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COVID-19 Information and FAQs for Transplant Patients

We know that transplant patients and their families have questions related to care during this time. Our hospitals and clinics have strict infection-prevention protocols and systems in place to protect patients, visitors and health care workers. For everyone's sake, we are taking extra safety precautions in our clinics and hospitals, including more frequent cleaning, entrance screenings and social distancing in our registration and waiting areas.

Have COVID-like Symptoms? Call Before Coming In

If you have an upcoming appointment and have symptoms including fever, new cough, new shortness of breath or recent loss of taste or smell, or if you fear that you have been exposed to the novel coronavirus, which causes COVID-19, please call your provider's office or our nurse phone line — 800-926-8273 — to discuss your symptoms before coming to your scheduled appointment.

Video Visits

Our physicians and care teams will also be reviewing our schedules and contacting patients whose visits may be appropriate to convert to MyUCSDChart video visits. We will make every effort to ensure this is a smooth and easy experience for you.

Appointments and visitors

For current information on our visitor policy, see our regularly updated visitor restrictions page.

 

FAQs for Transplant Patients

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Who is at higher risk of getting very sick from COVID-19?

Older adults (age 60 and older) and those with serious chronic medical conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, lung disease and cancer, or transplant recipients, are more likely to get very sick from COVID-19. Patients who are immunocompromised are also at higher risk.

Are transplant recipients at higher risk for the virus?

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) says organ transplant patients are among the immunocompromised population with higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19. With a weakened immune system, the body is less able to fight off and recover from infections. Certain therapies, including those for transplant and cancer patients, may also weaken the immune system. For this reason, it is important to take precautions to prevent infection.

What does it mean to be immunocompromised?

Being immunocompromised means having a weakened immune system. White blood cells fight infections. If white blood cell counts are low or the white blood cells are not functioning well, the body cannot fight infections effectively. Immunocompromised patients can include transplant recipients who are taking immunosuppressants, or drugs that block the immune system from attacking the new organ. However, these immunosuppressive medications also block the immune system from fighting real threats like viruses, bacteria and fungi.

Immunocompromised patients can also include patients with cancer and HIV, and those with other known immunodeficiencies.

I am taking medications that suppress my immune system. Do I need to take special precautions?

People with low or compromised immunity are at higher risk for infection, so they need to be careful not to further weaken their immune system. Here's what you should do if you're at higher risk from COVID-19:

  • To protect everyone's health and well-being, we encourage you to stay at home, except for essential needs, per any stay-at-home order in your region.
  • Have a 30-day supply of all medications, and request refills at least 7 days before running out.
  • Practice social distancing.
  • Wear a mask — a bandana, scarf or homemade face covering – if you leave home for any essential purpose.
  • Avoid crowded places and close contact with sick people and others outside of your home.
  • Stay home when you're sick.
  • Try not to touch your eyes, nose and mouth, especially with unwashed hands.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water (for 20 seconds) or use hand sanitizer.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces, like keyboards, phones, remote controls and door handles, and thoroughly wash glasses and utensils.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze – or use the crook of your arm – and throw the tissue in the trash. Then wash your hands with soap and water.
  • Avoid all nonessential travel. If you have to, don't travel to places with widespread or sustained community transmission of the novel coronavirus. Reliable travel information can be found on the CDC's travel advisory page.
  • Practice healthy habits to boost your immune system: Get plenty of sleep, be physically active, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids and eat nutritious food.

Should I continue to take my immunosuppressive medications?

Yes, you should continue to take your immunosuppressive medications as prescribed and follow your transplant team’s advice. Try to keep a 30-day supply of all medications, and request refills at least 7 days before running out.

Note: If you are sick with fever or respiratory symptoms, contact your medical team for guidance on continuing your immunosuppressive medications.

What should I do if I have flu-like/respiratory symptoms?

If you are worried about having symptoms of COVID-19, please call your transplant team. Symptoms include fever, new cough, new shortness of breath and loss of taste and small. Other symptoms may include sore throat, fatigue or diarrhea. We recommend you wear masks when outside the house, avoid contact with sick people, follow stringent hand hygiene (frequent hand washing or use of hand sanitizer), and stay at home as much as possible.

Should I wear a mask?

Yes, masks are a simple, but critical tactic, in slowing the spread of the virus, so it’s crucial we wear masks to protect ourselves and others. UC San Diego Health requires patients, visitors and staff in our facilities to wear face coverings or masks that cover the nose and mouth.

The CDC recommends that anyone who leaves their home for any purpose should wear a facial covering — such as a bandana, scarf or homemade mask — while maintaining social distancing and hand hygiene.

San Diego County health officials have mandated that people must wear masks in public settings when they're within 6 feet of other people. Businesses also must require their employees and others to wear a face covering at the workplace.

See more information on masks and tips for achieving a proper fit.

I am awaiting a transplant. Could I get COVID-19 from my donor?

The risk of acquiring COVID-19 from organ donation is low. Donors are being screened for COVID-19 symptoms and exposure history, including travel. All organ procurement organizations are testing all donors for COVID-19.

At UC San Diego Health, we only accept organs from donors who test negative for the novel coronavirus. Living donors who have been to high-risk areas or have been exposed to someone diagnosed or evaluated for COVID-19 infection are generally being asked to postpone donation for 14 to 28 days after exposure or return from travel, and they are tested for COVID-19 prior to organ donation, as well.

Also, living donors are being asked to not travel to high-risk areas for at least 14 days before donation and to monitor themselves for symptoms. At UC San Diego Health, we have continued to safely perform lifesaving transplant surgeries during this pandemic.


See all COVID-19 FAQs and frequently updated information about UC San Diego Health care and services.