What will we learn from the Covid-19 pandemic and MS?
This has been a most difficult time for everyone but for those with those notorious “underlying health conditions” it is especially worrying.
Do we know what having MS during the Covid-19 epidemic might mean? -and- Do we know how to react fully and sensibly?
The answer to the first question is no, and the second question is, generally speaking, yes! - keep up thorough hand washing, maintain social distancing, do not gather in large groups, and make sure you protect yourself with hand sanitisers or other means when out and about.
We have all been on a steep learning curve working out how to respond to the current threats and challenges and there will always be anomalies that make it hard to be confident about any specific advice until we have enough information.
In April 2020 we posted the best available information in the UK about MS and Covid-19 issued by the Association of British Neurologists (ABN). Since then many thousands of people have experienced Covid-19 and the medical community has started to collect and analyse data based on every day experience and the daily tally of people having symptoms and the outcome for people in different age groups, gender and ethnic backgrounds. While still under much discussion some points are very clear: Older people have a greater risk of severe attacks or death than younger ones, men generally seem to do worse than women and those with underlying health problems seem to be at greatest risk.
Before we can make any definitive statements about MS and Covid-19 we need to understand how all these variables can be accounted for before we arrive at any specific conclusions. The process of understanding if and how MS influences the susceptibility to Covid19, the course of illness, if contracted, and the overall impact of a range of other variables such as which medicines people with MS take regularly will only be possible when we can work with larger numbers.
The MS Data Alliance (MSDA) is an international collaboration working to accelerate the application of research insights to innovative care and treatment and to better understand the impact of MS in “real world” situations. . Aiming to build a multi-stakeholder community (researchers, clinicians patents and companies) to improve collaboration and communications, MSDA is encouraging the gathering of “Real World” data to inform areas like treatment, regulation and advice to make information available as widely as possible. The MSDA and other organisations are encouraging all participants to provide a pool of data on their Covid-19 and other experiences that enables sound analysis. Such information will enable researchers to derive more useful information and offer better advice for all those working with and living with MS.