donate here.

Mia’s Story: Living with Asthma During COVID-19

Mia during our 2019 State Lung Health Education Day, an opportunity for advocates to speak to lawmakers about clean air and lung health issues in Illinois.

Mia Fritsch-Anderson, 15, is a freshman at Whitney Young High School in Chicago. She began working with Respiratory Health Association at the age of five after being diagnosed with asthma. She regularly participates in lung health education and advocacy activities in her community and throughout the Chicago area, and won RHA’s Next Generation Advocate award in 2019 for her work.

Growing up with asthma has always involved extra caution and safety measures for me, but during the COVID-19 pandemic, my lung health is constantly on my mind. When the coronavirus first started showing up in the news, I immediately clued in on the extra warnings for people with lung disease. People like me with moderate to severe asthma are at higher risk of getting very sick from COVID-19. Because of this, my family and I have taken the stay at home order very seriously. I have not gone inside any restaurant or business, or hung out with any of my friends, since my last day of school on March 16. It’s especially hard to see my peers on social media going over to a friend’s house “just for a little while,” but I can’t take that risk right now.

In a way, I think living with a chronic lung disease made it a little easier for my family and I to adjust to all the safety recommendations. Many of them we already followed daily. Because a simple cold so easily progresses to pneumonia for me (at least twice a year), my family and I have always been especially careful about hand washing and have always used disposable paper towels in the bathroom. To avoid tracking germs all over the house, we have always been a “no shoes inside” family. We’ve always worked with my doctors and pharmacists to make sure I have enough of all my daily and rescue medications at home.

Since a major symptom of COVID-19 is not being able to breathe, any shortness of breath or tightness in my chest, no matter how small, has me wondering all the time if now I’m sick. And as an asthmatic, I’m already extra vigilant about how my breathing sounds, so I’m constantly worried that I’ve caught the virus. Before coronavirus, it wouldn’t phase me at all. I’d just think I needed some extra albuterol, grab my inhaler, and carry on. I’m sure every kid and teen with asthma has the same thoughts right now.

Asthma has also helped me better understand the general public’s fears around the coronavirus, like having trouble breathing, since I’ve been dealing with it all for 15 years. Recently, a family shared with me how scared their little girls were to wear face masks, because they are different and “it feels weird.” I could instantly relate to that as a lifelong nebulizer user and was able to give them tips to help them feel more comfortable. I think those of us together in this “lung disease” club are in a unique position to help others with the challenges that come from fear around breathing symptoms.

I think a lot of kids and teens, healthy or otherwise, feel helpless right now. Since I have lung disease, I can’t get out on the front line and help in ways I’ve seen others give back, like volunteering at the food pantry or shopping for neighbors. One thing I’ve been doing that helps me give back, and alleviates that “helpless” feeling, is using my knack for sewing to donate hand sewn masks to essential workers. So far, I have sewn 500 masks to donate to all sorts of workers in my community, including pharmacists, broadcast journalists, grocery store workers, day care workers, nurses, and therapists.

If you want to make face masks for yourself or others, I put together a video of how you can do it in your own home with items you may already have on hand.

To learn more about living with asthma during COVID-19, there are several resources from RHA including tips for managing your asthma. If you are interested in joining me as a lung health advocate, click here!

Jen Runs to Be Part of Something Powerful

Written by Amanda Sabino

Jen Dorval admits her running background is not the most extensive. But for Jen, running with Respiratory Health Association’s Lung Power Team in the Chicago Marathon is about more than just the race. It’s to honor her sister, Dee, who passed away four years ago due to chronic asthma.

two young sisters sit next to each other

Dee (left) and Jen

“Her goal was to run a 5k,” Jen says. “That was so sad to me because all she wanted was to run three miles…that is what kick-started me into running. If I can run a marathon for her, I’m going to do it.”

Growing up in Massachusetts, the fun-loving and outgoing sisters had many similarities – including living with asthma. Jen’s case was mild, but Dee’s caused her to miss school and visit the hospital frequently. That didn’t stop her from making an impression on everyone. She was particularly talented in the sciences, and when Jen encountered her older sister’s teachers years later, they all had a clear memory of her.

“She was in your face and did not care,” Jen says while laughing. “She had no filter whatsoever. If she were thinking it, it would come right out of her mouth!”

The sisters were both skilled swimmers, but Dee’s asthma eventually prevented her from continuing with the sport. She was fortunate the hospital was close to both home and school, which allowed her to quickly get care during frequent asthma episodes. The family still hoped that newer procedures would allow Dee to manage her asthma at home more often.

Dee and Jen with their mom

As this became more difficult, and the list of the activities she could no longer participate in grew longer, she considered a bronchial thermoplasty – an asthma treatment that heats and reduces the amount of smooth muscle in your airway wall. As a result, the immune system no longer tells the throat to constrict when triggered, making it easier to breathe. Unfortunately, due to her health, Dee was not a candidate for the procedure.

High-spirited and persistent despite this setback, Dee shifted her goals to new destinations. During Jen’s senior year in high school, Dee moved to sunny Florida. She felt that the milder climate would make it easier to manage her asthma triggers. Not only did her grandparents live there, but she met her fiancé and had her daughter Olivia, who she called Liv. Dee’s pregnancy was high-risk, and during the birth Liv suffered a stroke –which resulted in cerebral palsy that affected the left side of her body.

“Dee was a tireless advocate for Liv and made sure she got all of the therapies she needed,” Jen remembers. “She would have that girl in therapy all day to make sure she got the best care.”

As Dee settled into Florida life with her fiancé and daughter, her breathing struggles continued. Her oxygen levels were frequently low. Any time her levels were close to average, she would jokingly tell her sister how well she could breathe. Though they kept their conversations lighthearted, it illuminated a constant that had followed Dee throughout her life – she was not getting the oxygen needed to live comfortably.

On December 23, 2016, Dee woke up in the middle of the night struggling to breathe. Knowing she was in the middle of an asthma episode, her fiancé called the ambulance.

Jen and Liv

The resulting brain damage was too much for her to overcome, and she passed on Christmas Eve. Her family returned to Massachusetts – her final resting place – for a celebration of life. Loved ones drove through a giant snowstorm to attend the funeral – and Jen reflects a mischievous Dee would have enjoyed putting them through one last challenge.

“So many people like me, and they all drove through the snow for this?” she imagines Dee saying cheerfully.

Dee’s memory lives on in her daughter and family members like Jen, who carry her spirit and energy. Olivia also lives with asthma, and together with Jen, they run for a better future—one where even those living with the most severe cases of asthma can receive the care necessary to improve quality of life. To help support research, education and advocacy around asthma and other lung diseases, contribute to Jen’s Lung Power Team campaign.

We Teamed Up With Fleet Feet and On to Give Back to Front-Line Healthcare Workers

Fleet Feet, Respiratory Health Association deliver 250 pairs of On running shoes to Chicago front-line medical workers

Donation provides comfort to staff at three area hospitals during COVID-19 response

CHICAGO, IL, May 06, 2020 – Fleet Feet, a leading retailer of athletic footwear and apparel; Respiratory Health Association, Chicago’s local lung health nonprofit; and On, innovators in shoe design technology, have teamed up to deliver more than 250 pairs of running shoes to front-line healthcare workers.

Shoes were delivered to healthcare staff at Northwestern Medicine, University of Chicago Medicine, and Loyola Medical Center this week. The deliveries coincided with the start of National Nurses Week and Nurse Appreciation Month.

“We’re incredibly grateful for the generous donation from On and collaboration with Fleet Feet that we hope provides some measure of comfort to medical staff in Chicago,” says Joel Africk, President & CEO, Respiratory Health Association. “We have to do everything we can to face this crisis as a united community, and this is a great example of everyone chipping in.”

“The medical profession is being asked to do more now than it ever has in our recent history. If they are doing more, we can do more to support them,” says Dave Zimmer, Owner, Fleet Feet. “We are fortunate to be working with On to provide footwear to hardworking respiratory therapists, doctors and nurses at local hospitals.”

“We are deeply appreciative of our medical heroes in Chicago and across the world as they continue the fight against COVID-19,” says Britt Olsen, On’s GM of North America. “They are risking their lives every day on the frontlines of this crisis and at On we felt the least we could do is help provide comfortable footwear during the many hours they’re spending on their feet. We also owe a huge thanks to Fleet Feet for collaborating with us in this donation process.”

Since 1906, Respiratory Health Association has helped address Chicago’s greatest lung health challenges – from tuberculosis and influenza to asthma and lung cancer. COVID-19 is the latest challenge. Respiratory Health Association empowers patients and protects the most vulnerable through education, advocacy and research.

Fleet Feet has been a sponsor of Respiratory Health Association’s annual Hustle Chicago® stair climb for more than twenty years. The event is held each February and has raised more than $17 million to support the local fight against lung disease.

Fleet Feet is committed to finding shoes with the perfect fit for runners, walkers, fitness enthusiasts—and now medical professionals—across Chicagoland.

Our Work Continues During COVID-19

An Update from Joel Africk, President & CEO
As COVID-19 continues to spread, we as a community are facing serious loss, challenges and uncertainty. If you’re living in Illinois, like our team is, you’ve recently heard that our stay at home order has been extended through May 30, 2020. Other cities and states are making similar decisions.

During this stay at home order we’re separated from friends and family when their comfort is sorely needed. But now more than ever, we need to stay strong as a community and continue our efforts to slow the spread of the new coronavirus.

People with chronic lung disease have suffered—and will suffer—many of the worst consequences of COVID-19. That places more than one million of our friends, co-workers and family members at great risk until this virus is under control. I urge you to follow the advice of local public health leaders and be part of the solution. These measures are the only way to protect us.

These measures work. The results aren’t instantly visible, but the efforts we make today will save lives in the weeks to come.

Some of you have also expressed concern for our staff and the organization’s ability to carry out our mission. Your care and support is appreciated more than I can express. Respiratory Health Association’s staff is working remotely and following all local public health guidance.

Over the past month, we’ve created a number of general COVID-19 resources that we’re sharing on our website, through email and on social media, including guidance on what to do if someone in your home has COVID-19.

To help serve those of you with chronic lung disease, we’ve developed guides about COVID-19 and COPD and asthma. And we’ve created updated information about smoking as a risk factor for severe effects from the coronavirus and updated tips to help you quit smoking or vaping. To support our lung health communities, we’re working to assess and meet the needs of pulmonary rehabilitation leaders and provide at-home resources for patients who are unable to attend in-person rehabilitation sessions.

If there’s more we can do, I invite you to please give us feedback. We will continue striving to support our lung health community in any way we can.

Rest assured that our work continues, and we remain steadfastly committed to our vision of healthy lungs and clean air for all.

Be well,

Joel Africk
President & CEO
Respiratory Health Association

CARES Act Offers New Opportunities to Support Non-Profit Organizations

In response to the COVID-19 outbreak, Congress passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES). The new law provides more than $2 trillion in funding to help individuals and businesses affected by the new coronavirus. The CARES Act also provides additional support for non-profit organizations as they continue important mission work in communities across the country.

One notable element of this non-profit support is a series of tax incentives for charitable giving.  People who make donations to eligible non-profit organizations in 2020 can benefit from some of these temporary changes. What does this mean if you are thinking about donating to a charity like Respiratory Health Association?

  • You can donate up to $300 and make a one-time deduction from your 2021 tax return. You do not have to itemize these deductions.
  • If you itemize charitable giving when filing taxes, there will not be a limit to how much you can deduct on your 2021 return. This was previously capped at 60 percent of your adjusted gross income.
  • Companies can now deduct up to 25 percent of their charitable gifts and food donations made during 2020.
  • The law removes required minimum distributions from retirement plans. However, you can still make charitable gifts from these accounts to reduce your taxable income for 2020.

We understand many are experiencing hardship during these times, but if you are in a position to donate, we need your help. Individual gifts to Respiratory Health Association support programs helping those living with lung diseases like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), asthma, pulmonary fibrosis and lung cancer. As you may know, people with these conditions are at a greater risk of serious illness if they get COVID-19. To address these concerns, we continue to expand our resources for vulnerable populations during the pandemic.

We have developed guides about COVID-19 and COPD and asthma. And we’ve created updated information about smoking as a risk factor for severe effects from the coronavirus and updated tips to help you quit smoking or vaping. We’re also working to assess and meet the needs of pulmonary rehabilitation leaders and provide at-home resources for patients who are unable to attend in-person rehabilitation sessions.

If you’d like to support RHA’s work toward healthy lungs and clean air for all, you can donate here. If you have questions about ways to give to RHA, click here or e-mail Anastasia Schriber at [email protected].

Please note this information on the CARES Act and non-profit support is not intended as legal advice. Please refer to a financial professional for questions you may have.

Protect Your Lungs While Staying Home During COVID-19

As people spend more time inside during the COVID-19 outbreak, it’s important to recognize and reduce sources of pollution in your own home. Indoor air quality varies, but is often worse than outdoor air quality. However, you can improve the air quality in your home by reducing lung irritants generated indoors. Following some basic guidelines in your day-to-day routines can improve the health of those in your home who live with asthma and other lung diseases.

Cooking

gas stove can worsen indoor air quality

Gas stoves can increase indoor air pollution in your home if not properly ventilated.

People are cooking at home more often during the COVID-19 outbreak. Cooking creates moisture, which feeds mold and mildew growth – a common trigger for those living with asthma. It also exposes you to pollutants like nitrogen dioxide, particularly from gas stoves. Nitrogen dioxide is known to worsen asthma and COPD symptoms. Using a stove fan that vents to the outside can reduce pollution from cooking by 75 percent. Opening windows while cooking can also help keep the air in your home clean.

Bathing/Showering

With people home more often, your bathroom and shower may be used more. Moisture from showers can lead to mold and mildew growth, which may affect the lungs of people living with asthma. Use the bathroom fan to vent extra moisture to the outside. If you haven’t checked your fan lately, now is a good time. Remove any dust and dirt from the fan grill to keep it working properly. If your bathroom doesn’t have a fan, open a window if possible.

Cleaning

Regularly cleaning surfaces in your home is a good practice, and can also help prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Taking some precautions when cleaning can help reduce the amount of indoor pollution created. If you are cleaning with chemical solutions, try to open windows vent fumes from your space. Additionally, you should never combine ammonia and chlorine bleach cleaners. This can produce a toxic gas which could be dangerous, and especially those who live with asthma. If possible, use a vacuum cleaner, which limits dust levels in the air. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) also recommends removing your shoes when you enter your home, as they can bring in additional dirt, dust and germs.

Other Daily Activities

A number of other daily activities and products can worsen indoor air quality. Nail polish, candles and paint are just a few examples of products that can affect lungs, especially those of people living with lung disease. Open windows to circulate air in your home, or use these products outside if possible to protect those in your home living with asthma.

Smoking

Anyone in your home who smokes should do so outside, as smoke and vapor from tobacco and e-cigarette products can be especially irritating to the lungs of someone living with asthma. Also, if you live in multi-unit housing, be aware that some of your neighbors may be struggling at this time and their conditions could worsen from second hand smoke. If you are thinking about quitting, there are a number of resources to help you here.

Reduced activity outside the home has generally helped improve outdoor air quality. However, if you live near pollution sources like industrial facilities or major roadways, you may still risk contact with potentially harmful air pollution. Those living with asthma may also be sensitive to outdoor allergies. In these situations, opening windows is still a good option to ventilate your home. However, consider limiting the amount of time you leave them open. If opening windows is not possible, air filters may be another option to keep good air quality in your home. You should only use devices certified by a trusted source, as some filters use ionizing technology which can produce harmful gas inside your home. You can view a list of filters certified as safe here.

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Coronavirus and COPD: What You Should Know

It is important those living with COPD and their caregivers are well-informed about the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, and take proper steps to minimize the risk of infection. Since developments are fast-breaking, continue to follow trusted news sources or the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that can cause illness in people. Human coronaviruses are not new — they are common throughout the world and typically cause mild to moderate illnesses. The novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, is a new respiratory virus first identified in December 2019 as the cause of an outbreak in China. COVID-19 is likely more highly contagious than other highly contagious coronavirus strains such as SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) and MERS (Middle East respiratory syndrome).

People with underlying health conditions, including COPD, are at no greater risk of becoming infected with COVID-19 than others; however, they are more likely to experience serious complications if they become infected.

Transmission of Virus

Human coronaviruses are most commonly spread from close contact with an infected person to others through:

• the air, if someone coughs or sneezes;
• close personal contact, like touching or shaking hands; and
• touching an object or surface that has been exposed to the virus, then touching your mouth, nose, or eyes before washing your hands;

The current coronavirus, COVID-19, appears to occur mainly through respiratory transmission.

Symptoms

Most people who get sick with COVID-19 will develop mild to moderate respiratory symptoms. However, people who are more susceptible to infection may develop more severe disease. The most common symptoms include fever, tiredness, dry cough, and difficulty breathing. Some patients may also have aches and pains, runny nose, nasal congestions, sore throat or diarrhea.

Illness can begin 2 to 14 days after an exposure. If these symptoms sound like symptoms of influenza, you are correct. But the consequences of COVID-19 are potentially more serious, which is why if you experience these symptoms you are encouraged to seek medical attention. Most people infected with the virus – about 80% – recover from the disease without needing special treatment.

Important Steps for People Living with COPD as Coronavirus Spreads

1. Maintain at least a 30-day supply of your prescribed medications. Check with your insurance provider for refill terms.

2. Stock up on every day supplies in your home. If possible, ask someone to bring items to your home so you do not have to travel outside.

3. Check with your oxygen supplier to see how it will deal with COVID-19. It’s important to ensure that your routine oxygen needs will be met.

4. Establish a COVID-19 hygiene routine for people entering home (i.e using hand sanitizer, handwashing, etc.), but try to avoid contact with others as much as possible especially if  COVID-19 outbreak is identified in your community.

5. If home health nurses or aides assist you with household tasks, ask what steps they are taking to ensure prevention practices are in place.

6. Stay inside unless absolutely necessary, like to visit your health care provider. If you must go out, keep a 6 foot distance from others and wash your hands often.

Everyday Steps Those Living with COPD Can Take to Further Protect Against Coronavirus

1. Wash your hands often during the day with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer to be sure you’ve washed your hands for 20 seconds? Hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice. Keep a bottle or two of hand sanitizer nearby.

2. Routinely clean surfaces in your home (wipes work great) and avoid directly touching surfaces that may contain germs. This includes your telephone, the TV remote control, gym equipment, and the steering wheel of your car.

3. Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands. This is good advice all year round. Once contaminated, your hands can transfer the virus to your eyes, nose or mouth.

4. Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash. Cough into your elbow instead of your hands.

5. Stay in your home and avoid close contact with others who are sick.

6. If you have not yet quit smoking, please do so now and give your respiratory system a break. If you contract COVID-19 you will need your respiratory system to be as strong as possible.

Additional Resources

 

Do you live with COPD or care for someone who does? Sign-up for our e-newsletter which contains practical tips for living well, the latest in COPD research and legislative updates that may affect you. You will also receive an annual Inspiration newsletter by mail. 

Interested in hearing more from Respiratory Health Association about important lung health and clean air policy issues? Sign-up to join our advocacy e-mail list to receive quarterly updates on what we’re doing to help move Illinois toward a healthier future.