As the emergence of Coronavirus in Ireland continues, we are receving queries from people with epilepsy and their families about what the virus may mean for them and this article aims to give you relevant information to you in a clear & conscise manner that we hope will put any concerns you may have at ease.
However from the outset, Epilepsy Ireland believe that we have a social obligation to ask every one of our service users, members, supporters and volunteers to please ensure that you are getting general information about Coronavirus from the correct channels - i.e, via the Department of Health and the HSE. Since the first case of Coronavirus was reported, we have seen the circulation of fake news on social media, bogus whatsapp messages and various different theories on how best to treat & prevent the spread of the virus. All of this flies in the face of the outstanding work that is being doing by doctors, nurses and healthcare professionals who are battling against this virus on a daily basis. We would therefore plead with you to ensure you are following the correct channels and not to circulate any of the messaging mentioned above that is being circulated. Every person across the country has a role to play in preventing the spread of COVID19 and this is one way you can help. There is already significant concern and worry in households across the country which is not being helped by the circulation of these messages.
Regarding the Coronavirus and Epilepsy, we have answered a number of queries you might have below and also outlined other further relevant details that are worth bearing in mind at this time.
1) Are people with epilepsy more suscpetible to the Coronavirus?
The Department of Health & the HSE have issued no specific guidelines for people with epilepsy. Neither have stated that there is any increased risk of contracting the virus owing to having epilepsy. In short, there is no known evidence that people with epilepsy are at a higher risk of contracting Covid-19.
However, all people with epilepsy and their families should remember that any illness like a fever, virus, flu etc can impact on seizure control and cause an increase in seizures. Epilepsy patients who have an Epilepsy Specialist Nurse, should call their nurse advice line by phone or email in cases where Covid-19 symptoms emerge (numbers included at end of article). In many cases, the team can manage epilepsy care/ treatments over the phone and email. These services are currently still operating but this is subject to change if staff redeployment if required.
Some patients with epilepsy have other conditions that predisposes them to immunosuppression. In addition, some medications can be immunosuppressive. These persons will have a lower immune system to fight infection. As in any situation, changes to your epilepsy medication should NEVER be made without prior consultation with your medical team.
Please rigidly apply the guidelines that have been issued to prevent the spread of the virus. Therefore, please take the time to carry out the proper preventative measures as outlined below:
-WASH your hands well & often to avoid contamination
-COVER your mouth & nose with a tissue or sleeve; when coughing or sneezing and discard used tissue
-AVOID touching eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands
-CLEAN and disinfect frequently touched objects or surfaces
-STOP shaking hands or when saying hello or greeting other people
-DISTANCE yourself at least 2 metres (6 feet) away from other people, especially those who might be unwell
All the essential information on Coronavirus Covid-19 - including advice, symptoms, what you should do if displaying symptoms, travel advice etc - is available on the HSE website here.
2) I have epilepsy. What if I have to self-isolate?
If you have regular seizures, particularly tonic-clonic, or any that could cause harm, isolating a person with epilepsy would leave them vulnerable to undetected seizures, and recovering on their own. It would be advisable to always inform family, or carers that you are self-isolating so that you can be checked on. You should also ensure you have all your medication prescriptions in supply and up to date. Make sure to havee your phone to hand, along with a charger and if possible arrange for calls to a family member/ carer/ friend at pre-arranged intervals e.g. on the hour.
3) Will the current situation affect the supply of my medication?
In relation to the availability of medications, Epilepsy Ireland reached out to the Health Products Regulatory Authority (www.hpra.ie) who have confirmed that at present there is no immediate risk to medication supply. They state:
“The HPRA is actively monitoring the situation in relation to any potential future impact of the outbreak of Covid-19 on the supply chains of medicines used in Ireland. There are national and international multi-stakeholder coordinated efforts relating to the management of any possible impact of Covid-19. The HPRA is participating in this work, and there are no reported current or near term medicine shortages due to the coronavirus at this time, as is the case across the EU. The HPRA remains vigilant to any potential risk and will continue to work with other authorities at national, European and international level to closely monitor the situation and ensure that all appropriate steps are taken to facilitate continuity of supply.”
Again, please be sure to follow the advice which is being issued through the correct channels, i.e., the Department of Health & HSE.
4) Are Epilepsy Ireland still available?
We are playing our part in preventing the spread of Coronavirus and unfortunately, because of that, we have suspended all one to one meetings and group setting services. However please note, that we are still available to you through our dedicated Community Resource Officers via phone and email. As the current situation develops, our services may adapt further and we will update our website and social channels should there be any further changes. We can also continue to be contacted on our Head Office number, 014557500 or email@example.com. Our Community Resource Officer and the areas they serve are outlined below:
-Agnes Mooney; 0749168725; 0858689433; firstname.lastname@example.org - Donegal, Sligo & Leitrim
-Edel Killarney; 091587640; 0858766625; email@example.com - Galway, Mayo & Roscommon
-Cliona Molloy; 0579346790; 0858766585; firstname.lastname@example.org - Offaly, Longford, Laois & Westmeath
-Veronica Bon; 061313773; 0858766629; email@example.com - Limerick, Clare & Tipperary North
-Kathryn Foley; 0646630301; 0858766627; firstname.lastname@example.org - Kerry
-Niamh Jones; 0858766628; email@example.com - Cork
-Loretta Kennedy; 085766626; firstname.lastname@example.org -Cork
-Miriam Gray; 0567789904; 0858766584; email@example.com - Kilkenny, Wexford, Carlow, Waterford & Tipperary South
-Carina Fitzgerald; 0858766587; firstname.lastname@example.org - Dublin, Wicklow & Kildare
-Edel Curran; 0858063959; email@example.com - Dublin, Wicklow & Kildare
-Mary Baker; 0429337585; 0858766583; firstname.lastname@example.org - Louth, Meath, Monaghan & Cavan
-National Information Officer; Geraldine Dunne; 0858766586; email@example.com
The four questions outlined above are the most common questions that have been put to us regarding the current situation however it also important to outline some best practice when it comes to epilepsy and how best to manage the condition; these are outlined below:
-At all times, be sure to mention to pharmacists that you have epilepsy if purchasing over the counter products so they can advise on the best product suitable to you. Similarly, if you develop COVID19, it is also of the utmost importance that you advise on your epilepsy diagnosis. This gives your healthcare professional important information and allows them to make decisions suitable to you - again this is good practice regardless of the current situation and should be applied in normal circumstances.
-For people with epilepsy, it is also advisable to follow good practice when it comes to ensuring your prescription is filled early and by keeping your epilepsy medication in date - these are two steps that should be followed anyway, regardless of the current situation.
Finally, we have listed the Epilepsy Advanced Nurse Practitioner Hospital contact numbers below for ease of access should you have any questions of a medical nature regarding your epilepsy:
-Beaumount Hospital; 018093328
-Mater University Hospital; 018034172
-Tallaght (Adults); 014144086
-Tallaght (Paediatrics); 014142237
-St. James' Hospital; 014284135
-St. Vincent's Hospital; 012213292
-Cork University Hospital (Adults); 0214922388
-Cork University Hospital (Paediatrics); 0214920167
-University Hospital Limerick; 061482146
-Galway University Hospital; 091893527
-Sligo University Hospital; 0719174591
-Temple Street Childen's Hospital ; 018784412
-Crumlin Children's Hospital; 014096100
Please note that should any further information or advice emerge regarding people with epilepsy and Coronavirus, we will update this article and reshare on our website and social media channels. Should you have any other concerns, please do not hesitate to get in touch with your local community resource officer and again, further information and advice on COVID19 is available on the HSE’s dedicated site for the matter here.
In the meantime, please stay safe, follow the official guidelines and we like everyone reading like this, look forward to things returning to normal as soon as possible.
This article is subject to change and will be updated when/if further information becomes available.