Avoiding coronavirus with a low immune system

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Chemotherapy weakens the immune system, leaving some to wonder if they should stop because it makes them more prone to the disease.

ROGERS, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — The CDC is pointing to older adults as being at higher risk of contracting the coronavirus, but they’re not the only ones susceptible to the deadly virus.

“Just today I had 5 or 6 patients ask me ‘What do I need to do to prepare myself for the coronavirus?'” said Physician Eric Shaefer with Highlands Oncology.

It’s a question that isn’t new to Shaefer.

His patients are known to be the most susceptible to the coronavirus; the elderly and the immunocompromised.

He said, “For two main reasons; one as we all age, the immune system is a little bit not as strong as it was when you were younger, and two, more importantly, a lot of our patients are on chemotherapy or some form of systemic therapy which weakens our immune system.”

One the those patients inside Highlands Oncology is Beth Wright, who’s been battling cancer for the past eight years.

” I have had multiple surgeries, radiation therapy a couple of times, and three different cycles of chemo therapy,” she said.

Chemotherapy weakens the immune system, leaving some to wonder if they should stop because it makes them more prone to the disease.

But Schaefer said fear shouldn’t dictate how people handle their health.

“I don’t think withholding therapy right now is the appropriate thing to do, so I’m not recommending our patients stop their chemotherapy just because of a potential risk of the coronavirus,” he said.

Wright said she’s sticking to her normal medications and continuing the rigorous health routine she already has in place.

“I’m very careful about touching things that have been exposed to a lot of people or potential germs— gas pumps, doorknobs, even when you think about it, a coffee pot handle at work,” she said. “I don’t have to be in church, I have the option to watch online and avoid germs. My husband is very protective and he, for the most part, also avoids crowds.

Schaefer said doing things like this will help his patients in the long run.

“I do believe it’s coming,” Schaefer said. “It will be in Arkansas at some time and at unfortunately at some time our patients will be exposed to it.

The biggest thing officials are stressing about this virus is to wash your hands as much as you can.

Schaefer recommends hand sanitizer over soap and water.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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