SAN ANTONIO — When you have cystic fibrosis, you have a respiratory illness that lasts your entire life—and it makes the odds of getting sick from other viruses that much greater.
Cystic fibrosis causes chronic lung infection and damage. COVID-19 is a disease that also attacks the lungs. Getting both at the same time can be deadly.
"I am super concerned about contracting COVID," said Stephanie Hansen, who was diagnosed with CF at the age of three and says she's taking the coronavirus very seriously. "I'm not seeing friends and family, and I'm staying home and not leaving the house unless it's absolutely necessary."
Masks and social distancing may be new for most of us, but not for Hansen.
"I have been living with sort of the precautions of social distancing most of my adult life," she said.
"That is something they put up with and they've done all their life because getting a viral illness can trigger a hospitalization, or sometimes lead to them being very sick," said Dr. Holly Keyt, the director of the Adult Cystic Fibrosis Program at University Health System, and an associate professor of medicine at UT Health San Antonio.
Keyt says a couple of her own CF patients have gotten the coronavirus, but so far they're managing to withstand the symptoms.
"So far they've done well, they've been able to stay at home," Keyt said. "We stepped up the therapies that they do at home; they normally do a couple treatments a day, respiratory treatments which can take anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour."
She says since you never know who around you could be high-risk of contracting COVID-19, like a CF patient, masking up in public is a must.
"The most important thing is what we keep hearing over and over again about how wearing masks is really something we can do to protect other people in the community," Keyt added. "Particularly the people amongst us who are most vulnerable."