Children and adults who fall ill with recurrent or more severe infections may suffer from an undiagnosed, underlying primary immunodeficiency (PID) disease and this is of increased concern during the Covid-19 pandemic.
There are more than 450 known PIDs. They result from an immune system that is partly or totally dysfunctional due to changes in the genes that code its development and function. In addition to infections, patients may also suffer from associated immune-related conditions like allergies, auto-immune diseases, auto-inflammatory diseases and cancer.
Any respiratory virus that can be spread from person-to-person may be a risk for people with PID. Whilst there is no tangible evidence to date, it is believed that PID patients might be in danger of more severe COVID-19 disease or a more prolonged course. It is important that patients, their relatives and care-givers should be aware of the importance of following all preventative measures to avoid infection as set out by the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD).
PID is underdiagnosed as young children often suffer from recurrent infections that are perceived as ‘normal’ childhood ailments,’ says Prof. Van Niekerk. ‘The diagnosis of a PID can be difficult. We should become suspicious of an underlying PID when infections are more cumbersome. The acronym ‘SPUR’ serves as an easy guidance for PID diagnosis: Remember the ‘s’ for severe: when infections become more complicated than expected; the ‘p’ for persistence: when infections last longer than expected; the ‘u’ for unusual: when the micro-organisms involved should not normally cause an infection in immune competent people; and the ‘r’ for recurrence: when infections occur too frequently. We should therefore think of PID when infections are more severe, more persistent, unusual and too recurrent.’
Professor André van Niekerk, Paediatric Pulmonologist and Chairman of the Allergy Society of South Africa (ALLSA) says these conditions often go underdiagnosed and underreported. World Primary Immunodeficiency Disease Week has been extended to 10 weeks, and will now run from 22 April to 1 July 2020, due to the added concerns and need for awareness arising from the threat of Covid-19.
Patients should always keep the details of their PID diagnosis at hand. Their medical record, medications, the contact details of their PID specialist physician and their next of kin can be very helpful when urgent care is needed.
Issued and Prepared by Paula Wilson Media Consulting for AFSA. Contact Paula on 082 659 9187 of email@example.com
For AFSA Lynn Kämpf on 081 405 8442 or firstname.lastname@example.org
For PID Patient Support – PINSA Annie Pienaar on 083 661 9162 or email@example.com
Training for health professionals – including COVID-19 vs Allergy content
AFSA, ALLSA and sponsors are hosting an all-day Virtual Allergy Masterclass for Doctors, Pharmacists Dietitians on the 8th May 2020 which includes a complimentary Allergic Diseases for Doctors and Pharmacists and Food Allergy for Dietitians online course. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information. There will be further 3 Virtual Masterclass training dates in July, September and November 2020 for those who can’t attend the 8th May.