Living with Parkinson’s during the COVID-19 outbreak
Part of our mission at Parkinson’s Movement is to sort out Hype from Hope, and bring you up to speed with the latest science in Parkinson’s research.  The COVID-19 outbreak is unprecedented. There are still many open questions, which clinicians and scientists around the world are working on as you read this.

For many people, COVID-19 causes mild symptoms, but for some, it can be serious. While we don’t yet know specifically how the virus affects people with Parkinson’s, we do know that older adults and people with serious medical conditions, such as heart or lung disease, may be at higher risk.

There are many things we do know which can help us gain traction on this pandemic and help protect people with Parkinson’s.

COVID-19 and the immune system

COVID-19 is a virus. It is an encased piece of genetic code which can only multiply inside living cells. The way it enters cells is through a specific entry point, the ACE-2 receptor. This receptor is not present in all cells in the human body, but it is present in the lungs and heart. This is why COVID-19 causes a pneumonia and/or a carditis (heart inflammation), and why people with existing cardiovascular and respiratory conditions are less able to recover from it. In addition, people with a weakened immune system are also at greater risk of serious consequences, because they are less able to fight the virus off effectively. This includes people who are recovering from cancer, or who have diabetes, as this too weakens the immune system and adversely affects the cardiovascular system.

The immune system is not just the white blood cells and their chemical effects on pathogens (a bacterium, virus or microorganism that can cause disease) which are critical in the body’s response to the virus. The immune system includes external barriers and functions which allow our organs to keep infections out. The respiratory tract is designed not only around the efficient exchange of oxygen that we need and carbon dioxide that we exhale, but also to keep itself free of foreign particles. Although COVID-19 can pass through the cells lining the respiratory tract, the function of our breathing muscles and rib cage also play a role in helping the body clear infection.

Take home messages

People with Parkinson’s don’t have a greater risk of catching COVID-19 than anyone else.

Everyone is at risk of contracting COVID-19, so stopping its transmission in our communities is vital.

People with Parkinson’s may be at greater risk of more severe illness if they get COVID-19.

That is why it is essential to avoid infection.

Always, but especially at this time, the best thing you can do is take care of yourself and your Parkinson’s, with everything that means for you:

  • put in place a solid and sustainable social distancing regime
  • take daily medications on time
  • eat well and stay hydrated
  • create and stick to a daily home-based routine
  • keep moving
  • make sure you stay connected – speak to friends and family on the phone, set up videocalls with one or more people…….. and take time off the news and social media.

It’s vital to stay well and play your role in fighting the pandemic.

Where can I learn more?

There is a wealth of information online please do look at some of the following links. 

The World Health Organisation is the most reliable source of information about COVID-19 and guidance on social distancing at this time:

For those in the UK, here is additional guidance from Public Health England on social distancing:

And some useful resources from partner organisations

For those seeking distraction, do join the Insight into Parkinson’s conference from the 1-3 April, an online global conference for PwP, with over 60 speakers presenting on a range of topics and live panels.

Or take part in an online study


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