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What is coronavirus (COVID-19)?

Coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, is a virus that can affect the lungs and airways.

Last updated: 24 March 2020

Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that cause disease in animals. Some of them have made the jump to humans. The latest coronavirus to do this is COVID-19.

COVID-19 is a new illness so we don't know exactly how it is passed on. However, similar viruses are spread through small droplets when people cough.

The infection could also be passed on by touching a surface that has the virus on it and then touching your mouth, nose or eyes. 

Who is at risk?

Last updated: 3 April 2020

Adults and children with blood cancer may have a compromised immune system and therefore be at a higher risk of serious illness from coronavirus. Those at risk include people who:

  • currently have any type of blood cancer, whether you are having treatment or not
  • have had an autologous transplant (using your own stem cells) in the last year
  • have had an allogeneic transplant (using donor stem cells) in the last two years
  • are on immunosuppression medication after a transplant, have GvHD, or have ongoing immunodeficiency after a transplant

There is more detail about who is included in this high-risk group on our page on coronavirus and blood cancer.

If you fall into any of these categories, you should be contacted directly by the NHS about staying at home for 12 weeks.

Signs and symptoms of coronavirus (covid-19)

Last updated: 24 March 2020

The symptoms of coronavirus are:

  • a cough
  • a high temperature
  • shortness of breath

If you are worried, you can use 111 online to check your risk. Do not visit your GP, pharmacy or hospital. 

You should also call 111 or use 111 online if you’ve been in contact with someone with coronavirus.

If you feel unwell

Last updated: 24 March 2020

If you feel unwell, contact your healthcare team as usual. If you are currently having chemotherapy - contact your chemotherapy support line urgently. Do not visit your GP, pharmacy or hospital.

If you have a new cough or high temperature, you should stay at home (self-isolate) for 7 days, and everyone else you live with should stay at home (self-isolate) for 14 days. There is more information about self-isolation on the NHS self-isolation page.

Call 111 or use 111 online if you're symptoms haven't gone away after 7 days.


The NHS is now advising people not to take ibuprofen if you have symptoms. There is no strong evidence that ibuprofen can make coronavirus worse, but until more evidence emerges, people should take paracetamol instead, unless your doctor has told you paracetamol is not suitable for you. If you are already taking ibuprofen or another non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) on the advice of a doctor, do not stop taking it without checking first.

Support for you

Call our free and confidential helpline on 0808 2080 888 from Monday to Friday, 10am to 7pm, and Saturday to Sunday, 10am to 1pm.

We are currently receiving a very high volume of calls related to coronavirus, so if you're not able to get through straight away, please leave a message and we'll get back to you as soon as we can.

You can also email us if you prefer to get in contact that way. We'll usually get back to you within two working days, but due to the current rate of calls and emails we are currently receiving it may take us longer.

Talk to other people with blood cancer on our Online Community Forum – there is a group for coronavirus questions and support.

Keep updated about coronavirus and blood cancer

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