Information on Coronavirus (COVID-19) for People with Spinal Cord Injury
This document is current as at 7/10/20 and will be updated if there are significant changes to its content.
Please note: This document should not replace other information available from State or Commonwealth Governments but aims to provide some information specifically relevant to people with Spinal Cord Injury. We encourage you to review further general information about COVID-19, sometimes called coronavirus, and information specifically for people with a disability, at these Australian Health Department and Queensland Government websites:
Am I more at risk of problems from COVID-19 because I have a Spinal Cord Injury?
At this stage we do not have good information on the specific impacts of the COVID-19 virus on people with spinal cord injury. If you have a tetraplegia or high-level paraplegia injury and have existing problems with your lungs or reduced breathing capacity, then you may be at higher risk of having more severe problems related to COVID-19.
Your spinal clinician or general practitioner (GP) can help assess your personal level of risk, which can now be done via teleconferencing/telehealth.
What should I do to prevent getting the virus?
Be alert for any signs or symptoms of COVID-19 including fever, cough, sore throat, runny nose, fatigue, breathing difficulty or loss of taste and smell, not only in yourself but also in people you are in close contact with e.g. family, friends and your support providers. Avoid contact with people who have these symptoms, if possible.
As for everyone in the community, physical distancing with very good hand hygiene and sneeze/cough etiquette provides the best defense against most viruses, including this one.
- practise physical distancing (not closer than 1.5 metres to other people) and avoid handshaking, hugging, kissing and other close contact
- use a face mask when you are unable to maintain physical distancing (see Queensland Government advice here)
- cover your mouth to cough or sneeze, dispose of tissues, and use alcohol-based hand sanitiser
- wash your hands frequently with soap and water for 20 seconds, including before and after eating, and after going to the toilet
- have your support providers (and anyone else entering your home) wash their hands when they arrive at your home and each time prior to touching you or assisting you with any tasks
- regularly clean and disinfect the surfaces and items that are touched in your home (such as your phone, doorknobs, refrigerator handle, wheelchair controls, push rims and remote controls) to prevent the spread of infection
- avoid contact with others if you are unwell
- consider ways to isolate if required. Please refer to the Queensland Government website for the latest guidance that may be relevant to you and your supports.
What should I do if I think I may have contracted the COVID-19 virus or become unwell?
If you have any of the symptoms or signs including fever, cough, sore throat, runny nose, fatigue, breathing difficulty or loss of taste and smell, then you should contact your doctor or local hospital to see whether you need to be tested for COVID-19.
If you are concerned that you are becoming more unwell or are having any breathing difficulty you should call your local hospital to alert them, then call an ambulance and attend your local hospital.
What should I do if my carer or support provider contracts the virus or is unwell and cannot attend to my support needs?
If your carer or any of your support providers are unwell, they should not be assisting you.
If you have not done so already, you should contact your support provider and ask them what plans they have for replacement of support workers in the current situation.
You should think ahead about what alternative solutions there are if you do not have enough support available. If you have no alternatives you should present to your local hospital.
If you do require admission to hospital make sure that the hospital staff are aware of any special care or equipment needs that you have e.g. pressure care and appropriate shower chair and mattress etc.
Additional advice on planning for disruption to supports and services because of COVID-19 can be found here.
What else can I do?
It is important to look after yourself as usual and continue with routine health care. It is probably more important than usual to have a flu vaccination this year.
If you are uncertain, please contact your GP or your local spinal cord injury unit or community team for further advice.
Please notify your spinal cord service if you are admitted to hospital with COVID-19 or any other problem.
If you are a smoker, seek support to stop as there is evidence that smoking makes illness with COVID-19 worse.
Where can I find other information?
Shepherd Centre (USA) - Q&A: Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)
National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) - Coronavirus information
Queenslanders with disability network – Make a plan