World Federation of Hemophilia Statement: Update to COVID-19

Since December 2019 the coronavirus, now known as COVID-19, has become an ongoing public health issue.  The World Federation of Hemophilia (WFH) is committed to ensuring that we provide accurate, up to date information that may affect the community of people living with hemophilia and other rare blood disorders.

Coronaviruses belong to a large family of viruses that circulate in animals, including humans, and may cause illness. Human coronaviruses are well known with an infection ranging from mild illnesses such as the common cold, to severe illnesses that cause respiratory complications such as pneumonia.  Examples of these severe illnesses include Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (SARS CoV) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS CoV).

COVID-19 is a virus that is new to public health and, as a result, there is much yet to learn about it. Current scientific information about the transmission of COVID-19 is largely based on what is known about similar coronaviruses. Analysis of the outbreak in China offers some insight about age distribution of the affected individuals, spectrum of the disease, severity and symptoms. The latest such summary can be consulted here.

There is currently no known risk to blood, blood treatment products, and plasma derived products. The latest position on the potential for blood transmission was published on February 27th by the FDA and can be consulted here.

Based on its relatively large size (120 nm diameter) and structure, which includes a lipid envelope, the COVID-19 virus would be inactivated through solvent/detergent (S/D) treatment and/or eliminated by nanofiltration, both of which are part of the clotting factor concentrate manufacturing process (however, some products do not undergo nanofiltration).

As with any infectious disease of public health concern, there is a heightened awareness for people who live with an underlying illness, such as hemophilia and other rare blood disorders.  At this point in time, the virus is thought to be spread from person to person, who are in close contact to one another through respiratory droplets. The droplets are inhaled through the lungs, where the infection occurs.

There is currently no vaccine to prevent COVID-19. The best way to prevent infection is to avoid being exposed to any source of transmission. Prevention measures include:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds
  • If your hands are not visibly soiled, using hand sanitizer is an alternative to soap and water
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands
  • Avoid close contact with people who are symptomatic (coughing, sneezing)
  • Stay home if you feel unwell
  • Cover your cough or sneeze into your sleeve
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces

COVID-19 is a respiratory illness; therefore, it will not be surprising to hear of an increased number of cases and spikes in the regions affected by the outbreak. It is also likely that the spread will be to regions that are currently not affected. There is a strong likelihood that there will be a continued rise in cases of people presenting with symptoms, testing positive for the virus, with or without a travel history to affected areas, resulting in widespread transmission.

However, the risk assessment to blood and plasma derived products is unlikely to change based on current scientific knowledge. The WFH will continue to closely monitor the situation and to provide accurate, scientific updates as necessary as the situation with COVID-19 evolves and the complete clinical picture is better understood.