COVID-19 and Hereditary Angioedema

Experts respond to questions from HAE community about virus’ effect on rare swelling condition.

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Dr. Marcus Maurer during an HAE International webinar on COVID-19.
Professor Dr. Marcus Maurer took questions during an HAE International question and answer session on COVID-19.

While COVID-19 has maintained a strong hold on the attention of the world’s medical and science community amid the ongoing global pandemic, experts still have much to learn about the novel coronavirus. That includes doctors who treat hereditary angioedema, a rare disease that can cause painful and sometimes deadly swelling attacks in different parts of the body.

Patient groups including the U.S. Hereditary Angioedema Association and HAE International have recently posed questions from HAE patients to doctors in webinars and Q&A sessions. While much is still unknown, one thing doctors who treat HAE agree on is that the disease doesn’t make a person any more likely to contract COVID-19.

“There has not been any data up to this point with any infection that we’re aware of that hereditary angioedema leads to increased susceptibility,” said Dr. Marc Riedl during an HAEA webinar.

However, HAE patients who are taking certain steroids for other conditions could be at risk for a tougher battle with COVID-19 if they contract the virus, cautioned Dr. Marcus Maurer of Charité - University Medicine Berlin.

“We have to assume that such treatment comes with an increased risk of severe disease,” Maurer said during an online Q&A session with HAEi. “If you are an HAE patient who has another disease that requires treatment with systemic corticosteroids that could be, and most likely is, a risk factor for a severe course of COVID-19.”

In light of the limited data on HAE’s relationship to COVID-19, the best advice doctors can offer patients is to take the same precautions as the general public to avoid contracting the virus, including frequent hand washing and wearing a mask. Dr. Riedl adds that patients should know their treatment plan, get their medicines refilled and reach out to their specialty pharmacy or doctor if they have questions.

On that point, Dr. Maurer says he has seen reluctance among patients to reach out to him and his colleagues because he believes there is a misperception among some that doctors are too busy to deal with their issues during the pandemic. He encourages patients to reach out with their concerns to ensure serious issues don’t go unchecked.

 “We do not want this crisis to hurt our patients because they shy away from seeking contact to ask us questions that could help them to prevent attacks or to treat attacks correctly,” Maurer said.