The Coronavirus: What People With Arthritis Need to Know

See the Arthritis Foundation’s special report on the coronavirus, updated March 6, 2020.

This article was posted Feb. 28, 2020. Please see our special report and updated information on the coronavirus.

If you have arthritis, you may be anxious about the coronavirus. It’s important not to panic. According to the CDC, the number of people infected with COVID-19 (short for “coronavirus disease 2019”) in the U.S. is relatively low but growing rapidly. The agency is working with state public health officials to implement aggressive measures to slow and contain transmission of the virus.

Here’s what you need to know now.

  • Avoid crowded places. The CDC suggests that older people – over 60 years old – and those with severe chronic medical conditions, avoid going to places where there are a lot of people. This means avoiding movie theaters, busy shopping malls, travel on planes, public transportation and religious services. If your workplace or commute involve passing through or being with lots of people, ask about telecommuting or working from home, if possible.
  • The coronavirus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person – through bodily fluids produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes – between people who are in close contact with one another (about 6 feet).
  • The virus can be transferred from a surface or object if you touch it and then touch your mouth, nose or eyes. But there is likely a very low risk of it surviving on the surface of products or packaging.
  • Symptoms, which include cough, fever and shortness of breath, may appear in as few as 2 days or as long as 14 days after exposure.
  • Currently, the CDC does not recommend the general public wear facemasks. However, the CDC says facemasks should be worn by people with confirmed or suspected infection.

The CDC recommends many of the same practical measures that lower your risk of exposure to the coronavirus as they do the flu. These include:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. This is especially important after using the bathroom, before eating and after blowing your nose, CDC approved Coronavirus picturecoughing or sneezing.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick and avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth until you wash your hands.
  • Stay home when you’re sick and cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then toss tissue in the trash.
  • Clean frequently touched objects and surfaces with a common household cleaning spray or wipe.
  • Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol when washing your hands is not possible.

As an extra precaution, consider using a hand sanitizer after shaking hands. And be hypervigilant about following the measures outlined above when you travel.

For more information on coronavirus and arthritis, please see the Arthritis Foundation’s special report on the coronavirus, updated March 6, 2020.

Additional resources about coronavirus and arthritis:



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