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General COVID-19 advice, FAQ & resources:

Last Updated: 4/2/21

 

How can I protect myself from getting COVID-19?

The World Health Organization recommendations include:

  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub

  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth unless your hands are clean

  • Try to practice social distancing by keeping at least 1 metre distance between yourself and others, particularly those who are coughing and sneezing

  • Avoid going to crowded places

  • When coughing and/or sneezing, cover your mouth and nose with a flexed elbow or tissue

  • Practise food safety by using different chopping boards for raw meat and cooked foods and wash your hands between handling them.

In addition, we recommend that people with MS should:

  • Wear a face mask in public and ensure that you are using it correctly by following these instructions

  • Avoid public gatherings and crowds

  • Avoid using public transport where possible

  • Where possible, use alternatives to face-to-face routine medical appointments (for example, telephone appointments).

Certain groups of people with MS may be at an increased risk of becoming severely ill or dying with
COVID-19. The following groups should take extra care to minimise their exposure to the virus:
  • People with progressive MS

  • People with MS over the age of 60

  • People with higher levels of disability (for example, an EDSS score of 6 or above)

  • People with diseases of the heart or lungs 

Caregivers and family members who live with, or regularly visit, a person with MS on one of these groups should also follow these recommendations to reduce the chance of bringing COVID-19 infection into the home.

National lockdown measures in place in many parts of the world might be relaxed in the coming weeks and months. Until our understanding of the coronavirus improves, people with MS in these higher risk groups and their caregivers should continue to follow the advice above to reduce their risk of contracting COVID-19.  

In order to minimise the risk of being infected by COVID-19, you should follow the standard precautions  advised by the Australian Government. This is the best source of advice on how to keep yourself safe and will be updated daily. You can also stay informed by downloading the official government “Coronavirus Australia” app in the Apple App Store or Google Play, or joining their WhatsApp channel on iOS or Android.

 


What if I develop symptoms of COVID-19 infection or have a confirmed diagnosis of COVID-19 infection?

If you develop symptoms of COVID-19 infection or have a confirmed diagnosis of COVID-19 infection you should:

  • Follow the standard self-isolation advice.

  • Follow the advice of the diagnosing doctor or health care facility.

  • Seek the advice of your neurologist or ask the diagnosing health care team to discuss with them or the on-call neurologist, regarding any changes to your treatment.

  • It is extremely important that you advise your neurologist if you become infected with COVID-19 as we will be collectively monitoring the outcomes for people with MS and various therapies. This will assist in providing appropriate advice to all.

 

Who should I contact if I have symptoms of COVID-19 infection?

If you are concerned that you are developing symptoms of COVID-19 you can:

  • Phone the Coronavirus Health Information Line 1800 020 080

  • Phone the Health Direct Hotline 1800 022 222.

  • Phone your General Practitioner for an appointment (please phone ahead to make an appointment).

  • Attend a coronavirus testing centre (these are listed for each state by the relevant health department, again please phone ahead to make an appointment).

 

Should I come to my outpatient clinic, infusion, bloodtest or MRI appointment?

If you have visited a high-risk area, have symptoms of COVID-19 infection or have had close contact with someone who has been diagnosed with COVID-19 please do not attend your outpatient, infusion, blood test or MRI appointment. Please contact your specialist clinic, MRI department, infusion centre or MS Nurse to advise of your need to cancel the appointment and make alternative arrangements. Most neurology clinics have now moved to telephone or telehealth consultations.
 
It is important to remember that MRI scans and blood test form an important part of the monitoring of your disease activity and potential side effects of medication. In some instances, there may be adverse consequences of delaying or cancelling these investigations. Please contact your neurologist before making any changes to your planned investigations. MRI departments in hospitals and private radiology practices have implemented measures to limit the risk of infection.
 
Some private pathology services offer a home collection service. Please contact your pathology service for details. This may require the approval of your neurologist.
 

Should I travel overseas?

Current travel advice is available on the Australian Smart Traveller website, but essentially all travel is currently severly restricted.

 

Should I have the flu and pneumonia vaccinations?

It is recommended that all persons with MS and related disorders have the flu vaccination. The Pneumococcal vaccination is also recommended.

 

What if I am a healthcare worker?

At present we have no evidence of an increased risk of COVID-19 infection or its complications in pwMS or related conditions, even in those on treatment. However, as indicated below there are potential, theoretical risks with some medications and it would be sensible for healthcare workers on any of these therapies to avoid work environments that would bring them into direct contact with people either known to be or likely to be infected with COVID-19. If you require any documentation to this effect, please contact your neurologist who will be happy to assist.
 

Advice for children or pregnant women with MS:

At this time there is no specific advice for women with MS who are pregnant. There is general information on COVID-19 and pregnancy on the US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention website.

There is no specific advice for children with MS; they should follow the advice above for people with MS.


Advice for looking after your mental health during the coronavirus outbreak:

The Federal Governement's Head to Health website can help you find the right digital health resources for your needs. This includes resources on how to support children and others.: https://headtohealth.gov.au/

Beyond Blue also have a page dedicated to looking after your mental health during this time: https://www.beyondblue.org.au/the-facts/looking-after-your-mental-health-during-the-coronavirus-outbreak


Advice regarding the NDIS:

NDIS and Disaster Response: https://www.ndis.gov.au/understanding/ndis-and-other-government-services/ndis-and-disaster-response

New measures are being put in place in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Here is a link to the statement from the Minister: https://bit.ly/2WD8nGI


Telehealth:

The Australian Government is expanding Medicare-subsidised telehealth services for all Australians and providing extra incentives to general practitioners and other health practitioners. 

Read joint media release by Hon Greg Hunt MP, Minister for Health and Professor Michael Kidd AM, Principle Medical Advisor: https://bit.ly/2QXk1bX
 
Read ABC's 30/03/20 news story explaining Telehealth: https://ab.co/3460z29
 

COVIDSafe app:

The COVIDSafe app is part of the Federal Government's efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19. The app helps find close contacts of COVID-19 cases, and helps state and territory health officials to quickly contact people who may have been exposed to COVID-19. It is completely voluntary. 

Read MS Australia Board's full statement in support of COVIDSafe App here: https://www.msaustralia.org.au/news-blogs/latest-news/ms-australia-boards-statement-support-covidsafe-app

 

For Australians living with MS concerned about coronavirus, at the outset we recommend that you:

  • Discuss any particular queries or concerns with your GP or neurologist (pertaining to your situation).
  • Prior to your visit, re-read this page, as the MS-specific information may help you formulate your queries.
It is also important to regularly check the following Australian Government websites, for information about COVID-19, including protecting yourself and minimising your risk:
 
 

Department of Health - Coronavirus (COVID-19):

 
The World Health Organization website (www.who.int) has general advice for the public regarding precautions, other concerns and handy FAQs.
 
Many of Australia’s major health services offer advice for MS patients about matters such as:
  • Flu and pneumonia vaccinations
  • Attendance at outpatient clinic or infusion appointments
  • MRI and/or regular pathology services
So please visit the website of your nearest health service: https://health.govcms.gov.au/resources/apps-and-tools/healthdirect-find-a-health-service
 
 

Find an MS Clinic nearest you: 

MS Clinics exist across Australia to provide expertise in the diagnosis and management of multiple sclerosis and many have a range of neurological services available. Most require a referral from your GP.
The list below may help you to find the clinic nearest you. MS Australia will endeavour to keep this list up-to-date through regular reviews. Please contact us by email to info@msaustralia.org.au to alert us to any errors or updates.
 
 

Disability Information Helpline:

It provides information and referrals for people with disability who need help because of coronavirus (COVID-19). The Helpline can help families, carers, support workers and services, too.
 
Contact the Disability Information Helpline on 1800 643 787.
 
The Helpline is available Monday to Friday 8am to 8pm (AEST) and Saturday and Sunday 9am to 7pm (AEST). It’s not available on national public holidays.
 
 

Management and Operational Plan for People with Disability:

The Plan is designed to support the objectives of the Australian Health Sector Emergency Response Plan.
 
It aims to minimise COVID-19 and its effects among people with disability; inform people with disability, their families and support workers; support effective care and rehabilitation for people with disability who contract COVID-19; and to support people with disability to continue to have access to non-COVID health care during the pandemic.
 
 
 

State & Territory MS Organisations:

Given the current situation and the urgent need to reduce social contact, MS organisations around the country have needed to cancel events and activities involving large gatherings, and in some cases alter the way that support and services are provided. 
 
Please check with your state/territory MS organisation for advice on how this may affect you: 
 

State & Territory Departments of Health pages: