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Coronavirus and Mesothelioma Patients

Coronavirus, or COVID-19, has swept the entire globe and has become a universal pandemic. The virus has been reported in all 50 states and is responsible for 100 deaths in the United States. COVID-19 is a respiratory virus that affects the lungs. While illnesses caused by the COVID-19 infection are usually mild, it can lead to serious illness. Mesothelioma patients are at a heightened risk of catching the COVID-19 coronavirus. The World Health Organization (WHO) has stated that roughly one out of every five people who are infected with COVID-19 will require hospitalization. 

Mesothelioma is a rare, terminal form of cancer caused by the exposure to asbestos. Pleural mesothelioma is the most prevalent form of the cancer. When asbestos is inhaled, tiny asbestos fibers attach to the mesothelium of the lungs. After several years, malignant tumors could start to form and spread throughout the lungs. This can ultimately lead to a diagnosis of malignant mesothelioma. 

What is Coronavirus Disease?

Coronaviruses (CoV) are found within a large and complex family of viruses. These viruses can cause mild illnesses from the common cold to much more acute viruses such as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV). Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV). 

Coronavirus disease, COVID-19, is a newly detected strain that first appeared in Wuhan, a city in China. After its discovery in 2019, it was revealed that this particular type of strain had not been previously identified in humans. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “Coronaviruses are zoonotic, meaning they are transmitted between animals and people. Detailed investigations found that SARS-CoV was transmitted from civet cats to humans and MERS-CoV from dromedary camels to humans. Several known coronaviruses are circulating in animals that have not yet infected humans.”

Serious Risk to Patients with Pleural Mesothelioma

Mesothelioma usually develops in the mesothelioma of the lung cavity. Pleural mesothelioma spreads through the lungs and to other parts of the thorax. Patients with pleural mesothelioma have a weakened immune system, and their lungs are constantly working on overdrive. Contracting COVID-19, in addition to already having pleural mesothelioma, can overwhelm the body. This could cause serious complications, including:

  • Cellular or fluid waste (exudate)
  • Cellular growth in the lining of the air sacs
  • Lung swelling
  • Irregularly large cells 

A respiratory illness such as COVID-19 can be extremely dangerous to a mesothelioma patient. A new study recently published in the Journal of Thoracic Oncology reveals the impressionable effects of “early phase” pneumonia caused by COVID-19 in lung cancer patients. 

In the study, two patients who recently underwent lung lobectomies for adenocarcinoma were later found to have had the COVID-19 coronavirus at the time of the surgery. The pathological examination of the tissue cells showed damage from exudate, increased fluid, and increased growth in the lining of the air sacs, and abnormally large cells. The study concluded that lung cancer patients infected with the virus are at risk for what is referred to as “opportunistic pneumonia.”

Symptoms of COVID-19

The symptoms of the COVID-19 are generally mild and begin gradually. Common symptoms of the COVID-19 coronavirus include: 

  • Cough
  • Shortness of Breath
  • Fever
  • Tiredness

Some patients may also experience muscle aches and pains, runny nose, nasal congestion, sore throat, or diarrhea. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “[s]ome people become infected but don’t develop any symptoms and don’t feel unwell. Most people (about 80%) recover from the disease without needing special treatment. Around 1 out of every 6 people who gets COVID-19 becomes seriously ill and develops difficulty breathing. Older people, and those with underlying medical problems like high blood pressure, heart problems or diabetes, are more likely to develop serious illness. People with fever, cough and difficulty breathing should seek medical attention.”

The “incubation period” refers to the time between catching the virus and beginning to present symptoms of the illness. According to the World Health Organization, “[m]ost estimates of the incubation period for COVID-19 range from 1-14 days, most commonly around five days.”

The COVID-19 can become severe and have, in some cases, caused death. The virus is confirmed and formally diagnosed with a laboratory test. Some states and local agencies have implemented “drive-thru” testing sites to prevent the unnecessary spread of the virus to others. Antibiotics are not prescribed to patients with COVID-19 because they do not work against viruses. Antibiotics only treat bacterial infections.

A vaccine has not yet been developed to combat the COVID-19 coronavirus. To date, there is no antiviral medicine on the market to prevent or treat the COVID-19 coronavirus. The World Health Organization is working to develop vaccines, treatments, and antiviral drugs. 

How does the COVID-19 Coronavirus Spread?

The virus can be spread person to person, meaning people can contract COVID-19 from others who are infected. It can spread through tiny droplets from the mouth or nose when an infected person coughs or exhales. Sometimes the droplets can fall on surfaces, and others that touch the surfaces can touch their face, eyes, or mouth, allowing the virus to enter the body. The World Health Organization recommends that it is critical to stand more than three feet away from a person who may be sick. 

Since this is a novel coronavirus, meaning the COVID-19 is a new form of the virus, the World Health Organization is conducting ongoing research to learn how the virus is spread.

The chances of catching COVID-19 from a person who has no symptoms is very low. The World Health Organization explains that “many people with COVID-19 experience only mild symptoms. This is particularly true in the early stages of the disease. It is, therefore, possible to catch COVID-19 from someone who has, for example, just a mild cough and does not feel ill.”

COVID-19 Coronavirus Impact on the United States

To date, COVID-19 has been reported in all 50 states and has claimed over 100 American lives. As of Wednesday, March 10, 2020, the New York Times reported, “…at least 7,047 people across every state, plus Washington, D.C., and three U.S. territories, have tested positive for coronavirus, according to a New York Times database, and at least 121 patients with the virus have died.”

The COVID-19 outbreak is spreading like wildfire throughout the United States. This is extremely apparent viewing the numbers to date versus just a couple of weeks ago. At the beginning of March, an estimated 70 cases were reported in the United States, and most of the cases were tied to travel overseas. However, fast forward to March 18, 2020, new cases have been reported not by the hundreds but by the thousands. This includes over 2,500 between the start of Tuesday, March 17, 2020, to midday Wednesday, March 18, 2020. According to a source, “[t]he virus is now spreading in parts of the country where it had not been identified as recently as 10 days ago, including Louisiana, which now has at least 240 known cases.”

Washington state has seen the most deaths to date. Around 100 new patients are being reported to having COVID-19 each day. The state’s hospitals have stretched their resources and have resorted to the use of a motel as an isolation area. Washington State’s Dow Constantine, executive of King County, told the New York Times, “We are at a critical moment in this crisis … go to work if you must. But hunker down if you are able. Postpone anything you can. Treat the next two weeks as a period of self-quarantine, to protect yourself and the lives and health of your loved ones and the entire community.”

Fifty-six people have died in Washington State as a result of the COVID-19 coronavirus. The first death in the United States occurred in Washington State was reported on February 29, 2020. Of all of the people in the United States, all of the patients who have died from the virus have mostly been in their “70s, 80s, and 90s.” According to the New York Times, the youngest known fatality to date was in a man in his 40s. Across the nation in New York, 2,382 cases have been reported. 

The elderly are at an increased risk of catching the virus, especially the elderly with preexisting conditions such as mesothelioma. There is great concern that after the death of seven nursing home residents in Washington State that these types of facilities will be heavily impacted. According to an article published this month by the New York Times, “Statistics from China show that the infection caused by the virus, called Covid-19, kills nearly 15 percent of people over 80 years old who have it and 8 percent of people in their 70s — the very population that makes up more than half the population of these homes.”

Without a COVID-19 pandemic, nearly 380,000 people die each year from infections at long-term care facilities and roughly 1 million contract infections in them. Betsey McCaughey was a former lieutenant governor of New York who currently leads the nonprofit Committee to Reduce Infection Deaths. Ms. McCaughey told the New York Times, “Nursing homes are incubators of epidemics… every facility should be holding a boot camp to train health care workers; otherwise, hospitals and nursing homes will become the most dangerous places to be.”

Cruise ships have also reported several dozens of infected Americans aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship. The virus quickly spread to the passengers and crew. Other Americans reported COVID-19 who were on other cruises such as an Egyptian cruise. 

The Global Impact of the Coronavirus

The 2019 outbreak of the novel coronavirus originated in Wuhan, Hubei, Providence, China. Researchers believe it was a case of an animal to human transmission at a live animal market. A recent Chinese study examined all COVID-19 cases reported through February 11, 2020, and data was gathered from China’s Infectious Disease Information System. The purpose of the study was to provide an exploratory and descriptive analysis of all cases. 

The study evaluated 72,314 records, of which 44,672 (61.8%) confirmed cases, 16,186 (22.4%) suspected cases, 10,567 (14.6%) clinically diagnosed cases (Hubei Province only), and 889 asymptomatic cases (1.2%).[1]

Of the confirmed cases pool, the study found that 86.6% ranged in ages from 30-70 years. The confirmed cases study also released a total of 1,023 deaths as a result of COVID-19, leaving an overall case fatality rate of 2.3%. The study found that, 

“COVID-19 spread outward from Hubei Province sometime after December 2019, and by February 11, 2020, 1,386 counties across all 31 provinces were affected. The epidemic curve of onset of symptoms peaked around January 23–26, then began to decline leading up to February 11. A total of 1,716 health workers have become infected and 5 have died (0.3%).”

Overall, the researchers concluded that the COVID-19 coronavirus has spread rapidly, taking only thirty short days to extend from Hubei to the rest of China. 

Coronavirus Precautions for Mesothelioma Victims

Mesothelioma patients should take the COVID-19 coronavirus threat very seriously and do whatever they can to keep themselves protected during this worldwide pandemic. Mesothelioma patients can greatly reduce their chances of catching COVID-19 by taking the following basic precautions: 

  • Social Distancing – several popular organizations have canceled events that include large crowds (March Madness, political rallies, and holiday celebrations). Initially, the Government suggested limiting group gatherings to 50 or less. However, recently that number dwindled down to ten or less. Also, many states throughout the nation have been forced to close bars and in-dining restaurants. Stores have also adjusted their hours to allow for restocking and sanitation. The goal is to avoid large crowds since COVID-19 is extremely contagious. The risks of contracting the virus increase when in close proximity with others.
  • Properly Washing your Hands – It is important not only to wash your hands properly but to wash them as well effectively as possible. This can be accomplished by using soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds each wash. Sometimes people like to sing a song like “Happy Birthday” while they wash their hands to be sure they are washing them for the minimum 20 seconds. Especially during the pandemic, it is critical to wash your hands frequently. Hands should also be washed before eating, after using the bathroom, and after touching any pubic surfaces (doorknobs or handles, railings, carts, etc.). If you are not able to wash your hands, it is recommended that you carry hand sanitizer. Washing your hands is important because using soap or alcohol-based sanitizers kill viruses that may be present. Experts recommend that alcohol-based hand sanitizers contain at least 60 percent alcohol content. 
  • Avoid Touching your Face, Eyes, or Mouth – COVID-19 can enter the body even if an infected person does not sneeze or cough on you. This is because the virus can live on surfaces that you may inadvertently touch without thinking about it. With that being the case, the virus can enter the body by one’s hands touching their face, eyes, or mouth. Practicing good respiratory hygiene is also relevant to protecting yourself and others. If you cough, you should cover your mouth and nose using the bend of your elbow. When sneezing or coughing, a tissue should be used and immediately disposed of. 
  • Disinfect and Clean Regularly – When in doubt, give it a quick clean. This is particularly true for commonly touched objects and surfaces. Surfaces that are regularly used can hold the virus, so it is vital to disinfect surfaces ranging from appliances, countertops, and door handles. 
  • Avoid Travel – Air travel or public transportation should be limited or avoided altogether if possible. Planes, trains, buses, subway, taxis, or other forms of travel could be breeding grounds for the virus. If travel is necessary, cleanliness should be a top priority. If a mesothelioma treatment is scheduled for out of town, there may be a way to have the treatment moved to a local facility. 
  • Reschedule In-Person Doctor Visits – If a patient is not actively undergoing treatment, it is wise to delay a trip to the doctor where the risk of infection is higher. Healthcare providers are on high alert during the COVID-19 outbreak, and by pushing back a non-essential appointment, it could take the stress off hospital staff.
  • React to Symptoms Immediately – If you develop symptoms of the COVID-19 coronavirus, it is important to contact your local healthcare provider. It has been recommended that you call your local authority (health department) first to see where tests are available. The World Health Organization explains that “[n]ational and local authorities will have the most up to date information on the situation in your area. Calling in advance will allow your health care provider to quickly direct you to the right health facility. This will also protect you and help prevent the spread of viruses and other infections.”
  • Shield Against Other Dangerous Viruses – There are a plethora of viruses that can negatively impact mesothelioma patients. As a precautionary measure, mesothelioma patients should speak with their healthcare provider about getting vaccinated for influenza. 

The global pandemic has caused mass panic and chaos across the world. As a result, grocery stores are emptying their shelves at faster rates than they can restock. Hand sanitizer is one of the most sold out items in the nation. You can make your own hand sanitizer at home. Even better, you may already have the ingredients. The World Health Organization recommends letting your homemade sanitizing gel sit for a minimum of 72 hours before use. This allows time for the sanitizer to kill any germs or bacteria that may have inadvertently seeped in during the mixing process. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) stress that washing your hands is the best and most effective way to kill bacteria and germs. They contend that hand sanitizer should be used as a “last resort.” However, having hand sanitizer on hand is a good idea just in case. The Centers for Disease Control states that the sanitizer must be at least 60 percent alcohol to be effective, but anything over that is better, and experts recommend for a minimum of 75 percent. The best thing to ensure proper potency is a bottle of 99 percent isopropyl alcohol. 

There are several different recipes you can use to make your own hand sanitizer. One of the easiest and most popular is with aloe vera gel. For this recipe, you only need three ingredients: 

  • Isopropyl alcohol
  • Aloe Vera Gel
  • Tea Tree Oil

You will need to start by mixing three parts of the alcohol to one part of the aloe vera gel. Then just add a couple of drops of tea tree oil. It is that simple and will get you by in a pinch. 

Similarities Between Pleural Mesothelioma and Coronavirus  

Both Pleural mesothelioma and the COVID-19 coronavirus affect the lungs, but that is not the only thing they have in common. Coronavirus can cause “flu-like” symptoms, which include shortness of breath, cough, trouble breathing, fatigue, sore throat, coughing, fever, and achiness. Such symptoms also apply to pleural mesothelioma, specifically shortness of breath.

Another similarity between mesothelioma and coronavirus is that they can affect any person, and any person can develop either disease. COVID-19 coronavirus is contagious and is easily spread person to person. It spreads when droplets are expelled when an infected person sneezes or coughs. The droplets containing the virus can remain on surfaces and travel into the body through the nose or mouth. 

Conversely, mesothelioma is not contagious and only develops as a result of the exposure to asbestos. That means that anyone who is exposed to asbestos is put at risk for later developing mesothelioma.

Stay Informed on the Latest Developments of the COVID-19 Coronavirus.

Mesothelioma patients need more protection and more resources to appropriately the challenges they will face during this global pandemic. Here are a couple of helpful links that provide live, up-to-date information:

  • The World Health Organization (WHO)
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

The COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic has led to historical closures, cancellations, and travel restrictions. Patients with mesothelioma are especially vulnerable to COVID-19. COVID-19 coronavirus can severely and adversely impact mesothelioma patients. Staying proactive and aware is the best way to stay informed and healthy. 


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