COVID-19 and Sickle Cell Disease

Sickle cell is an inherited disease that is caused by the abnormal shape of the red blood cell. The typical form of a red blood cell is round, but someone with sickle cell disease has a red blood cell with the shape of a farm tool called the sickle which makes the carriage of oxygen around the body strenuous and deficient.

The shape of these cells prevents them from flowing correctly through small blood vessels, which causes a blockage that prevents blood flow, leading to pain and severe health-related issues like stroke, various infections, and acute chest syndrome. Aside from the shape difference, a normal red blood cell is flexible, but sickle cells are rigid and sticky. 

The COVID 19 pandemic, as we all know, swept across the world in 2020, which led to people being hospitalized and also claimed some people’s lives. Countries worldwide had to declare a total lockdown, and things were at a standstill. Living through this pandemic was an unpleasant experience for most people. However, living through such conditions with a chronic health condition such as sickle cell is a whole different ball game. It becomes a great challenge to adjust to the lifestyle changes that came with the COVID-19 pandemic.

A lot of guidelines and steps were given to help curb the spread of this virus, such as wearing facemasks, constant social distancing, proper washing of hands, using alcohol-based hand sanitizers, self-isolation if sick, and so on.

At this time, everyone has to be very cautious not to contract the virus, but sickle cell patients need to be extra careful. Sickle cell disease is so severe that it affects every body organ. With the COVID-19 outbreak, sickle cell patients are expected to be prioritized because they are at greater risk than those without chronic diseases. Specific extra measures should be taken by sickle cell patients and their parents/ guardians and caretakers during this period to avoid the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

Sickle cell patients should stay indoors as much as possible and isolate themselves to avoid any risk of getting the virus. Any medications they need should be bought in bulk so they don’t run out of them and must go out. They should not be in crowded places during this period and strictly follow the social distance rule. Long trips should be avoided as much as possible so as not to put the patient at risk. If these sickle cell patients show any symptoms— such as fever, cough, vomiting, muscle and joint pain, sore throat, etc., they should immediately contact health care personnel and follow their instructions.

The family members of a sickle cell patient also need to take procedures so as not to risk the virus’s spread and to secure the person’s safety. They should be careful not to bring the virus home by social distancing while outside and ensuring proper sanitization.

Families should make sure they maintain personal hygiene for a germ-free environment. Clothes, bathrooms, and toilets should be clean and properly disinfected. If a family member feels sick, they should stay far away from the sickle cell patient and get help before it spreads. This is why COVID-19 testing is necessary. Antibody tests are also recommended for those that may have contracted the virus previously.

You can only do so much to avert it, but when a sickle cell patient contracts the virus, not much can be done but to contact the necessary health agencies. It is also very advisable that sickle cell patients get vaccinated. Even though it is not a complete shield from the virus because it is still developing into different variants, it is a step in the right direction. It helps reduce the chances of contracting the virus. 

Those with sickle cell disease must take these crucial preventive measures so they do not contract the COVID 19 virus. Sickle cell warriors are vulnerable to different diseases, whether critical or not. Thus, they need all assistance and attention they can get for their safety.

blood donation

Effects of Covid-19 on Blood Donation and Transfusion

The severe COVID-19 virus caused the pandemic that the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared in 2020, and it led to a massive disruption in health care services across all countries worldwide. Since the pandemic occurred, one of the major areas of healthcare it affected was blood transfusion and donation. There were significant concerns about blood availability for patients in need, and it was a severe threat to the treatment of patients. This article will expand on the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on blood transfusion and donation.

Blood transfusion is one practice that cannot be replaced in the health care sector, and with the introduction of the COVID-19 pandemic, the availability of blood has been an issue. There was an increasing shortage of blood worldwide, which significantly affected blood transfusion. 

There was a significant decrease in blood donation from about 40% to 67% worldwide. Walk-in blood donors reduced drastically during the pandemic because there was a lockdown, and staying indoors was in their best interest. Hospitals and other health care facilities maintained strict rules on people accessing the building, so people could not just come and go as they pleased. 

There was also the concern of the donors contracting the virus through blood donation. Most people were in the dark about what the COVID-19 virus was, especially with all the conspiracy theories and rumours circulating. As something that claimed so many lives, very few were willing to take the risk.

In addition, the COVID-19 pandemic hindered blood donation because it diverted the attention of world leaders/policymakers and health workers away from other issues. On the one hand, it is a positive thing because it shows that the governments of many countries worldwide were committed to tackling and managing the spread of the virus, but on the other hand, it stands as a risk to other structures that have been put in place. Over the years, blood donation and transfusion services have reduced mortality and morbidity rates. Still, the intense focus on curbing the COVID-19 spread slowly jeopardises these other life-saving practices.

As a result, most health care facilities had to depend on their blood banks for blood transfusion, which is very limited. So, people lost their lives to COVID-19 and other illnesses because of a lack of blood. Another crucial challenge was the rapid reduction in available health care workers and other essential staff because many across health facilities contracted the COVID-19 virus or suffered other illnesses.

Post-COVID-19 pandemic, various health care facilities have intentionally tried ways to protect prospective donors from the COVID-19 virus while increasing the blood supply. One of those ways is free blood screening. Blood screening involves testing the blood for various infectious diseases, including COVID-19. This was a regular habit at health care facilities pre-COVID-19 but only intensified afterward. 

There may be willing donors interested in testing for only COVID-19 before donating blood, and various platforms can make that possible. There are community testing centres specifically for COVID-19 testing. Better still, they could self-test by getting the PCR or the rapid antigen home test kit. They are both quicker and can be done comfortably in their homes. Health care facilities also administer antibody tests to blood donations to confirm if there are COVID-19 antibodies. It is still advised that donors get vaccinated as the body produces antibodies after vaccination.

Another way to spread the word about blood donation is by implementing mobile blood drives in public places like offices, neighbourhoods, and educational institutions with high chances of getting donors. This will help bridge the blood supply and demand gap this season.

Blood transfusion is essential, as there will always be people who need blood, and the only way for people to get the blood they need is when people are willing to donate. Health care workers must maintain necessary protocols in their facilities and be empathetic with the donors to put them at ease and assist them in doing their part.

COVID-19 testing

COVID-19 Testing Inequalities

The COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic was a rude shock that the world is yet to get over. The impact of this pandemic on the UK has been immense. Efforts have been made to make vaccines and opportunities for cheap Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) tests available in the UK, as well as in other countries of the world, through testing within communities and testing before and after travel. There is no doubt that this has assisted in reducing the spread of the virus. But, despite all efforts, there are apparent differences in the availability of testing in specific communities in the UK. It is not so surprising that the groups affected the most by the pandemic have the least access to the COVID-19 testing. While private businesses and schools introduced testing for their employees and students, small businesses and public schools have no choice but to depend on the state

Despite being talked about for so long, health care and health inequalities have continued and, in certain instances, worsened over time. In the UK, the Coronavirus pandemic increased the already high death toll, causing further difficulties for those already experiencing health inequalities. Northern England suffered the most during the Coronavirus pandemic as they had the most increased death and infection rates within the UK.

Health inequalities, especially those related to the COVID-19 testing, all have underlying factors that cause them. These factors include education, employment, socioeconomic status, social support systems, physical environment, race, and access to good healthcare. So, it is clear that social factors that determine health are the main health drivers. For example, a child born into a family with little or no education will probably live in a neighbourhood that is not so healthy.

For immigrants in the country, as important as healthcare is, they are more concerned about getting deported and the stigma that comes with it. Limited English Language Proficiency (LEP) can be a challenge because it can disrupt communication about the transmission of the virus. Also, they can be more vulnerable to exposure as a good number of them are essential workers. They should have access to the cheap PCR tests and possibly have their home test kits.

There are uninsured people in the UK, both elderly and non-elderly. Most of them have low-income jobs. They should be granted COVID-19 home visit tests, especially the elderly ones among them. People of colour among them seem to have more difficulty getting tested than white people. The impact of the pandemic on black people and other people of colour in London reflects the racial inequality in health.

The population of homeless people is just a clear display of health inequality in the UK. These are some of the people supposed to be of priority but are neglected. With no access to cheap PCR tests, the infection rate within this group keeps increasing.

It is pretty interesting to see that many of these groups that have been affected the most by the pandemic have not only little or no access to COVID-19 testing, but also they are hesitant to go for tests or even receive vaccines when they are finally made available to them. This hesitance is due to bad experiences people from these groups might have had and continue to have, so they are wary of medical professionals.

The impact of the Coronavirus in the UK and the measures that have been put in place to reduce the spread have and will continue to have an effect on these groups on different levels.

The governments in the UK have the opportunity to take deliberate and precise action to reduce or curb the impact of the pandemic on these socially disadvantaged groups that are susceptible to the COVID-19 virus. The governments should make testing available across all states in the country. People of these socially disadvantaged groups should also be more included in decisions to improve trust in the medical system. If all these measures are taken, it will be a significant step towards socio economic recovery.