Published on February 12, 2020
The headlines are pretty scary with the news talking about the coronavirus, now called COVID-19 (novel coronavirus), especially when the head of the World Health Organization labels the virus as a serious world health problem. Add to that, people are contracting the virus in multiple countries outside China. For me, as a blood cancer patient with both chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) and myelofibrosis (MF), it’s unsettling and forcing a change in plans.
Yesterday my doctor sent me the results of testing my immunoglobulins—IgA, IgG, IgM, and all my levels were low. That is why, for the past two years, I have received monthly immunoglobulin infusions like many other patients who get the same to boost my immune system. While I am delighted to have avoided infection, the infusion has helped with the IgG but the other levels remain low. I know I’m concerned, and you may be worried too on how this latest virus will affect you.
Esther and I usually take at least one big trip a year. We have never been to Asia, so we’ve been planning a trip in May to June to Vietnam. People who have visited there have loved it, but Vietnam borders China, and it has had some of its own coronavirus cases. Now my hematologist, my local pharmacist, and even my podiatrist during a visit yesterday are weighing in and saying, “Don’t Go!” I am still on the fence and watching, but don’t want to be stupid about it. As my latest blood counts show, I am not Superman.
For those of us with CLL, infection risk is always a fear. My doctor not only has me get IVIG infusions, but I carry around a “first aid” kit of a powerful antibiotic to take at the first sign of a sinus or respiratory infection. While I feel good today, I know I am not someone who can count on beating a bacterial infection by myself, and certainly must worry about a viral one.
On May 28th in Nashville, Esther and I will host our next town hall and live broadcast for people affected by CLL. Besides featuring a renowned hematologist, Dr. Ian Flinn, we will also feature an infectious disease specialist, Dr. Sydney Hester and will query her about our infection risk. Prevention is very important to discuss, especially now.
Stay tuned as to whether we cancel our Vietnam trip and either head in another direction or stay home.
I welcome your comments at [email protected].
"Hi. I am in Vietnam just now on holiday from the U.K. Everyone is wearing face masks, and at airports and hotels your temperature is taken. We changed itinerary and did not go north to Hanoi. We are in Saigon and then flying to Danang then Con Dao. Planes are nearly empty. We did not have a choice to not go as foreign office said it was okay to travel. I have PV. In Hong Kong, people are all wearing masks as well. Hope this helps. It’s a difficult decision. There are 16 cases in Vietnam at present plus 10,000 in quarantine in the north."
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