Canadian Liver Foundation COVID-19 Action Plan
The Canadian Liver Foundation wants to assure our community that we are watching closely as the situation with COVID-19 continues to unfold globally. As part of our commitment to open and transparent communication, we want to update you on the actions we are taking to safeguard our community and on recommendations specific to those living with liver disease.
* Revised May 25, 2020 *
The health and safety of each member of our community is our highest priority. As such, we are in regular communication with our regional offices to ensure everyone is following the protocols that support their health and wellbeing. Specifically, we have taken the following steps:
- Our National and Regional offices are closed, but our staff is working remotely (where possible) to ensure a continuation of service. Our sharpest focus is on maintaining our National Help Line and other patient support services to answer questions from our community members. We are also working hard to communicate via social media.
- We have postponed, cancelled, or repackaged for online delivery all in-person events until September. Details for each event will be forthcoming and communicated by social media, our website, and other means. In addition, we will reassess events beyond September as the situation progresses.
Individuals living with liver disease might be wondering about COVID-19 recommendations specific to their situation. There are a number of important points to make that will be of interest for these members of our community:
- COVID-19 elevates liver enzymes, even in individuals who do not have a liver disease diagnosis. In mild cases, the liver damage is temporary and usually does not require treatment, but severe cases may result in long-term or permanent liver injury.
- There is no data that indicates that liver disease patients with impaired or weakened immune systems are more susceptible to COVID-19. However, patients with chronic liver disease, including cirrhosis and autoimmune hepatitis, as well as pre- and post-transplant patients on immunosuppressive medications may be among the more vulnerable patients and carry a high risk of severe illness if they become infected with COVID-19.
- Obese patients with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) often have additional metabolic risk factors which may also aggravate the severity of COVID-19, if they become infected.
- More research is needed to determine if COVID-19 patients who also have viral hepatitis (Hep B and Hep C), cirrhosis, fatty liver, and other chronic liver diseases are more likely to sustain liver damage than other COVID-19 patients. However, we do know that older adults and people of any age who have serious underlying medical conditions, including liver disease, seem to be at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19, particularly if the underlying medical conditions are not well controlled.
Additionally, according to the newest information from the Canadian Society of Transplantation (CST), organ transplant recipients are likely to develop weaker immune systems and may be at increased risk of more severe outcomes related to COVID-19. As a result, the decision to proceed with organ donation and transplantation must balance the risk the virus poses to potential recipients with the risk of delaying transplantation. Undoubtedly, this will cause concern for those waiting for a transplant and for transplant recipients. Those awaiting liver transplant should know that the risk of acquiring COVID-19 by organ donation is very low, as all donors—living and deceased—are screened for the virus. As the situation is rapidly evolving and unique in each province, provincial transplant programs are working with patients to provide information and updates.
As the recommendation for self-isolation continues, many are experiencing diminished mental health. Depression, anxiety, and fear of isolation are real and important issues for everyone, and we are united in delivering a singular message to each member of our community: you are not alone!
- Our National Help Line will continue to be available throughout the pandemic. Reach us by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 1-800-563-5483 (Mon-Fri 9:00-5:00).
- We encourage everyone to follow us on social media to stay connected. We are committed to frequent communication throughout the pandemic, focussing on ways to stay healthy and well in our current circumstances, news from throughout our national network, and encouragement for those affected.
Keep watching this site for updates. And please…stay home and stay safe.