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What you need to know about COVID-19 in 2022

What if I feel sick?

If you feel sick, follow these steps:

  • Stay home except to get medical care (including dialysis treatments)
  • Do not go to work or school
  • Contact and follow the advice of your healthcare provider
  • Separate yourself from other people
  • Watch your symptoms

If you have a fever, cough or other symptoms you might have COVID-19. Other COVID-19 symptoms may include chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat, or new loss of taste or smell. Emergency warning signs include trouble breathing, persistent pain or pressure in the chest, new confusion or inability to arouse, bluish lips or face.

You can find more information about what to do if you feel sick on the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website.

Should I get antibody testing for COVID-19?

You can ask your healthcare team, or check with local/state health departments, to help decide if you should receive an antibody test and if it can be done safely for people with kidney disease.

Serological tests detect antibodies in the blood when the body is responding to a specific infection, such as COVID-19. They are also known as antibody tests. These antibodies are produced when someone has been infected, so a positive result from this test indicates that person was previously infected with the virus.

Antibody tests can help clinicians and their patients find out if someone was previously infected with COVID-19. The information can help researchers figure out how much the virus has spread in a community and to see if people can donate convalescent plasma, which might help others sickened by COVID-19. However, research is ongoing to see if antibodies from a CVOID-19 infection can protect someone from reinfection and if this protection lasts.

Also, these tests can have limitations. For example, specificity (doesn’t detect non-target viruses) and sensitivity (true positive rate, meaning antibodies exist) of antibody tests may vary. The CDC is evaluating the performance of antibody tests in collaboration with the FDA and other federal organizations.

CDC page for more information

FDA page for more information

State and Territorial Health Departments

Local Health Departments

What is herd immunity?

The CDC defines herd immunity as “protection from disease in a group, due to a large enough proportion of the population having immunity to prevent the disease from spreading from person to person.”

The idea is that if a large enough portion of a population is immune to a certain infection (either through recovery or vaccination) then transmission would slow and serve as a barrier for others without immunity.

However, a very large portion of the population would need to be immune to an infectious disease, such as COVID-19. People who have recovered from an infection may be protected from reinfection for a time, based on what is known about other viruses (research is ongoing). However, many, many more people would need to be infected for this to possibly work, which would mean many more people would get sick and possibly die. This is why general recommendations and strategies have focused on social distancing (such as maintaining a distance of 6 feet from others).

What does it mean to build up immunity?

The immune system is the body's defense against infections. Part of this defense involves making antibodies to help keep the body protected from future infections. An antibody is made to protect against a certain virus or other germ.

It’s possible to build up protection or immunity by antibodies produced from an infection, such as with COVID-19, based on what is known about other viruses. However, this is a new virus and research is ongoing to see if antibodies from a COVID-19 infection can protect someone from reinfection and if this protection lasts.

What should I consider if I’m on dialysis?

First and foremost, you should know that you are still at increased risk for infection and for worse complications if you catch COVID-19.

Please keep in close contact with your dialysis center for any further recommendations or instructions.

Visit the CDC for more information.

What should I consider if I am planning or have undergone kidney transplant?

People who plan to or have already had a kidney transplant are at increased risk of developing severe illness from COVID-19 and preventing your exposure to the virus is the best approach.

Please keep in close contact with your transplant center for any further recommendations or instructions

Visit the CDC for more information.

Are young transplant recipients at increased risk from COVID-19?

Since the start of the pandemic, most of the children admitted to pediatric intensive care units with severe COVID-19 symptoms have underlying conditions, such as kidney transplant recipients who are immunosuppressant medication.

Also concerning, a growing number of children have been identified who appear to have a different response to COVID-19, which doctors have called Pediatric Multi-System Inflammatory Syndrome. The symptoms of Pediatric Multi-System Inflammatory Syndrome include a persistent fever, rash, as well as gastrointestinal symptoms such as vomiting and diarrhea. Young patients can also suffer from cardiac inflammation.

What can parents of young transplant recipients do?

The best way to keep children on immunosuppressant treatment well is to prevent their exposure to the virus. Continue to practice everyday preventive actions to help reduce your risk of getting sick and infecting your child and

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick
  • Stay home when you are sick, except to get medical care
  • Cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue and throw the tissue in the trash
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing; going to the bathroom; and before eating or preparing food
  • Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol, if you’re unable to wash your hands (eg, using a gas pump)
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces and objects (eg, tables, countertops, light switches, doorknobs, and cabinet handles)

Contact your child’s transplant center for more information.

Am I eligible for disability benefits if I can’t work?

It is possible that you are eligible for disability benefits if you can't work due to COVID-19. Your social worker can give you information about financial programs, what the qualifications are, and how to apply.

The federal government runs 2 of the best-known programs.

  • Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is a program of the Social Security Administration (SSA). It pays a monthly cash benefit to people who are unable to work for a year or more because of a disability.
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is another SSA program. Benefits are calculated based on an individual’s financial needs, not the amount of tax that they paid. SSI pays its benefits monthly. This amount may be supplemented by state or local benefits.

What are my rights as a kidney patient if my employer wants me to return to work?

There are laws to protect people with chronic conditions and illnesses from discrimination in the workplace. Your legal rights may be protected by one of the following federal acts.

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

If you work for a company with 15 or more employees, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires your employer to make any “reasonable accommodations” that you might need in order to perform your work duties.

Examples include:

  • Making parking lots, bathrooms, and work areas handicapped accessible
  • Allowing you to work from home if possible, in your current role
  • Having flexible work schedules (to schedule around dialysis treatments for example)
  • Designating a sterile area to exchange cleansing fluid bags for PD
  • Reassigning you to a less strenuous job if you request one and one is available
  • Assigning any of your non-essential tasks to other employees, at your request

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) handles complaints under the ADA.

Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)

If you work at least 20 weeks of the year for an employer with 50 or more employees, you may qualify for the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). The FMLA allows for 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave for medical reasons.

If you had group health insurance coverage before taking leave, it will continue under the same terms or conditions.

Your employer can ask for medical certification stating that you have a serious illness but cannot punish you for taking leave to have surgery or begin treatment. Your spouse, children, or parents may also be eligible for FMLA leave if you need them to provide you with care or transportation.

The Department of Labor (DOL) handles complaints under FMLA.

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