Coronavirus and Parkinson’s: what you need to know

Global update

Author: Saskia MairPublished: 19 March 2020

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As the world confronts the coronavirus pandemic, we ask how the societal impact of the disease – and the virus itself – could affect people living with Parkinson’s


The coronavirus disease (Covid-19) – a respiratory virus, which affects the lungs and airways – has now been reported in more than 100 countries around the world.

Symptoms include a fever and a continuous cough – and can take up to 14 days to appear following exposure to the virus. While many people with the illness will have milder symptoms, similar to a cold, others can experience more severe symptoms and disease-related complications. The World Health Organisation declared a pandemic on 11 March 2020.

So, what does this mean for people with Parkinson’s? Because the disease is new and has only affected humans since the end of last year, scientists don’t know exactly how it affects people with the condition.

The UK government has published a list of those at higher risk of severe illness from Covid-19 which includes all people over the age of 70, and people under 70 with a chronic neurological condition such as Parkinson’s. This means people with the condition are considered at a higher risk of having severe symptoms or complications if they are infected by the virus.

Russell Patten, secretary general of the European Parkinson’s Disease Association (EPDA), said: “These are challenging, worrying and frustrating times for everyone in the world – particularly European people with Parkinson’s and their families as the continent is seemingly at the centre of the coronavirus crisis. Borders are closing down at furious speed and movement everywhere is restricted.

“In such difficult circumstances, we must stay strong and grow resilient as a community. Parkinson’s organisations and individuals around the globe are offering support and hope to the masses, mostly online via extra free resources and information to help us stay fit, energised and strong (mentally and physically) while we stay indoors and as safe as possible. We at the EPDA are busily preparing some exciting home-based exercise resources that we’ll share in the next week or so, so watch this space.

“Now is not the time to retreat inwardly; we must tackle anxiety and isolation at home by communicating in new ways.” 

The Parkinson’s community is being affected by worldwide cancellations, including that of the Parkinson’s Vision 2020 conference, which was due to take place on 17 and 18 April in Leicester, UK.

The Conference Volunteer Team said: “Although we are bitterly disappointed that the conference is not going ahead as planned, the momentum behind highlighting the issues for those of us living with YOPD has been driven forward by the support of this conference through social media, media and other channels.”

Parkinson’s UK is advising the organisers of local Parkinson’s groups to stop local activities as a precautionary measure. Parkinson Canada said that in-person support meetings had been cancelled until further notice, and US charity, Parkinson’s Foundation, has announced that all in-person events until the end of May will be postponed, although they will continue to run online webinars.

The Michael J Fox Foundation introduced a topic change for a planned webinar on 19March, to provide ‘Information on Coronavirus for the Parkinson’s Community’.

On 11 March the Foundation posted an interview with movement disorder specialist Susan Bressman, MD, who said information on the virus is changing daily: “We’re learning more about it – how it spreads, the odds of getting it, how we can treat it – but we still need more information.”

For up-to-date information about Covid-19 please get in touch with your healthcare authorities and check updates provided by reliable Parkinson’s organisations.

How have you been affected by the coronavirus?

We will be doing all we can to share useful information about Covid-19 with you as the situation develops – and we need your help. To share your experience or tell us the topics you want Parkinson’s Life to cover during the pandemic, please leave a comment or email editor@parkinsonslife.eu.

For more information about Covid-19 please visit the EPDA website.


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