Coronavirus (COVID-19) and the SCI Community | Forward Ability Support

Coronavirus (COVID-19) and the SCI community

People are strongly urged to vaccinate against the common flu, particularly those more vulnerable as we enter the flu season and the spread of Covid-19 continues.

The 2020 community release of the Fluvax is now available. Check with your local pharmacy about availability and concession eligibility.

You can find helpful SCI-specific information and resources below:

COVID-19 basics

What is Coronavirus?

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that can cause respiratory illness in humans. These can range from the common cold to more serious illnesses. The current spread of Coronavirus is caused by a new virus that has not been seen in humans before. It is called “novel” or “new” Coronavirus, or COVID-19. The information here is about COVID-19.

How is COVID-19 spread?

The virus is spread by respiratory droplets: moisture expelled by coughing and sneezing. COVID-19 droplets are heavy so only travel about one metre before falling. The Department of Health recommends keeping 1.5 metres away from other people to prevent the spread of the virus.

How can I stay well and safe?

The Australian Department of Health regularly updates and collects all COVID-19 information on its website:

What about people with spinal cord injury (SCI)?

If you have tetraplegia (quadriplegia) or a high-level paraplegia injury and / or you have lung or breathing problems, you may be at higher risk of complications from respiratory infections.

Your spinal specialist or nurse consultant can assess your level of risk and this can often be done over the phone to reduce unnecessary contacts. Many less acute health issues and questions can now be addressed through Telehealth services – including local doctors and physicians – and can be bulk billed through Medicare.

What should I do to protect myself and others?

At a minimum:

  • Avoid contact with people who have symptoms of COVID-19
  • Practice ‘social distancing’: keep 1.5 metres away from others
  • Avoid touching your nose, eyes and mouth
  • Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds after using the bathroom and before eating. Ask your carers to assist if necessary.
  • Cover your mouth to cough or sneeze, use hand sanitiser and dispose of used tissues
  • Regularly clean the surfaces that are often touched in your home
  • Make sure your carers or support workers also wash their hands before and after assisting you
  • You may require more contact isolation and precautions, including the use of Personal Protective Equipment, if you have a higher level of personal and situational risk. Telephone your healthcare professional/s for advice
  • You may choose to self-isolate at home to reduce the risk of exposure, depending on your needs. Visit the Department of Health website for more information:

You should also:

Consider Inspiratory Muscle Training (IMT) – particularly if you have tetraplegia or at-risk paraplegia. There’s plenty of information under ‘Inspiratory muscle training for people with SCI’.

What are the symptoms?

Most people who get COVID-19 will have mild symptoms. These are:

  • Fever – this is the main sign and most people with COVID-19 will have a fever
  • Cough, especially a dry cough
  • Sore throat

Some people have difficulty with breathing or become breathless. This usually happens later in the infection.

If you have any of the above symptoms, you should contact your local doctor or hospital to see if you should be tested for COVID-19. Remember to phone ahead of your visit as you will need to be seen away from other people.

If you are having trouble breathing or are becoming very unwell, phone 000 for an ambulance.

Inspiratory muscle training for people with SCI

People with spinal cord injury at the cervical or thoracic level may experience problems caused by weakness or paralysis of some of the breathing muscles.

Inspiratory muscle training (IMT) describes several techniques in which simple equipment is used to strengthen the muscles used to breathe in (inspire). The equipment is used to make breathing in more challenging. This causes the breathing muscles to work harder, so that they can adapt and become stronger with training.

This can help prevent respiratory problems and infections. Please click on the links below to find out more about IMT. You are advised to consult with your spinal specialist or physiotherapist to see if IMT is recommended for you.

What if my support workers are not available?

It is wise to make a plan for what you will do if support worker availability becomes reduced during the COVID-19 pandemic, even if you don’t end up needing it. Being able to stay safe and well at home and avoid hospitals is encouraged, to reduce your risk of exposure to the virus.

Got a question?

Talk to us for more information about our services and how we can help you.