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How The Coronavirus Affects Those With Compromised Immune Systems

As positive cases of coronavirus continue to be recorded throughout the world, those who are immunocompromised have undergone extra precautions to protect themselves, as they are at a higher risk of complications due to their reduced ability to fight infections, according to

This reduced ability to fight infections “… may be caused by certain diseases or conditions, such as AIDS, cancer, diabetes, malnutrition, and certain genetic disorders. It may also be caused by certain medicines or treatments.”

Rick Folbaum, news anchor for CBS46 in Atlanta, Georgia, is a father of five children and a Crohn’s disease patient who recovered from the coronavirus. Crohn’s is an inflammatory bowel disease that causes chronic inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract, according to the Crohn’s Colitis Foundation.

“The virus does not discriminate, young or old,” Folbaum said. “It does not matter what socioeconomic group you come from. This is something that can impact anyone, and we all need to take precautions.” Folbaum was proactive to seek treatment, saying “… it was mainly because of my family, not so much because I have Crohn’s.” .

Everyone needs to be mindful of coronavirus’ severity, even if they do not have a chronic condition, Folbaum said. “I can say during my newscast or just simply when talking to friends and family, you have to take this seriously.”

Folbaum has been diagnosed with Crohn’s disease for many years, explaining that, “I don’t like Crohn’s to define who I am or what I do. I am always mindful of Crohn’s, but I try not to have it dominate my thoughts.”

Many patients with IBD (inflammatory bowel disease), may be fearful of their level of risk and exposure to the coronavirus, according to the Crohn’s Colitis Foundation. “The best action any patient can take is to follow recommendations from their healthcare team and do their part to help limit the risk.”

Tessa Listo, social work major with a compromised immune system, has three autoimmune diseases known as Gastroparesis, IBS, and Rumination Syndrome. Listo said she must take extra precautions because of her chronic conditions.

“If I leave my house, I wear gloves and a mask,” Listo said. “When I come home, I wash my hands, change my clothes, and shower.”

The coronavirus-caused global pandemic had made it more difficult for Listo to perform simple tasks such as grocery shopping, going to work, and going to the post office.

“These are all things we usually don’t think twice about doing,” Listo said. “I have to be extra careful doing any of these daily tasks because of my immune system. I am not allowed to work regular shifts anymore because I am at a higher risk of complications with it. I can’t even do simple things like getting coffee at Starbucks or Dunkin.”

Erin Matyola, communications major afflicted with Interstitial Cystitis, an autoimmune disease, must also be careful when leaving the house.

“I always wear gloves and a mask and only leave when I need to get supplements or other things for my health,” Matyola said. “I have been taking vitamin C and have been hydrating myself to strengthen my immune system.”

The CDC recommends precautions for people who are at a higher risk. “Stay home if possible, wash your hands often, take everyday precautions to keep space between yourself and others, keep away from people who are sick, stock up on supplies, clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces, [and] avoid all cruise travel and non-essential air travel,” according to the CDC.

Emily Sulich, University student and advocate for those with compromised immune systems, suffers from Dysautonomia, Lyme’s Disease, Hashimoto’s, Gastroparesis, IC, and Pelvic Floor Dysfunction.

“I can no longer see my doctors in person and cannot have testing or procedures done,” Sulich said. “I am without treatment and answers during this pandemic. I am practicing social distancing, staying away from people, and always wearing a mask if I must go out. I am also taking many supplements to help my immune system.”