March 19, 2020

Health Alert for Patients and Caregivers

 March 17, 2020

March 17, 2020 – With COVID-19 on the forefront of nearly everyone’s minds, the Medical and Research Advisory Committee (MARAC) at SCDAA wants to provide information to our sickle cell community. Educating yourself about the coronavirus reduces anxiety and empowers you to protect yourself – and your family – from getting sick. The potential health risk posed by COVID-19 is a real concern. The knowledge we have about how COVID-19 will affect those living with sickle cell disease is evolving constantly. In light of this, the risks to our community here in the United States may change in the upcoming days, weeks and months. It is critical that you stay regularly informed.

MARAC is in constant communication with health authorities across the globe as well as international sickle cell specialists who are taking care of individuals living with sickle cell disease. We will continue with regular updates for the community based on evidence and detailed accounts of the impact in countries who have struggled longer than we have.

What You Need to Know About the Coronavirus (COVID-19)

The pandemic is real. This is not an exaggeration of the facts. This is not “fake news”. We are all at risk of getting infected. Individuals with sickle cell disease have weaker immune systems than most other people. The best way to prevent serious illness is to keep from getting infected in the first place.

Frequently Asked Questions

What can I do to prevent the spread of COVID-19?

Here are some tips:

  • Stay home as much as possible. Do not leave home unless absolutely necessary.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds (don’t stop until you finish singing the “Alphabet song”) or use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, mouth, and face.
  • If you feel sick, call your medical provider immediately.
  • Avoid being close to people who are visibly sick, coughing, or sneezing.
  • Greet one another from a distance (no hugs or handshakes).
  • Disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces. The virus can live on these surfaces and get transmitted this way.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue you can discard, then immediately wash your hands.

How can I get myself and my family prepared?

  • Please check to see if you have refilled all your (your child’s) medication and are not about to run out.
  • Contact your (your child’s) doctor to ask about getting extra medications to have on hand in case there is an outbreak of COVID-19 in your community and you need to stay home for a long period of time. Some pharmacies are offering home delivery.
  • Be sure you have over-the-counter medicines and medical supplies (e.g. tissues) to treat fever (e.g. Tylenol) and other symptoms.
  • Make sure you have a thermometer to take your temperature.
  • Take your prescribed medications for sickle cell disease (Hydroxyurea, glutamine, penicillin, folic acid, Voxelotor, Crizanlizumab, Deferasirox, and any others). These medications will help keep your body in the best possible condition to fight off infection.
  • Have enough household items and groceries on hand so that you will be prepared to stay at home for a period of time that could be many weeks.
  • Stay in touch with others by phone or email. You may need to ask for help from friends, family, neighbors, etc. if you become ill.
  • Think ahead about who will watch your children, other loved ones, or pets if you become too sick.
  • Find out if working from home is an option.

How do I know if I have COVID-19?

The only way to know for sure that you have coronavirus is to get tested. Though this is not possible die to the unavailability of testing kits.

Most people who have COVID-19 have the following symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath

If you have any of these symptoms, call your doctor right away to discuss what you should do next.

Call/See a Your Doctor if you have:

  • A lot of difficulty breathing
  • Unusual persistent pain or pressure in the chest
  • New confusion or inability to wake up easily
  • Bluish lips or face

What should I do if I have a fever?

Do not immediately rush to the emergency department. You should call/See your doctor right away if you have a fever and you should use a thermometer to be sure you really do first.  This is key.  Lots of different infections can cause a fever. This does not automatically mean you have COVID-19. Call your doctor first and find out where to go.  They will ask about other symptoms too.

What are some good ways to stay as healthy as possible?

  • Take your medications as prescribed
  • Stay hydrated
  • Try to get good rest

Should I continue getting my chronic transfusions?

Continue all of your treatments until you talk it over with your doctor. There is no evidence right now that COVID-19 is transmitted through blood but there is a lot we still do not know. Balancing the need for transfusions to reduce things like stroke must be taken into consideration when making this decision. If you have concerns with going in for your transfusion, you should ask your doctor about any risks of missing a transfusion. If there is a shortage of blood supply in your region, ask your provider if there is any alternative. Bottom line is talk to your doctor.

What do I do if I don’t have a doctor?

Go to the nearest medical and health facility

Should I go to the emergency department if I am ill?

If you have a doctor, it is recommended that you call for advice if you can before going to the emergency department. Also, it is very likely that infected people will be there. If you have no other option, then going to the emergency department is the best option, but please use your other options first.

I think I am having a pain crisis episode. What should I do?

Carefully weigh your options and call your doctor to get advice on what to do. Consider the benefit of managing pain at home versus the risk of getting exposed to someone with COVID-19 in the clinic, emergency department or hospital. If it feels like a typical pain crisis episode for you, they may suggest you try to do everything you can to manage your pain at home. If you are comfortable trying to manage at home, ask your doctor to call in prescriptions for pain medications. If you have symptoms of COVID-19, you should alert your doctor and say, “This feels different from my usual pain crisis” and ask what you should do next. Make sure you have checked your temperature because you will be asked if you did.

Is it safe to travel?

It is best to avoid all non-emergent travel at this time. If you must travel, visit the CDC’s website for travel guidance ( to stay up to date.

Have any individuals with sickle cell disease been diagnosed with COVID-19?

Yes, we are aware that some have. We are not aware of any deaths among those living with sickle cell disease. This could change.

What do I do if I am on a clinical trial?

Thank you for being on a clinical trial. It is important that you get in touch with your research team right away to check if there are any changes.

I feel fine so far. Is there anything I can do to help others?

If you know others living with sickle cell disease, contact them by phone, text or social media. Make sure they are doing ok and see if they need help or reassurance. It is a stressful time for a lot of us. If you know people who are willing to donate blood, encourage them.

Will there be a shortage of blood soon?

This is very possible, but you can help! If there are people in your family or community that are willing to donate blood, please encourage them to call the local blood bank right away. During times like these, there can be a lot of blood shortages and we know that many people with sickle cell disease (as well as other conditions) need blood. See if you can get some people to donate.

How do I stay informed?

  • Go to, SCDAA’s online information superhighway where we will post updates regularly that are specific to sickle cell disease. It is free to join. We are not aware of any other more trusted resource specifically for individuals with sickle cell disease.
  • Go to the CDC’s website ( regular updates on the COVID-19. Information is updated routinely and will keep you abreast of the latest guidelines and recommendations. There is information on how you can start to prepare in your homes and community.


Pandemic –    A worldwide outbreak of a disease

For More Information, contact

SCDAA Medical and Research Advisory Committee Members

Miguel R Abboud, MD
Professor of Pediatrics and Pediatric Hematology-Oncology
Department of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine
American University of Beirut, Lebanon

Biree Andemariam, MD
Chair, Medical and Research Advisory Committee, Sickle Cell Disease Association of America
Chief Medical Officer, Sickle Cell Disease Association of America
Director, New England Sickle Cell Institute
Associate Professor of Medicine
University of Connecticut Health
Farmington, CT 06030

Shawn Bediako, PhD
Associate Professor
Department of Psychology
University of Maryland Baltimore County
Baltimore, Maryland

Andrew Campbell, MD
Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders
Children’s National Health System
Associate Professor of Pediatrics
George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences
Washington, DC

Raffaella Colombatti, MD, PhD
Physician Azienda Ospedaliera-Università di Padova
Department of Womens’ and Child Health
Clinic of Pediatric Hematology Oncology
Via Giustiniani 3
35129 Padova Italy

Lori Crosby, PsyD
Co-Director, Innovations in Community Research, Division of Behavioral Medicine & Clinical Psychology
Co-Director, CCTST, Community Engagement Core
Psychologist, Research, Behavioral Medicine & Clinical Psychologist
Cincinnati Children’s
Professor, UC Department of Pediatrics
Cincinnati, OH

Deepika Darbari, MD
Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders
Children’s National Health System
Associate Professor of Pediatrics
George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences
Washington, DC

Payal Desai, MD
Associate Professor
Director of Sickle Cell Research
The Ohio State University
James Care at Ohio State East Hospital
181 Taylor Avenue, Columbus, Ohio 43203

James Eckman, MD
Professor Emeritus, Hematology & Medical Oncology
Emory University School of Medicine
Department of Hematology and Medical Oncology
49 Jesse Hill Jr. Drive SE
Atlanta, GA 30303

Mark Gladwin, MD
Professor and Chair
Department of Medicine
Founder, Pittsburgh Heart, Lung, and Blood Vascular Medicine Institute
University of Pittsburgh
E1240 BST
200 Lothrop Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15261

Jo Howard, MB Bchir, MRCP, FRCPath
Head of Red Cell/Sickle Cell Service
Guy’s and St Thomas’
NHS Foundation Trust
Great Maze Pond
London, United Kingdom

Lewis Hsu, MD, PhD
Co-Chair, Medical and Research Advisory Committee, Sickle Cell Disease Association of America
Vice Chief Medical Officer, Sickle Cell Disease Association of America
Director of Pediatric Sickle Cell
Professor of Pediatric Hematology-Oncology
University of Illinois at Chicago
Chicago, Illinois

Dr Baba Inusa
Honorary Reader in Paediatric Haematology, King’s College London
Lead Consultant Sickle Cell and Thalassaemia Service
Evelina London Children’s Hospital
St Thomas’ Hospital
Westminster Bridge Road, London SE1 7EH

Elizabeth Klings, MD
Associate Professor of Medicine, Boston University School of Medicine
Program Director, Center of Excellence in Sickle Cell Disease
Director, Pulmonary Hypertension Inpatient and Education Program
Medical Director, Pulmonary Rehabilitation Program, Boston Medical Center
72 East Concord Street, R-304
Boston, MA 02118

Lakshmanan Krishnamurti, MD
Professor of Pediatrics, Director of BMT
Joseph Kuechenmeister Aflac Field Force Chair
Aflac Cancer and Blood Disorders Center
Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta/Emory University
Atlanta, GA

Sophie Lanzkron, MD, MHS
Director, Sickle Cell Center for Adults
The Johns Hopkins Hospital
1800 Orleans St
Baltimore, MD 21287

Caterina P. Minniti, MD
Director, Sickle Cell Center
Montefiore Health System
Professor of Medicine and Pediatrics
Albert Einstein College of Medicine
Bronx, NY

Genice T. Nelson, DNP, APRN, ANP-BC
Program Director
New England Sickle Cell Institute & Connecticut Bleeding Disorders Programs
UConn Health
Farmington, CT 06030
Board Member, Sickle Cell Disease Association of America

Professor, Department of Paediatrics
University of Toronto
The Hospital for Sick Children
Division of Haematology/Oncology
555 University Avenue
Toronto, Ontario M5G 1X8

Gwendolyn Poles, D.O.
Honorary Medical Staff Member
Former Medical Director, Kline Health Center
Faculty, Internal Medicine Program
UPMC Pinnacle
Harrisburg, PA
Board Member, Sickle Cell Disease Association of America

John Roberts, MD
Yale Adult Sickle Cell Program
Smilow Cancer Hospital at Yale New Haven
35 Park Street, Ste 7th floor, Multispecialty
New Haven, CT 06511

Wally Smith, MD
Scientific Director, VCU Center on Health Disparities
Director, VCU Adult Sickle Cell Program
Department of Internal Medicine
Division of General Internal Medicine
West Hospital W10W-403
P.O. Box 980306
Richmond, VA 23298

Crawford J Strunk MD
Pediatric Hematology/Oncology
Pediatric Hematology/Oncology Program at Toledo Children’s Hospital
2142 N. Cove Blvd.
Toledo, Ohio 43606

Immacolata Tartaglione, MD PhD
Department of Woman, Child and General and Specialist Surgery
Università degli Studi della Campania “Luigi Vanvitelli”
Naples, Italy

Marsha Treadwell, PhD
Director, Northern California, Network of Care for Sickle Cell Disease
Co-Principal Investigator and Regional Director, Pacific Sickle Cell Regional Collaborative
Director, Hematology Behavioral Services
Comprehensive Center for Sickle Cell Disease
Main Hospital
747 52nd Street
Oakland, CA 94609

Winfred C. Wang, MD
Member, Department of Hematology
St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital
262 Danny Thomas Place, MS 800
Memphis, TN  38105

Russell E. Ware, MD, PhD
Director, Division of Hematology
Institute Co-Director, Cancer and Blood Diseases Institute
Director, Global Health Center
Marjory J. Johnson Chair of Hematology Translational Research
Cincinnati Children’s
Professor, UC Department of Pediatrics
Cincinnati, OH

Julie Kanter Washko, MD
Associate Professor
Division of Hematology Oncology
University of Alabama at Birmingham
1720 2nd Avenue South, NP 2540
Birmingham, AL 35294-3300

Kim Smith-Whitley, MD
Professor of Pediatrics
Director Comprehensive Sickle Cell Center
Division of Hematology
11th Floor Colket Building
The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia
34th & Civic Center Blvd.
Philadelphia, PA 19104
Board Member, Sickle Cell Disease Association of America

Wanda Whitten-Shurney, MD
CEO & Medical Director
Sickle Cell Disease Association, Michigan Chapter Inc.
Board Member, Sickle Cell Disease Association of America
Detroit, MI

Ahmar U. Zaidi, MD
Assistant Professor of Pediatrics
Comprehensive Sickle Cell Center, Children’s Hospital of Michigan, Wayne State University/Central Michigan University School of Medicine
Detroit, MD

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