As the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, has continued its rapid spread through cities, states, and countries all over the world, one message that has been iterated louder than the rest: we must protect our elderly population.
This is for good reason- the virus has disproportionately affected people over the age of 65, and the older you get, the higher your risk.
There is another message that has been echoed along with that, albeit slightly quieter but equally as important: We must protect the immunocompromised people in our communities.
There is some overlap here, since a larger percentage of older adults have underlying medical conditions compared with the rest of the population, however having a compromised immune system is not exclusive to individuals of advanced age. There are people from every generation, including children and teens, who have suffered from illnesses or medical issues that have weakened their immune systems and left them more vulnerable to disease.
One of these individuals is six-year-old Joseph Bostain, who lives with Cystic Fibrosis.
The Good News
Since the young boy from Tennessee tested positive for COVID-19 on March 19, his mother, Sabrina, has been providing updates via Facebook to her friends, family, and people in her community on her son’s condition.
After weeks of battling the virus, Joseph was finally able to announce that he had beat it on April 1, through a video that his mother shared on Facebook. The video has since gone viral, and the family has received countless messages from viewers, congratulating them and thanking them for sharing some good news during such a difficult time .
What is Cystic Fibrosis?
Cystic Fibrosis (CF) is a genetic disease that affects children and young adults. It is one of the most common fatal diseases that affect young people, but at present, there is no cure. The disease primarily affects the digestive system and the lungs .
More specifically, CF affects the cells that produce mucus, sweat, and digestive juices. In healthy individuals, these fluids are normally thin and slippery and lubricate various tubes, ducts, and passageways in the body. In the case of CF, however, these fluids become thick and sticky, often plugging up passageways, particularly in the lungs and the pancreas .
Because of newborn screening, CF can now be diagnosed within the first month of life. If someone was born before this practice was introduced, however, they will not find out they have the condition until symptoms arise, which could take months or years.
People who have a mild case of CF may not be diagnosed until adulthood, in which case they likely have less common symptoms like recurring bouts of pancreatitis or pneumonia. Typical symptoms of Cystic Fibrosis include:
- A persistent cough that produces thick mucus (sputum)
- Exercise intolerance
- Repeated lung infections
- Inflamed nasal passages or a stuffy nose
- Recurrent sinusitis
- Difficulty digesting fats and proteins
- Malnutrition and vitamin deficiencies caused by an inability to absorb nutrients
- CF-related diabetes
- Progressive lung damage from chronic infections and inflammation [2,3]
What Causes Cystic Fibrosis?
Cystic Fibrosis is genetic. Approximately one in twenty five adults carry one defective copy of the CF gene. This does not mean that they have the disease, but if two CF carriers have a child, there is a 25 percent chance that their child will inherit the condition.
Even if the child does not end up with the disease, there is a fifty percent chance that he or she will also be a carrier .
Cystic Fibrosis and COVID-19
Individuals with cystic fibrosis are at a greater risk for developing a severe case of COVID-19. This is because CF already causes damage to the lining of the lungs, which is the virus’s main target .
For this reason, it is even more important for individuals with CF, as well as those who live with them, to take extra precautions to ensure they stay healthy. This means staying at home as much as possible, and only leaving the house if it is absolutely essential. If possible, these people should have groceries and other necessary items delivered to them.
Doctors are recommending that a person with CF wear an N-95 face mask to protect themselves from respiratory droplets that are carrying the virus, however if they already have breathing difficulties due to their condition, they should only wear this if they have to leave their home .
A Cystic Fibrosis Warrior
Because of his condition, when Joseph contracted COVID-19, his mother was particularly worried. During the weeks while her son was battling the virus, the family received countless cards, gifts, and messages from people in their community who wanted to show their support for the family.
Joseph and his parents were overwhelmed when classmates and faculty from the young boy’s school organized a drive-by parade for him to encourage him during his recovery.
It was a big moment when Joseph was finally well enough to update his followers on his own. Clad in a Harry Potter t-shirt, he thanked everyone who supported him while he was sick and pumped his fist in the air to celebrate his recovery.
“Thank you for all the cards and the prayers and the gifts,” he said. “I’m a cystic fibrosis warrior, and I beat COVID-19.”
His mother has continued to update her community, stating that while he still has a slight cough and some minor digestive issues, he is 95 percent better, and feeling great.
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