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  • Dr. Sruti Mohapatra

People with Disabilities & Coronavirus (COVID-19) Infection.

What do People with Disabilities Need to Know?

Early data suggest older people are twice as likely to have serious COVID-19 illness. This may be because immune systems change with age, making it harder to fight off diseases and infection. Older adults also are more likely to have underlying health conditions that make it harder to cope with and recover from illness.

  • Early data from China where the outbreak started — suggested that older adults were the most vulnerable to the worst effects of the disease.

  • Italy — the second-most-affected country in the world – a March 4 analysis shows - Of the 105 people who died from the virus, the average age was 81. This put a 20-year gap between the average age of people who tested positive for the virus and the deceased, the institute said.

  • In India – of two reported deaths till March 14 – both are elderly people.

  • In addition, people of all ages, with or without disabilities, seem to be at higher risk for getting very sick from COVID-19 if they have serious chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease.

In addition, people of all ages, with or without disabilities, seem to be at higher risk for getting very sick from COVID-19 if they have serious chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease.

People with Disabilities and COVID-19 Infection

1. Chronic Conditions - While simply having a disability probably doesn’t by itself put someone at higher risk from coronavirus, many disabled people do have specific disabilities or chronic conditions that make the illness more dangerous for them.

2. Isolation - Many people with disabilities need regular, hands-on help from other people to do every day self-care tasks. Also, laying in supplies of groceries, when shopping of any kind is always extra taxing, requires extra hands for transportation. For some of us, even cleaning our homes and washing our hands frequently can be extra difficult, due to physical impairments, environmental barriers, or interrupted services.

3. Disruption of services – Many people with disabilities need regular assistance in terms of personal care, necessary therapy and support to maintain their independence— that is, their ability to live in their own homes rather than in nursing homes. group homes, and other institutional settings. Outbreaks of communicable disease can disrupt these services. Aides and caregivers may become sick themselves, or the risk of catching or spreading illness may require aides and caregivers to stay home, interrupting disabled people’s services.

4. Workplace accommodations and flexibility - Social isolation is supplemented by working from home which leads to work delivery not getting impacted. This is a regular need of many people with disabilities.


Reducing exposure is especially important for people at higher risk of complications!

If you are at higher risk:

  • Stay at home as much as possible if COVID-19 is spreading in your community. Make sure you have access to several weeks of medications and supplies in case you need to stay home for prolonged periods of time.

  • When you go out in public, keep away from others who are sick, limit close contact and wash your hands often.

  • Avoid crowds, especially in poorly ventilated spaces.

  • Avoid cruise travel and non-essential air travel.

  • Plan now for what you will do if you, or people you rely on for support, become ill.

Planning is key as a COVID-19 outbreak could last for a long time in your community. Depending on the severity of the outbreak, local public health officials may recommend community actions designed to help keep people healthy, reduce exposures to COVID- 19, and slow the spread of the disease.

Everyday actions to prevent illness

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.

  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.

  • Stay home when you are sick.

  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throwing the tissue in the trash.

  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.

Using a face mask.

  • People who are well wear a face mask to protect themselves from respiratory diseases, including COVID-19.

  • Face masks should be used by people who show symptoms of COVID-19 to help prevent the spread of the disease to others.

Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.

  • If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty.

Symptoms and emergency warning signs
  1. Symptoms include fever, cough, and shortness of breath. If you feel like you are developing symptoms, call your doctor.

  2. If you develop emergency warning signs for COVID-19 get medical attention immediately.

These include.

  • Fever

  • Cough

  • Shortness of breath

  • Fatigue

  • Sometimes vomiting and diarrhoea

  • Aches and pain

  • Complications like pneumonia

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