Icon - Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Updated Thursday 26 March

Latest update:

During these uncertain and difficult times, we're working with the medical community and partners to provide you up to date information about the coronavirus (COVID-19).

- Kidney transplants from live and deceased donors will no longer proceed, this will be reviewed weekly and transplant coordinators will keep patients up-to-date on changes.

To help slow the spread, the Australian Government has advised, the following social isolation measures: 

- Australians are being ordered to not travel overseas

- The only essential travel is allowed between the States and Territories 

- Temporary closure of registered and licensed clubs (excluding bottleshops attached to these venues), pubs, hotels (excluding accommodation), gyms, indoor sporting venues, cinemas, casinos, entertainment venues, restaurants and cafes (which will be restricted to take away and/or home delivery), places of worship, weddings, funerals (other than very small groups with the 4sqM per person rule to apply). 

- Staying at home when you are unwell

  • Keeping a distance of 1.5 metres between you and other people whenever possible
  • Minimising physical contact, especially with people at higher risk such as older people and people with existing health conditions.
  • To protect vulnerable Australians, the Government has advised reducing visitors to all residential aged care facilities and remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

Clinic appointments

Please be aware that most hospitals and medical centres have moved to non-essential visits happening via telephone or Telehealth. Please check with your clinical service before attending appointments. Please keep your mobile telephones at hand. Please ensure that your health professionals have updated contact details for you. This is particularly important for patients receiving dialysis or patients who have received a kidney transplant.

Dialysis

People receiving dialysis should still turn up for their usual treatment. It is very important that you remain well, and receive their full treatment. All dialysis units are working to put the best plans in place to keep patients safe.

All dialysis units are working out responses based on local capacity and logistics. Please talk to your dialysis nurses to find out how your unit is responding and note that you may be required to have dialysis at a different center.

Transplants and immune suppressing medications

We understand that patients with transplants or on immune suppressing medications are anxious at this time. At this stage the clinical community is very vigilant about monitoring infection rates in this group of patients but there is no clear evidence of more cases. All patients with any type of kidney disease should take the recommended precautions to protect from infection.

Home medicine service

To support and protect some of the most vulnerable members of our community, the Governement  has immediately implemented the Australian Governments Home Medicine Service for PBS prescriptions for eligible customers. 

This temporary service allows for the Australian Government to subsidize home delivery of Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) and Repatriation Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (RPBS) medications. Importantly this service removes the need for a patient to visit the pharmacy in person.

The delivery service will be free of charge for eligible customers. Learn more here


 Want more information?

There is a large amount of unverified information circulating on social media. It is important that you seek information on coronavirus from trusted sources.

Visit the Australian Government’s Coronavirus Information Page. This page is regularly updated with the latest information.

Another trusted source is the World Health Organisation Advice for the Public Page, which can be found here.

If you have questions about coronavirus please call the Australian Government’s Coronavirus Health Information Line on 1800 020 080. The helpline operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

We're here to help

We’re here to help you during these difficult times. Our Kidney Helpline can answer your kidney health queries, COVID-19 questions and help connect you to services. Speak to the health information team today on 1800 454 363 or email Kidney.Helpline@kidney.org.au

Sign up to receive kidney news, information on vital services and events, and general kidney health information, click here.

About COVID-19

Coronavirus (COVID-19) information

Coronavirus (COVID-19) is a disease caused by a virus that began spreading in people in December 2019. It has been classified as a pandemic by the WHO.

To help stop the virus spreading everyone should practice good hygiene including washing your hands regularly, using a tissue and covering your mouth when you cough or sneeze and avoiding close contact with others.

There is no need for alarm but people with kidney disease should be aware that, just like with the flu, they are at a higher risk of severe symptoms and complications from coronavirus. 

It’s important to get symptoms checked out early, and make sure you are in touch with your doctor and renal units.

What should you do if you feel unwell?

If you experience symptoms of coronavirus you should seek medical attention.

The Department of Health provides the following advice:

“Call ahead of time to book an appointment. Tell your doctor about your symptoms, travel history and any recent close contact with someone who has coronavirus.

If you must leave home to see your doctor, wear a surgical mask (if you have one) to protect others.

If you have serious symptoms such as difficulty breathing, call 000 for urgent medical help.”

For people with transplants or those on dialysis please contact your own renal unit for further advice. Each renal unit is working on their own response – it is important you follow this information as it emerges.

Symptoms

People with coronavirus may experience:

  • Fever
  • Coughing
  • Sore throat
  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of breath

Coronavirus, just like any viral infection, can affect your affect your kidney function especially if you become very unwell, dehydrated or get another infection on top. Kidney Health Australia has a sick day management plan, which we recommend all patients and health professionals to follow, please donwload here

How it spreads

The virus can spread from person to person through:

  • Close contact with an infectious person (including in the 24 hours before they started showing symptoms)
  • Contact with droplets from an infected person’s cough or sneeze
  • Touching objects or surfaces (like doorknobs or tables) that have cough or sneeze droplets from an infected person, and then touching your mouth or face.

Good hygiene

Everyone must practise good hygiene to protect against infection and prevent the virus spread.

Good hygiene includes:

  • Covering your coughs and sneezes with your elbow or a tissue
  • Disposing of tissues properly
  • Washing your hands often with soap and water, including before and after eating and after going to the toilet
  • Using alcohol-based hand sanitisers
  • Cleaning and disinfecting surfaces
  • If you are sick, avoiding contact with others and staying more than 1.5 metres away from people

Read more about protective measures against coronavirus on the World Health Organization website.

If you have a confirmed case, you need to self-quarantine to prevent it spreading to other people.

Who is most at risk of a serious illness?

Some people who are infected may not get sick at all, some will get mild symptoms from which they will recover easily, and others may become very ill, very quickly.

From previous experience with other coronaviruses, the people at most risk of serious infection are:

  • People with compromised immune systems (e.g. people with transplants and cancer)
  • Elderly people
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, as they have higher rates of chronic illness
  • People with diagnosed chronic medical conditions (such as kidney disease, diabetes, cardiovascular disease – including hypertension, heart disease and stroke – and respiratory disease
  • People in group residential settings
  • People in detention facilities

At this stage the risk to children and babies, and the role children play in the transmission of COVID-19, is not clear. However, there has so far been a low rate of confirmed COVID-19 cases among children, relative to the broader population.

 

COVID-19 and your kidneys

The importance of coronavirus and the kidneys

People with no pre-existing kidney disease:

In people with no pre-existing kidney disease who become infected with coronavirus should have their kidney function monitored during the infection as protein in the urine (proteinuria) and acute kidney injury (AKI) can occur with coronavirus. AKI is a strong risk factor for CKD later on. All people with AKI or proteinuria should be followed up for chronic kidney disease after they recover.

People with chronic kidney disease:

There is no need for alarm but people with kidney disease should be aware that, just like with the flu, they are at a higher risk of severe symptoms and complications from coronavirus. Coronavirus, just like any viral infection, can affect your affect your kidney function especially if you become very unwell, dehydrated or get another infection on top, and there is a risk of developing acute kidney injury (AKI). Kidney Health Australia has a sick day management plan, which we recommend all patients and health professionals to follow, please download here.

Regarding outpatient clinic visits, please work with your local renal unit. Most units have put in place Telehealth or telephone consultations in place to help you avoid having to come to the hospital and congregate with other patients in the waiting room. Please ensure your unit has your most up-to-date contact details.

Please ensure you have enough supply of medications. While there is no need to stockpile medications, please ensure you have at least a fortnights supply.

People with end-stage kidney disease

For people with transplants or those on dialysis please contact your own renal unit for further advice. Each renal unit is working on their own response – it is important you follow this information as it emerges.

People receiving dialysis

People receiving dialysis should still turn up for their usual treatment. It is very important that you remain well, and receive their full treatment. All dialysis units are working to put the best plans in place to keep patients safe.

If you are unwell, particularly if you have a fever, please do not attend your dialysis unit, but ring first. The nursing staff will then direct you as to the appropriate action. 

All dialysis units are working out responses based on local capacity and logistics. Please talk to your dialysis nurses to find out how your unit is responding. You should be prepared that in some circumstances you may not end up having dialysis in your regular unit. Please think about your transportation options. 

Transplants and immune suppressing medications

At this stage the clinical community is very vigilant about monitoring infection rates in this group of patients but there is no clear evidence of more cases. All patients with any type of kidney disease should take the recommended precautions to protect from infection.

Blood pressure medications

There have been some concerns that some blood pressure medications (eg ACE inhibitors and angiotensin receptor blockers), which are commonly used for blood pressure control in people with chronic kidney disease, make it easier for the coronavirus to infect a person.

This is controversial and there is not enough evidence to advise people to stop taking these medications. In fact, sudden stopping of these medications may cause major health issues. If you are taking an ACE inhibitors or angiotensin receptor blockers you should work with your doctor regarding risks and benefits.

Anti-inflammatory medications

The evidence regarding ibuprofen and COVID19 risk and outcomes is not definite, but nevertheless people living with kidney disease should still proceed with caution due to the risk of drug-related acute kidney injury. 

In addition, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) can affect kidney function in people with chronic kidney disease and these should only be used under direction of your doctor.

Availability of medicines

The Department of Health has advised that there are no current shortages or supply issues medicines. People with medical conditions are advised to order and obtain your medicines and supplies as usual. There is no need to stockpile.

The Australian Governments Home Medicine Service for PBS prescriptions for eligible customers. This temporary service allows for the subsidy of home delivery of medications. Importantly this service removes the need for a patient to visit the pharmacy in person. Learn more here.

Mental health

As the number of coronavirus cases rise across Australia, the level of anxiety within the community is increasing. We have a number of tips for looking after your mental health on our website, in addition, the Australian Psychological Society has resources for coping during this crisis.

- Tips for coping with social isolation

- Tips for coping with coronavirus anxiety 

FAQs

There is no need for alarmMost people will have mild symptoms.  

People with kidney disease should be aware that, just like with the flu or any other significant infection they are at a higher risk of severe symptoms and complications from coronavirus. Coronavirus, just like any viral infection, can affect your kidney function especially if you become very unwell, dehydrated or get another infection on top of it (such as a bacterial infection). Any intercurrent illness in a person with kidney disease can “stress” the kidneys – this is called acute kidney injury (AKI). Some patients with COVID-19 may get protein in the urine which needs to be checked.  

People who are critically ill and in intensive care due to COVID-19may develop kidney failure can meaning they could need dialysis. 

Kidney Health Australia has a sick day management plan, which we recommend all patients and health professionals to follow, read here. 

We hope you find this information useful and we encourage you to visit our website regularly. 

Additionally, you may also wish to contact our Kidney Helpline on 1800 454 363 (Choose Option 1) or email Kidney.Helpline@kidney.org.au to discuss your query. 

Transplants 

Do transplant recipients require more specific instruction?  

At this stage, transplant recipients should follow general advice given to the community. There has been no sign of increased cases in transplanted patients yetbut this is being tracked carefully in Australia. 

We recommend you try to speak to your renal specialist or transplant unit with your specific concerns and to take all precautions that are recommended at this time regarding COVID-19. Please continue to take all prescribed medications as normal and ensure you have two weeks of medications on hand 

The Australian Government has subsidised the home delivery of Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) and Repatriation Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (RPBS) medications. Importantly this service removes the need for a patient to visit the pharmacy in person. The delivery service will be free of charge for eligible customers. Learn more here. 

I have had a transplant, should I be going to work? 

Depending on your job, your employer may already have made provisions and plans for working at home. Should this not be possible, we would encourage you to talk to your employer regarding your concerns, take all precautions and talk to your renal specialist or renal unit.  

In addition, it is important to adhere to the social distancing measures put in place by the governmentlearn more here 

Is it advisable for Kidney Transplant recipients to use cafés for take away food currently? 

At this time take all precautions that are recommended regarding COVID-19 including opting for contactless delivery, pay via card instead of cash, or ask a friend or family member to pick up the takeaway food and drink on your behalf. 

There is no indication that takeaway food is unsafe nowhowever, as always, purchase food from a reputable food outlet. 

It's also a good time to think about eating healthy food, takeaway often has a lot of salt, sugar and fat, learn more here. 

Dialysis 

I’m worried about going to dialysis, what should I do? 

People receiving dialysis should still turn up for their usual treatment. It is very important that you remain well and receive your full treatment. All dialysis units are working to put the best plans in place to keep patients safe. 

If you are unwell, particularly if you have a fever, please do not attend your dialysis unit, but ring first. The nursing staff will then direct you as to the appropriate action.  

All dialysis units are working out responses based on local capacity and logistics. Please talk to your dialysis nurses to find out how your unit is responding. You should be prepared that in some circumstances you may not end up having dialysis in your regular unit. Please think about your transportation options. 

Single Kidney 

Am I more at risk living with one kidney? 

There is no need for alarm for people with a single kidney. This includes people who have donated a kidney, have had a kidney removed for cancer or other reasons, or were born with one kidney.  

There is no increased risk of catching COVID19. Continue to take all precautions that are recommended for the general public at this time regarding COVID-19. 

Depending on how well your one kidney is functioning, you may be more at risk of acute kidney injury (kidney stress) if you fall ill. You might not have as much ‘reserve in your kidney function. You should still follow the Sick Day Management plan. Please contact your usual doctor or clinic if you become unwell immediately.  

Kids and Youth 

Should my child with kidney disease be going to school/childcare/etc. 

It is normal to feel anxious about this. The discussion about schools is rapidly changing and varies between states.  

We recommend you try to speak to your child’s renal specialist or renal unit staff for specific advice for your childThe advice you receive may be tailored to your child’s specific health situation. With the recommendations from your child’s healthcare team, talk to the school to make the appropriate arrangements 

In the meantime, take all precautions that are recommended at this time regarding COVID-19 including explaining social distancing to your child and asking them to practice this. If they are taking medications, make sure they keep taking them, and that you have two weeks of stock at home 

For tips on explaining social distancing to your child, listen here. 

Medication 

How does the Home Medicine Delivery service work? 

The pharmacies will organize this, but you need to contact your regular pharmacy to arrange the delivery with them. 

This service is a good way to ensure you stay safe while taking your medications. Suddenly running out is not a good idea so please plan ahead. If you are having difficulty accessing medication, talk to your kidney doctor immediately.  

Learn more about the Home Medicine Delivery service here  

I am on immunosuppressing medication, should I stop taking them?  

Do not stop taking your medications without speaking with your doctor first. There are risks associated with stopping medication. There is currently no recommendation to change immune system medications for transplant patients. Only undertake this in consultation with your specialist. 

Hospital and GP appointments 

What should do if I have hospital and GP appointments during this period?  

We advise everyone to a call ahead and check if they really need to be there in person. Most clinics are moving to online/telephone clinics, unless it is necessary to see a patient. Consider whether appointments can be postponed - for many kidney patients this is not safe, and they still need to have a review, even by phone.  Do not let COVID-19 put you off, these appointments are very important. 

Prescriptions are being posted out or faxed to pharmacies to ensure supply of medications, you can speak with your doctor to organise this. 

You will still need to do blood tests as it is impossible to tell how our kidneys are going otherwise. Blood collection centers remain open with many not asking patients with signs of coronavirus, if you are concerned, call ahead to find out what they are doing. In some cases, they may be able to arrange someone to come to your house.  

Should you need to go to a pathology center, hospital or GP, it is important to maintain social distancing and good hygiene. 

Will my doctor be available? Are they too busy? What if my doctor has been exposed to someone with the virus, am I safe?  

It may be that your specific doctor is not available, but health services will provide appropriate clinical advice for consultation as needed. It is very likely that health services will be stretched during this crisis, but planning is well advanced to make sure appropriate clinic coverage is available. Health care professionals are acutely aware of the disease transmission routes and should be practicing social distancing and the appropriate use of personal protective equipment. 

Social distancing and social isolation 

What do I do when I need to get food or medical supplies if I am supposed to be complying with social distancing?  

If you need groceries or medicines (including prescription medicines), ask a family member or friend (who is not in isolation) to deliver them to your home or call your pharmacy to arrange delivery. To prevent infecting other people, make sure you receive non-contact delivery. 

What if someone I live with has COVID-19 symptoms?  

We strongly recommend that person have their symptoms confirmed with the GP. It is important they call the local GP and discuss this with them before presenting at the clinic. They may need to be tested.  

It is also important you make sure you always maintain a safe distance from that person and practice social distancing as per the recommendations until it is known whether they are infected or not 

If you identify that someone you live with or have come in contact with is infected with COVID-19 you should immediately notify your GP, kidney doctor or renal unit and receive further specialised advice.  

Should I wear a face mask to protect me from contracting COVID-19?  

Currently, there is no recommendation to wear a face mask if you are not sick or have not been recommended to wear one by a medical professional. Surgical masks in the community are only helpful in preventing people who have coronavirus disease from spreading it to others. If you are well, you do not need to wear a surgical mask. There is little evidence that widespread use of surgical masks in healthy people prevents transmission in public. 

What will help protect you is social distancing and good hand hygiene. 

Are you worried about the COVID-19 pandemic, the changes happening in the world right now or are anxious about being in isolation? 

This is perfectly normal, and it is natural you would you like to speak to someone about it. 

Contact one of the services below for support or talk to your general practitioner.  

  • Lifeline Australia: 13 11 14  
  • Kids Helpline: 1800 551800  
  • Beyond Blue: 1300 224 636  
  • Australian Psychological Society: https://www.psychology.org.au/COVID-19-Australians  
  • Kidney Health Australia: Mind and Spirit 
  • Kidney Health Australia Facebook Page 
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