Coronavirus and M.E./CFS
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M.E. and Coronavirus

M.E. and Coronavirus

This page has been set up to keep track of up-to-date advice regarding Coronavirus.. We know that the situation is changing quickly and we are monitoring this closely.

Please note we are not medically trained, and are note able to give medical advice. We have consulted with our Medical Advisers who agree that we should share information from government health sources.

This page was last updated at 3pm on Tuesday 13 October 2020.

Need to speak to someone right now?

  • If you need information or support, including help finding practical local assistance, please contact our Crisis, Advocacy and Support Service on 0117 927 9551 or send us an email, and we will do what we can to help.
  • The UK Government has set up a page online where users from England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales can find what help they can receive from the UK gov and other organisations. This includes finding support relating to: what to do if you’re feeling unsafe where you live, or if you’re worried about someone else; paying bills/rent/mortgage; getting food; employment problems; what to do if you’re worried about going in to work; having somewhere to live; mental health and wellbeing, including information for children
  • In Northern Ireland, you can contact a freephone helpline, set up to help those in vulnerable groups to access information, advice and support, on 0808 802 0020. You can also email or send a text to ACTION to 81025.
  • The Scottish Government has set up a helpline for vulnerable people, including those with M.E. Tel: 0800 111 4000. Callers will be automatically connected to their local authority who will support them to access the service they need, such as essential food and medication, links to local social work services for vulnerable children or adults, emotional support and contact with local volunteer groups.

Please be aware that scams are among the most prevalent types of crime in the UK, and Coronavirus is creating a perfect environment for fraudsters to thrive. Please stay informed and keep yourself safe.

  • Which? has published a useful article to help you spot scams.
  • The UK Government has set up a SHAREChecklist website to help you check what is evidence-based information, and what is false.

What is Coronavirus?

Coronaviruses (CoV) are a large family of viruses that cause illness, ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV).

Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is a a respiratory tract infection, that was discovered in 2019 and has not been previously identified in humans.

COVID-19 symptoms

The most important symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19) are recent onset of any of the following:

  • a new continuous cough (this means coughing a lot for more than an hour, or three or more coughing episodes in 24 hours)
  • a high temperature (37.8C or greater)
  • a loss of, or change in, your normal sense of taste or smell (anosmia).

If you start to experience symptoms, please follow UK Government advice about self-isolating.

If your symptoms worsen during home isolation or are no better after 10 days, contact NHS 111 online. If you have no internet access, you should call NHS 111. For a medical emergency dial 999.

M.E. and increased risk

The UK Government's guidance on protecting those who are defined, on medical grounds, as extremely clinically vulnerable does not include people with M.E. (unless they have additional conditions that are listed in this category).

NHS Digital, the body responsible for publishing the shielded patients list (SPL), shares information on "patients at moderate risk of developing complications from coronavirus (COVID-19) where they meet the criteria that make them eligible for the annual flu vaccination (except those aged 65 to 69 year old inclusive who have no other qualifying conditions) AND they do not meet the CMO criteria for the high risk group for COVID-19."

It states that this includes those aged 70 or older (regardless of medical conditions), and those aged under 70 with "an underlying health condition listed below (for adults this is usually anyone instructed to get a flu jab as an adult each year on medical grounds) [including] chronic neurological conditions, such as Parkinson’s disease, motor neurone disease, multiple sclerosis (MS), a learning disability or cerebral palsy."

Given that M.E. is listed as a neurological condition by NHS England, SNOMED (the system used by GPs in England for electronic health records) and the World Health Organisation, we include people with M.E. in this category of moderate risk of developing complications from Coronavirus.

No specific advice has been shared for people with M.E. If you are concerned, we urge you to seek professional medical advice.

The British Association of British Neurologists says "The risk of complicated COVID-19 infection is increased in certain groups, including those over 70 years, with long-term conditions or a weakened immune system." Its detailed guidance (26 March 2020) does not cover M.E.

The Scottish Government has produced a patient information leaflet (2 April 2020) for people with neurological conditions, which lists specific conditions are potentially associated with high risk, but not including M.E.

Lockdown and social distancing

For information about lockdown in your region, please check the relevant link below. The situation is different across the UK, and with regular changes:

  • Information for England. Please note: if you live in an area that is experiencing a local COVID-19 outbreak and where local restrictions have been imposed, different guidance and legislation will apply. Please consult the local restrictions guidance to see if any restrictions are in place in your area.
  • Information for Scotland
  • Information for Wales, with additional guidance on local lockdown
  • Information for Northern Ireland.

Advice on the use of face coverings in the context of Covid-19 has also been set out by the World Health Organisation.

Looking after yourself

As well as following health advice to avoid catching or spreading coronavirus, please reach out for emotional support if you need it. Consider taking breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories, including social media. Hearing about the pandemic repeatedly can be upsetting.

There are useful resources online to support looking after your mental health and well-being; Mind has information for anyone feeling anxious or worried. Please be aware that advice relating to exercise/activity will not be taking into account the impact of M.E. and your need to carefully balance activity, energy and rest.