Frequently Asked Questions About Coronavirus (COVID-19) and Your Kidney Care

Fresenius Kidney Care is dedicated to providing you with answers to your questions during this uncertain time. The following information can be used to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 and protect people living with chronic kidney disease (CKD). If you do not see the information you need here, you can also contact your care team.
How does COVID-19 spread?

COVID-19 is spread from person-to-person through close contact, similar to the flu or other respiratory viruses. When an infected person coughs or sneezes, respiratory droplets can be transferred to people nearby through the mouth or nose, or inhaled into the lungs. COVID-19 can also be transmitted by touching infected surfaces and then touching your mouth, nose, or eyes. However, research suggests the virus does not appear to remain on surfaces for many hours.

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What is community spread?

Community spread means that people in an area have been infected with COVID-19, including some who are not sure how or where they contracted the virus.

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How can I protect myself from COVID-19?

Since COVID-19 is spread through close contact, the best way to protect yourself is to practice social distancing and good hygiene. To lower your chances of contracting the virus, take the following preventative steps, provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):

  • Stay home as much as possible.
  • Stay up to date on your annual influenza (flu) vaccine.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 40–60 seconds.
  • Avoid touching your nose, mouth, and eyes.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces such as doorknobs, light switches, countertops, and handrails.
  • Stock up on medications, food, and supplies.

If you are living with an underlying medical condition like kidney disease, take extra safety precautions during home dialysis or talk to your care team about how to protect your health during in-center treatments or routine appointments.

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What should I do if I have contact with someone who has COVID-19?

If you’ve come into contact with someone who has COVID-19, talk to your care team about getting tested. If you are feeling sick or show any symptoms of the virus—such as a fever at or above 100.0° F or shortness of breath—contact your doctor immediately. He or she can give you instructions for getting the care you need.

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What steps can care partners take to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19 to people on dialysis?

In addition to following the CDC’s recommended guidelines for social distancing and good hygiene, there are some other safety precautions for care partners in order to protect yourself and the people you are caring for from COVID-19:

  • Assist with basic needs
    One of the best ways to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 is to provide support and meet the basic needs of the person you’re caring for during this time. To limit exposure, keep the house stocked with plenty of kidney-friendly food and medical supplies—antibacterial pump soap, hand sanitizer, prescriptions and over-the-counter medications, and face masks. If appropriate, take care of their household chores and pets as well.
  • Watch out for symptoms
    As a care partner, make sure you have doctor and care team phone numbers readily available, especially if the person you’re caring for begins to show symptoms of COVID-19. If you’re unsure of someone’s condition, contact their care team to get additional information about how to proceed. Do not go to the center unless instructed to do so by a care team member in order to limit unnecessary exposure to the virus.
  • Limit your contact, when you can
    If you or the person you’re caring for are at high risk for severe illness from COVID-19, limit your contact to ensure your safety and theirs. Use separate bedrooms and bathrooms when you can, and when you are in a shared space, keep air flowing to eliminate respiratory droplets.
  • Have the proper safety gear to limit exposure
    Care partners should wear gloves when coming in contact with someone’s skin, blood, stool, or any other fluids. When you are finished, immediately dispose of your gloves and wash your hands. A face covering may also help prevent the sharing of respiratory germs and can be worn by both the care partner and the person receiving care.
  • Clean and disinfect
    In addition to practicing good personal hygiene, care partners can also ensure objects and surfaces around the house are cleaned and disinfected on a daily basis. Use gloves and protective gear when handling dirty laundry or trash.
  • At Fresenius Kidney Care, we are committed to providing safe and supportive treatment to every person who receives care. Our team is implementing additional safety precautions to ensure your health and wellbeing during this pandemic.

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What should I do if someone in my home gets sick with COVID-19?

Research suggests that people are most contagious when they are showing symptoms of the virus. The CDC recommends that infected individuals be isolated either in the hospital or at home, depending on their condition, until they no longer pose a risk of infecting others. This isolation period is called quarantine and typically lasts around 14 days.

During this time, it’s recommended that people who are sick and in quarantine at home use a separate bathroom from others in the house, wear clean disposable face masks to help prevent spreading COVID-19 to others, and avoid sharing personal items like utensils, food, and drinks.

People living with kidney disease may require additional care if exposed to someone who has contracted the virus. If you or a family member develops a fever, cough, or other symptoms, or if someone in your home tests positive for COVID-19, please contact your home nurse by phone for further instructions. Do not come to the center.

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What are the symptoms and complications of COVID-19?

People with COVID-19 can show a wide range of mild to severe symptoms, which typically appear between 2–14 days after exposure. Mild symptoms include:

  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Fever at or above 100.0° F
  • Chills
  • Repeated shaking with chills
  • Muscle pain
  • Headache
  • Sore throat
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Congestion or runny nose
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea

If you experience any combination of these symptoms or feel unwell, contact your care team for further instructions and to get the assistance you need. If you are at high risk for COVID-19 or related complications, be aware of more serious warning signs as well:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
  • New confusion or inability to arouse
  • Bluish lips or face
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Should I get tested for COVID-19?

If you are feeling unwell or experience signs of COVID-19, contact your home nurse or care team immediately. Your doctor can assess your symptoms and determine if you would benefit from getting tested.

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Who is at higher risk for serious illness from COVID-19?

According to the CDC, people with underlying medical conditions—including people with chronic kidney disease or on dialysis, people with diabetes, and people ages 65 and older—are at high risk for severe illness from COVID-19.

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Are people with CKD at higher risk of complications?

Since COVID-19 is a new disease, there is limited information regarding risk factors for severe illness. Clinical expertise suggests that older adults and anyone with serious underlying medical conditions might be at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19. This includes people living with kidney disease or end stage renal disease and on dialysis.

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What does severe illness from COVID-19 look like?

In this case, severity means how much the virus can impact your body’s function. If you have any questions about how COVID-19 can impact your kidney function or how to manage your health during the pandemic, your care team is here to help.

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How can people living with CKD prepare for COVID-19?

People living with kidney disease can limit his or her exposure to COVID-19 by taking recommended health precautions:

  • Only go out for essential errands
    The best way to stay safe is to avoid close contact with people who are sick or carrying COVID-19. Luckily, many businesses are making it easy to stay home by offering delivery services or contact-free pickup for groceries and prescriptions. If you must go out for dialysis or care team appointments, practice social distancing by staying at least 6 feet away from other people.
  • Wash your hands often
    Wash your hands for at least 40–60 seconds with soap and warm water, especially if you’ve been in a public place, or after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing. If soap isn’t available, use a hand sanitizer that’s at least 60% alcohol and cover all surfaces of your hands.
  • Stock up on medications, food, and supplies
    To ensure you have everything you need to stay safe at home, prepare to have enough medications, kidney-friendly food, and medical supplies to last 2–4 weeks. If you can’t have these items delivered, you can also ask a friend or family member to help you get the things you need.
  • Reach out for support when you need it
    COVID-19 is still very new and we’re all learning how to cope with the way it impacts our daily lives. If you are experiencing COVID-related stress or need help at any time, please reach out to your social worker or another care team member to get the support you need.
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What cleaning products should I use to protect against COVID-19?

To prevent spreading the virus, it’s important to clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces such as tables, counters, doorknobs, light switches, phones, keyboards, toilets, and faucets on a daily basis. Most common EPA-registered household disinfectants are suitable for cleaning and protecting against COVID-19. You can also clean dirty surfaces with detergent or soap and water prior to disinfection, if necessary.

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Should I continue my dialysis treatment and care team appointments?

Yes. While dialysis and care team appointments may look a little different during this time, it’s important that you continue your treatment as directed by your doctor or care team.

In-center dialysis
If you receive in-center dialysis, you will be asked to wear a surgical mask for your entire visit, as well as have your temperature taken when you arrive. Your care team will also ask you to wash your hands when entering and leaving the center.

Every dialysis center is being cleaned and disinfected, according to the recommended CDC guidelines, and chairs have been placed 6 feet apart to ensure proper social distancing. We are also asking that all non-essential visitors remain outside the center to protect the health and safety of people receiving treatment, our care teams, and the community.

Home dialysis
During a home visit, your care team member will wear personal protective equipment and perform proper hand hygiene upon entering and before leaving your home. You and your family will be required to wear a mask during the visit as well.

Your home therapy supplies will be delivered as usual. We have the inventory to meet current demands, and we are limiting quantities of some items in order to continue to be able to supply those products to people who need them on an ongoing basis.

Telehealth
In order to further limit the spread of the virus, your care team may recommend telehealth as an alternative to in-person appointments or check-ins. Telehealth, or virtual visits, are meetings with your doctor or care team that are done over a computer, smart phone, or tablet. The goal of these telehealth visits is to give you the same quality care that you would receive during an in-person visit.

If you have any questions about how you will receive care, please reach out to your care team and we will be happy to provide more information.

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Should people with chronic conditions and compromised immune systems wear masks?

Given the information medical researchers have found regarding the spread of COVID-19, the CDC recommends that people wear a cloth face covering when out in public to cover their nose and mouth. While this does not necessarily keep the person wearing the mask from getting sick, it may help prevent spreading the disease to others. Even if you are not showing symptoms, you may be carrying the virus and can help protect others by wearing a face covering.

People with chronic conditions and compromised immune systems may also benefit from wearing masks as a supplementary health practice. Wearing a mask will not guarantee you will not contract the virus; it will help you avoid sharing the virus with others if you have it. Be sure to wash your hands often and follow social distancing practices to lower your risk for COVID-19.

If you do in-center dialysis, you will be provided a mask to wear throughout your entire treatment and during discharge from the center after your treatment. Providing masks to you and our staff, along with the other steps we’re taking, can help to further reduce the risk of spreading the virus.

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Can someone who has been quarantined for COVID-19 spread the disease to others?

People who have been exposed to contagious diseases like COVID-19 do not have to show symptoms of the disease to be a potential carrier, so isolating yourself for 14 days is a safety precaution as well as a healthcare response. Individuals or groups are sometimes quarantined in order to limit the possible spread of the virus to others who have not been exposed.

The incubation period for COVID-19, as well as the quarantine period, is 14 days from the time you are exposed. Someone who has been released from quarantine without developing illness during that 14-day incubation period is no longer considered a risk for spreading the virus to others.

If you’ve tested positive for COVID-19 and need to isolate yourself, you will still be able to receive your dialysis treatment during an isolation shift in your primary dialysis center or in an isolation facility. Once you’ve been released from quarantine, you will be able to return to your primary dialysis center. Talk to your care team if you have any questions about this process or about how you should be receiving your treatment.

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If you have questions about your health and treatment during COVID-19, please reach out to your care team. Your safety is our top priority and we’re here to support you at every step.


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