CHESTCOVID-19: Voices From the CommunityLessons Learned: How the Cystic Fibrosis Community Has Navigated COVID-19

Lessons Learned: How the Cystic Fibrosis Community Has Navigated COVID-19

By: Holly Keyt, MD, FCCP

Advances in therapeutics for patients living with cystic fibrosis (CF) have led to improved lifespan, as well as improved quality of life. Despite this, respiratory illnesses remain the most common cause of death in people with CF.

Viral infections are a well-known cause of pulmonary exacerbations of CF and have been linked to the acquisition of bacterial pathogens, such as Pseudomonas aeruginosa. As COVID-19 has spread across the world, there has been concern that people with CF may have more severe infections due to the novel virus, similar to 2009 with the H1N1 influenza pandemic. Although more research is needed to understand the effects of SARS-CoV-2 in people with CF, early data suggest that our patients do not have worse outcomes with COVID-19 than the general population.

As people with CF and their care teams confront the challenge of maintaining ongoing care of a chronic illness during a pandemic, new strategies for providing care at home have emerged. Tools for patients to monitor their vital signs and lung function, along with video conferencing, have made it possible for patients to visit their care team without leaving the safety of home.

Before the pandemic, we always wore gowns and gloves and sanitized rooms between patient visits. We now realize that many of these careful practices to prevent the spread of difficult-to-treat organisms still apply during the pandemic. We have added screening for COVID-19 prior to pulmonary function testing, as well as universal mask and shield use.

There are many lessons to learn from the global experience of fighting a novel virus, and we will carry many of them forward as we work to deliver the best possible care to people with CF and other chronic lung diseases.

To hear more about the experiences of living with CF and caring for people with CF during a global pandemic, watch a recording of the recent webinar, “Living 6 Feet Apart: Experiences With COVID-19 From the CF Community."

Holly Keyt

Holly Keyt, MD, FCCP, is the medical director of the Adult Cystic Fibrosis Center and an associate professor of Pulmonary Diseases and Critical Care Medicine at UT Health San Antonio. She is Vice-Chair of CHEST’s Chest Infections Network and a member of the CHEST COVID-19 Task Force.