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These uncertain times are stressful and upsetting for people who’ve been diagnosed with asbestos-related diseases such as mesothelioma.

Coronavirus (or COVID-19 as it’s also known) is a potentially serious respiratory illness for those with underlying medical conditions.

Although the virus can range in severity from person to person, those suffering from mesothelioma may be particularly at risk of serious infection. This is because mesothelioma can weaken your immune system and your body’s ability to fight the virus.

In this article, specialist asbestos disease solicitor Andrew Stinchcombe summarises the useful guidance which has been issued by Cancer Research UK to vulnerable patients with underlying medical conditions.

What should I do to protect myself?

  • Stay at home and avoid face-to-face contact for at least 12 weeks. You can continue to have visits from anyone who helps you with essential care and support, such as healthcare staff or carers.
  • Any visitors should wash their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds when they arrive at your home and often during the visit.
  • As a mesothelioma patient, you may have received a letter this week about ‘shielding’. This means you should:
  • Avoid anyone who has possible coronavirus symptoms
  • Stay at home
  • Avoid family gatherings, even in private spaces
  • Ask family or friends to arrange shopping for you, including food and medicines and leave them at your door
  • Use an online delivery service. If this is difficult, there may a local volunteer group or charities that can help.
  • If you have not had a letter about shielding, talk to your GP or mesothelioma specialist.
  • Family members and people who live with you should practice social distancing as outlined by Public Health England. These measures include:
  • Trying to keep 2 meters (3 steps) away from people you live with. Sleep in a different bed where possible.
  • Using separate towels to other people in your house.
  • Using a separate bathroom (if possible). If you need to share a toilet and bathroom, this should be cleaned after you use them.
  • Everyone should wash their hands regularly, avoid touching their face and clean frequently touched surfaces.

What are the symptoms of coronavirus?

The symptoms of coronavirus include:

  • a high temperature of above 37.8C and, or
  • a new continuous cough – this means coughing a lot for more than an hour, or three or more coughing episodes in 24 hours (if you usually have a cough, it may be worse than usual)

As a mesothelioma patient, if you are having coronavirus symptoms, you should consult with your doctor or healthcare provider as soon as possible. It is important not to put your health at further risk. If you are feeling seriously unwell, you should call 999.

How do I cope during the coronavirus outbreak?

It is perfectly normal to feel anxious during these unprecedented times.

As a result of the virus, there may be changes to your hospital appointments and treatment plan. You may be having telephone appointments with your consultant or specialist nurse instead of face-to-face appointments. You might miss the reassurance of going into your clinic and seeing familiar faces.

Your healthcare provider will be doing their best to support and protect you from developing coronavirus.

It can be very difficult to stay at home and avoid face-to-face contact, so it’s important to stay in touch with family and friends by phone or online.

It can also help to talk to others about how you are feeling. Knowing you are not alone can help you cope better.

The charity Mesothelioma UK has a list of asbestos disease support groups that can offer online and telephone support. In the South of England and Wales these include: HASAG, SWASAG and the AASC.

If you need any further advice about coronavirus, The Department of Health and Social Care and the NHS are good sources of useful information.

All guidance and advice correct at the time of publication on 25/03/2020.