Treatment for Liver Disease and COVID-19

COVID-19 causes severe fatigue and reduced immunity to the host body it infects. These reduced immunity levels increase the person’s exposure to many other infections & diseases, further aggravating other underlying conditions.

When the virus infects people with low immunities, it causes the immunity levels to drop further, leading to other complications and increasing their susceptibility to chronic liver diseases like hepatitis B and C.

As such, people with severe underlying medical conditions, including liver diseases, are prone to contract the COVID-19 virus.

Does COVID-19 damage the liver? 

Some patients undergoing treatment for COVID-19 have increased liver enzymes, such as alanine aminotransferase (ALT) and aspartate aminotransferase (AST). People with liver cirrhosis are at a higher risk of COVID-19.

Are hepatitis B or C patients at a higher risk for more severe illness from COVID-19? 

Adults with certain underlying medical conditions, including liver diseases, irrespective of their age, might be more vulnerable to the virus that causes COVID-19. People might be more prone to severe illness if their medical conditions are not under control. People on hepatitis B or C treatment should continue their treatment unless otherwise directed by their healthcare provider.

Like hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), are cancer patients exposed to severe COVID-19 infection? 

Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is more prevalent among people with chronic liver diseases such as hepatitis B or hepatitis C. People with this disease are at higher risk of severe COVID-19 than others. Cancer patients have a weaker immune system because the frequent chemotherapy sessions are more prone to infections with other germs. Similar may be the case with COVID-19 as well. COVID-19 spreads quickly, even among individuals with healthier immune systems.

Are the people from hepatitis A infected areas at risk of relapse during the pandemic during the past year? 

Hepatitis A is still spreading at a rapid rate during the COVID-19 pandemic. People in high-risk zones of hepatitis A infection should also take steps to protect themselves from COVID-19. The preventive measures must include wearing a mask, social distancing and maintaining personal hygiene. They should also get vaccinated against hepatitis to avoid viral infection. 

If you are a member of these groups, contact your healthcare provider to request the hepatitis A vaccine: 

  • People who use drugs (injection or non-injection) 
  • People experiencing unstable housing or homelessness 
  • Men who have sex with men (MSM) 
  • Recently incarcerated people  
  • People infected with chronic liver diseases (including hepatitis B or C) and liver cirrhosis

How can people with hepatitis B or C protect themselves? 

The best way to shield yourself from COVID-19 is to prevent exposure to the virus. People with liver conditions must take the same preventive actions as those with other comorbidities.

COVID-19 vaccination reduces your vulnerability to the COVID-19. Even after getting a COVID-19 vaccine, ‌continue to ‌protect yourself.

Like everyone, people with hepatitis B or C must maintain a healthful lifestyle with proper hygiene. If you have hepatitis and are undergoing treatment for your infection, the best way to protect yourself is to continue your treatment and follow the advice of your healthcare provider. Stay in touch with your liver transplant surgeon and make an online appointment at the Best liver hospital in Chennai whenever you need one.

What can people with substance abuse disorder and liver disease do to protect themselves from COVID-19? 

People with liver ailments must take the same preventive actions as those with comorbidities to avoid exposure to the COVID-19 virus. Besides this, people with liver disease and substance use disorder should consult their doctors and continue their prescribed liver disease treatments.

What to do if I have COVID-19 or have been in contact with an infected person? 

Contact your doctor immediately if you suspect COVID-19 or have come in contact with an asymptomatic individual. Discuss how to get evaluated and quarantine yourself to avoid spreading the disease.

What other measures can people with chronic liver disease take to protect themselves from COVID-19? 

Besides the preventive actions to avoid infection of COVID-19 virus, people with chronic liver diseases can also take the following precautions: 

  • Continue medications if you are currently getting treated for hepatitis B or C or other chronic conditions. Consult your healthcare provider before discontinuing any medicines prescribed to you. Ensure you have enough medication at home to reduce the number of visits to pharmacies. 
  • Discuss with your healthcare provider about routine vaccination against hepatitis and COVID-19. The CDC recommends that people with chronic liver diseases get their vaccine doses against hepatitis A and C, influenza, and pneumococcal bacteria. 
  • If you have to stay quarantined for a couple of weeks, develop a plan for your treatment accordingly.
  • Get regular exercise and ensure you eat a balanced diet. 
  • Avoid or minimise alcohol consumption and intoxication. It is a myth that drinking alcohol protects you from COVID-19.
  • Try to maintain a social network online, phone, or video chat. This social network can help you stay socially connected and mentally healthy. 
  • Smoking or vaping tobacco or marijuana could make you prone to severe respiratory illness. Quitting smoking or vaping reduces your probability of developing severe complications resulting from COVID-19. 
  • Stay in touch by phone or email with people who help you in sickness.

Are the antivirals for Hepatitis A and C effective against Covid-19? 

Not much information is available on the potency of the medicines used to treat hepatitis B or C and COVID-19. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved and prescribed one drug, Remdesivir, to treat COVID-19. 

Researchers are studying new drugs and drugs already approved for other health conditions to determine their safety and effectiveness in treating COVID-19. In the meantime, never take prescription medicine or medication if your healthcare provider does not prescribe for you.

Are there any expected shortages of hepatitis B or C medicines? 

Experts have found no drug shortages or common issues with the medications used for hepatitis B and C.

The drug supply chain is under the supervision of the FDA because the COVID-19 pandemic can disrupt the medical and pharmaceutical products supply in the USA. 

Should people with chronic liver disease travel‌? 

Like others with a higher risk for severe COVID-19 illness pdf icon, people with chronic liver disease should stay at home and avoid unnecessary travel. 

Visit CDC’s COVID-19 travel information page for the latest CDC travel recommendations.

Do people at risk of viral hepatitis need to take special precautions against COVID-19? 

Based on current statistics and clinical expertise, older adults are at greater risk of requiring hospitalisation if diagnosed with the COVID-19 virus. Adults of any age with comorbidities are vulnerable to severe illness from the virus that causes COVID-19.

Some ‌groups at risk for viral hepatitis or severe illness from viral hepatitis also might be at increased risk for severe disease from the COVID-19 virus. CDC offers information for people with a higher risk of severe disease from these infections, like: 

  • HIV with a lower CD4 cell count or not undergoing HIV treatment 
  • Experiencing homelessness 
  • Correctional and detention facilities 

What can everyone do to minimise stigma about COVID-19? 

Minimising stigma and misinformation about COVID-19 are significant. People with liver disease have experience handling the stigma and can help in taking preventive measures against the COVID-19 stigma.

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