What is coronavirus?

In December 2019, a new (or novel) human coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) type emerged in China.  Patients with confirmed COVID-19 infection have reportedly had mild to severe respiratory illness with symptoms of fever, cough, and shortness of breath appearing anywhere from 2 to 14 days after exposure. Learn more about coronaviruses, how they present, and how they are tested by visiting Human Coronaviruses.

Am I at risk of getting coronavirus?

Since COVID-19 is now in the U.S., the CDC cautions that an outbreak (when a large number of people suddenly get sick) could happen in your community.

If a COVID-19 outbreak happens in your community, your local public health department may recommend community actions to reduce people’s risk of being exposed to COVID-19. The CDC has tips to prepare and take action for COVID-19.

Check the CDC website and the Alabama Department of Public Health website for the latest information.

What are the symptoms of coronavirus?

Common symptoms of coronavirus are:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath

These symptoms tend to appear 2-14 days after exposure to coronavirus. However, a person may be contagious before symptoms appear.

If you have symptoms and have traveled to an affected country or have been in contact with someone who’s been diagnosed with COVID-19, call your doctor.

What can I do to protect myself and my family?

To avoid being exposed to coronavirus, the CDC recommends everyone:

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Stay home as much as possible – only leave for essential reasons.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. This is especially important after going to the bathroom, before eating, before touching your face, and after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing. If soap and water are not available, use hand sanitizer.
  • Limit visitors to your home and your visiting of others.

If I have breast cancer, is there anything else I should do?

The peer-reviewed medical journal, The Lancet, published a study in mid-February which concluded both current and former cancer patients are at greater risk from COVID-19.

The study looked at 2,007 cases of hospitalized COVID-19 patients from 575 hospitals in China. Out of that group, they found 18 patients with a history of cancer they could track — some currently in treatment, some years out. Nearly half of those patients had a higher risk of “severe events” (defined as admission to the ICU, the need for ventilation or death).

“We found that patients with cancer might have a higher risk of COVID-19 than individuals without cancer,” the study authors wrote. “Additionally, we showed that patients with cancer had poorer outcomes from COVID-19, providing a timely reminder to physicians that more intensive attention should be paid to patients with cancer, in case of rapid deterioration.”

Dr. Gary Lyman, an oncologist and health policy expert at The Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, states that those who have finished cancer treatment should also be mindful of their increased risk.

“The risk extends beyond the period of active treatment,” said Dr. Lyman. The after-effects of treatment don’t end when people finish their last course of therapy or leave the hospital after surgery. The after-effects of cancer and the immunosuppressive effects of treatment can be long-term.”

If you are currently in breast cancer treatment, a breast cancer survivor or thriver, live with someone who is currently in breast cancer treatment or a breast cancer survivor or thriver, or around people who are currently in breast cancer treatment or breast cancer survivors or thrivers, please follow these precautions:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing, or having been in a public place (if soap and water are not available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol).
  • Avoid touching high-touch surfaces in public places – elevator buttons, door handles, handrails, handshaking with people, etc. Use a tissue or your sleeve to cover your hand or finger if you must touch something.
  • Avoid touching your face, nose, eyes, etc.
  • Clean and disinfect your home to remove germs: practice routine cleaning of frequently touched surfaces (for example: tables, doorknobs, light switches, handles, desks, toilets, faucets, sinks & cell phones)

Susan G. Komen’s Breast Cancer Screening Recommendation:

On Wednesday, March 18, Susan G. Komen suggested healthy women of average risk delay routine breast cancer screening this spring.

Komen’s recommendation was made to minimize exposure to and potential spreading of the Coronavirus (COVID-19), and to help support our health care system’s need to focus resources on managing the pandemic.

However, people who are displaying warning signs for breast cancer should still contact their health provider to determine their need for diagnostic imaging.

For more information, please visit CDC.gov/COVID19.

Can I travel?

If you have travel plans, check the CDC website for recommendations on postponing or canceling travel.

Resources and Local Information

While the coronavirus/COVID-19 situation is fluid, our mission and our dedication are not. Alabama’s breast cancer community and the families we serve are our top priority. During this time, we will be adjusting our Affiliate’s programs and services as necessary to protect the health of those we serve while still providing support and resources. One of those adjustments will be the closing of the Komen Community Office until further notice. Our staff will be working from home but will still be available to answer your questions and concerns, and assist with any requests for assistance. Please leave a message at 250.263.1700 or email us at info@komenncalabama.org for a more immediate response.

The national Komen Breast Care Helpline 1 877 GO KOMEN (1-877-465-6636) can also provide information, psychosocial support and help with coping strategies related to anxiety or concerns during these uncertain times. The service is offered in English and Spanish from 9:00a.m. – 10:00p.m. ET. You can also email the helpline at helpline@komen.org.

Here are additional resources from trusted sources you may find helpful. Keep in mind this is a rapidly evolving situation and some of this information is likely to change:

Komen North Central Alabama Educational Webinar Series