Coronavirus/COVID-19 update

17 March 2020

In light of health and safety concerns around the current coronavirus/COVID-19 situation in the UK, we wanted to let everyone know how we are working to protect our donors, potential donors and patients whilst continuing to offer a second chance at life for those who need it.

This page is being kept up to date with the latest guidance from NICE. 

Importance of registration

Blood cancer patients around the world are still in urgent need of blood stem cell transplants and many are still not able to find a matching donor. This is why DKMS continues to encourage everyone who can to register as a blood stem cell donor. We are grateful for every registration and potential donors can still easily register online at http://www.dkms.org.uk/register-now by ordering their registration kit to be sent to their home address.

The situation with coronavirus/COVID-19 currently has no impact on their ability to register online and to complete their registration at home and send it back to us.

Donor recruitment events

Based on the current UK Government guidance that that large gatherings should not take place we have decided to postpone all planned events and will not be organising any new event for the time being. 

However, we are keen to work with anyone who wishes to support our work in recruiting more potential blood stem cell donors, so would recommend that you encourage anyone interested in registering to do so at: https://www.dkms.org.uk/en/register-now

 

Processing returned swab kits

When swabs are received into the DKMS UK office, we usually prep them to go to the lab within 24 hours. However, we’re now going to wait seven days before we do this, so that staff processing them are completely protected. Unfortunately, this means there may be some delay in letting registrants know we’ve received their swabs. However, we are still working to get potential donors registered as quickly as possible.

Protecting our donors

The health and safety of our donors is our highest priority. We will consider on an individual basis the circumstances for all of our donors who are asked to donate their blood stem cells, specifically regarding their travel to a hospital or GP clinic. We will ensure the best and safest solution possible. Unfortunately, donors who live in or have travelled to high risk areas may have to be blocked for search requests, as they are currently not eligible to proceed with a donation. 

These measures serve to protect the donor as well as the recipient and the employees in the hospitals or GP clinics. Health experts have confirmed that there is currently no evidence that the novel coronavirus/COVID-19 can be transmitted via blood, bone marrow, or stem cell products.

Transport of blood stem cell products

The majority of blood stem cell collections from DKMS donors travel across borders to patients in other countries. 

Due to the restrictions on entry into the USA, the DKMS has been in contact with the World Marrow Donor Association (WMDA) and the National Marrow Donor Program (NMDP) and together we have managed to obtain special permits for stem cell couriers from Germany and Europe to enter the USA.

As many other countries have also imposed travel restrictions, we are in regular and close contact with all parties involved in the transport, as well as with the relevant national and international authorities and organizations.

Quarantining

As there is no evidence of transmission via blood, bone marrow, or blood stem cells, DKMS follows the recommendations of the regulatory agencies such as the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) and (American Association of Blood Banks (AABB) which currently do not recommend or require the testing or quarantining of any blood stem cells that have been donated for transplant. 

Planned transplantations will go ahead.



Further information

We have created some FAQs that will be reviewed and updated regularly: 

If you have any further questions about how registering, donating or other activities related to DKMS UK may be affected by coronavirus/COVID-19, please feel free to contact us.

FAQs

Potential Donors

With all the concerns about the coronavirus/COVID-19 outbreak can I still register as a donor?

Blood cancer patients around the world are still in urgent need of blood stem cell transplants and many are still not able to find a matching donor. This is why DKMS continues to encourage everyone who can to register as a blood stem cell donor. 

Health experts have confirmed that there is currently no evidence that coronavirus/COVID-19 can be transmitted via blood, bone marrow, or stem cell products. 

However, registered donors who live in or have travelled to high risk areas may have to be blocked for search requests, as they are currently not eligible to proceed with a donation, but people in these categories can still register as they will be checked again at the time of donation through a screening process. See further information below specifically for people who have been matched as a blood stem cell donor.

We are grateful for every registration and you can still easily register online at http://www.dkms.org.uk/register-now by ordering your registration kit to be sent to your home address.

Are you able to detect whether I have coronavirus from my returned swabs?

We do not have the facility to check whether you have the coronavirus from your returned swabs.

If you are selected as a match, we will run some further checks to make sure that your bloods are clear of infections and that you are the best match for the patient. This includes travel history, contact with anyone infected, reported symptoms. If necessary we will differ.

Can I register if I have been diagnosed with coronavirus/COVID-19?

The swabbing process for the registration of potential stem cell donors is completely separate from the procedure for supporting and assessing someone for a blood stem cell donation if they are identified as potential match for a patient in need of a transplant. Potentially it is possible that the swabs used in registrations from someone with a coronavirus/COVID-19 diagnosis or symptoms could pass on the disease to anyone else who handles the swabs, however, our medical advice says that the risk is very, very low. We already take precautions with the handling of the swabs in our offices and laboratories, and have increased these (to include a period of quarantine for the swab packs) in the current situation. There are no risks for transplant patients from the swabbing that takes place in the registration process, as this is not linked with the process of stem cell donation and transplantation. 

Health experts have also confirmed that there is currently no evidence that coronavirus can be transmitted via blood, bone marrow, or stem cell products.

We still urgently need people to register as potential stem cell donors. 

Please register online at http://www.dkms.org.uk/register-now by ordering your registration kit to be sent to your home address.

I registered more than a week ago, and have not had my confirmation email. Why is that?

When swabs are received into the DKMS UK office, we usually prep them to go to the lab within 24 hours. However, we’re now going to wait seven days before we do this, so that staff processing them are completely protected and that due to the ongoing closure of borders internationally, the swabs could take longer to reach the processing lab which is based in Germany. Therefore it will take longer than normal for you to receive a confirmation email from us.

Registered Donors

I’m a registered donor, and have been diagnosed with coronavirus what should I do?

Please contact us straight away so that we can update your record.

Health experts have confirmed that there is currently no evidence that coronavirus can be transmitted via blood, bone marrow, or stem cell products. 

However donors who live in or have travelled to high risk areas may have to be blocked for search requests, as they are currently not eligible to proceed with a donation, but can still register as they will be checked again at the time of donation.

Someone who I see regularly has coronavirus, what should I do? 

Please contact us straight away so that we can update your record.

Health experts have confirmed that there is currently no evidence that coronavirus can be transmitted via blood, bone marrow, or stem cell products. 

However donors who live in or have travelled to high risk areas may have to be blocked for search requests, as they are currently not eligible to proceed with a donation, but can still register as they will be checked again at the time of donation.

I’ve got some of the symptoms of coronavirus what should I do?

Please contact us straight away so that we can update your record.

Health experts have confirmed that there is currently no evidence that coronavirus can be transmitted via blood, bone marrow, or stem cell products. 

However donors who live in or have travelled to high risk areas may have to be blocked for search requests, as they are currently not eligible to proceed with a donation, but can still register as they will be checked again at the time of donation.

I do not want to travel to donate my stem cells, where else can I go?

Unfortunately these are the only two locations where we are currently able to take stem cell donations. 

Please contact us call us and we will try and work with you to find a hospital to donate in that is closet to your home.

Patients

What is DKMS doing to make sure patients do not receive a transplant from someone with coronavirus?

Health experts have confirmed that there is currently no evidence that coronavirus can be transmitted via blood, bone marrow, or stem cell products.

We have adjusted our practices in line with UK Government and health authority regulations. We are also continuing to monitor the situation locally and globally so we can respond to any changes.

I have blood cancer. Does this make me more vulnerable?

The government have advised that anyone living with blood or bone marrow cancers such as leukaemia, lymphoma or myeloma who are at any stage of treatment are considered to be highly vulnerable. This is because, as a result of the treatment or medication you are taking, that compromises your immune system,  you are at very high risk of severe illness as a result of coronavirus (COVID-19) requiring admission to hospital. 

I am high risk, what should I do to keep safe?

If are currently being treated for a blood cancer or blood disorder then you are more vulnerable and deemed to be at high risk. This means that you are advised to follow rigorous ‘shielding’ measures in order to keep yourself safe. You are advised to stay at home and avoid any face-to-face contact for at least 12 weeks.

  • Visits from people who provide essential support to you (such as healthcare, personal support with your daily needs or social care) can continue but carers and care workers must stay away if they have any of the symptoms of coronavirus.
  • Anyone coming into your home should wash their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds when they enter your home and often while they are there.
  • Interactions with family members should also be kept to a minimum and safe distancing practiced whenever feasibly possible.

If you think you have developed any symptoms of coronavirus such as a new, continuous cough or fever, seek clinical advice using the NHS 111 online coronavirus service or call NHS 111. Do this as soon as you get symptoms.

If you are in England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland, you should have received a letter and possibly a text from the NHS within the past week. If you are in the high risk category and have not received a letter, you should contact your GP or transplant team.

  • If you are in England and need support, for example to get deliveries of essential supplies like food, you can go to www.gov.uk/coronavirus-extremely-vulnerable or call 0800 0288327, the Government’s dedicated helpline. 
  • Wales has plans to make similar support available.
  • In Scotland a text messaging service has been set up to ensure anyone at high risk has the food and medicines you need while isolating yourself at home. The NHS letter you receive will explain how to access that service.
  • Details of support for vulnerable people in Northern Ireland can be found here. You can also register for help or support from community groups and volunteers in Northern Ireland here.

We are aware that some people in England have received a text even though they are not in the high risk category. If this is the case, please continue to follow the advice from your own transplant team, who have the fullest understanding of your medical history and your requirements during this time.  

Full Government guidance for England, Scotland and Wales is available.

 

How do I access health / social care?

Visits from people who provide essential support to you such as healthcare, personal support with your daily needs or social care should continue, but carers and care workers must stay away if they have any of the symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19). They will be advised to keep their visit(s) to a minimum, to ensure that the risk to you is reduced. If you need help with care but you’re not sure who to contact, please visit www.gov.uk/coronavirus-extremely-vulnerable.

Are there additional steps I should  take to protect myself?

  • Regularly wash your hands thoroughly (for 20 seconds) with soap and water.
  • Wash your hands when you get home or get to work.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze.
  • Put used tissues in the bin straight away and wash your hands afterwards.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are unwell.
  • Avoid touching your face if your hands aren’t clean.

 

If you have any further questions about how registering, donating or other activities related to DKMS UK may be affected by coronavirus/COVID-19, please feel free to contact us.