The presence of COVID-19 in Aotearoa is a worrying time for all of us, particularly those who are receiving treatment for cancer, their whānau, household members and kai manaaki (supporters).
Hei Āhuru Mōwai Māori Cancer Leadership Aotearoa has developed dedicated and tailored information for cancer patients and their whānau during this time.
Information developed and provided by Hei Āhuru Mōwai Māori Cancer Leadership Aotearoa.
What is COVID-19 and WHY is it so serious?
COVID 19 is a new virus that belongs to the coronavirus whānau. COVID-19 is serious because our body and immune system has never been exposed to it before.
For most whānau, their body and immune system will be able to cope. But for some, infection with the COVID-19 immune system could cause a severe illness. If your immune system has been weakened by cancer or cancer treatment (current and past treatment) the risk of you having a serious infection is higher.
It is important for whānau with cancer to take extra care to stay well and prevent getting infected with COVID-19.
What are the symptoms?
Symptoms can range from having none at all, to having a cough, high temperature, shortness of breath and body aches. People don’t know if they have the virus until they get symptoms and get tested to confirm COVID-19.
The symptoms of COVID-19 are:
Shortness of breath
Feeling tired, sore muscles or sore throat.
If you or your whānau member have symptoms or think you could have been exposed to the virus, phone your doctor, the Healthline on 0800 358 5453 or your healthcare provider.
DO NOT go to any health facility without calling ahead first.
If you are experiencing symptoms and have a scheduled treatment appointment, call ahead and let them know. You will be advised of what action to take at that point.
Ngā tikanga haumaru – how to keep everyone well
Staying home, keeping a safe distance from others, washing your hands regularly and no hongi, kiwi and awhi will be more important now than ever before.
It’s also important to remember that you don’t always know if you have the virus.
Whānau can feel well but still spread the virus.
That is why it is important for everyone in your whare to follow these 4 basic steps of infection prevention.
Wash your hands with soap for 20 seconds and then dry hands thoroughly. Repeat often.
Especially before eating or handling kai
After using the wharepaku
After touching your face, mouth or nose
After coughing or sneezing
After blowing your nose
After wiping children’s noses
After caring for sick people
When returning to your whare if you have been outside.
Please don’t touch your eyes, nose or mouth
Keep at least 2 metres away from people. This is going to feel abnormal and unnatural. Please remember this is one of the key ways to stop infection spreading within your whānau and it will not be forever.
Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces and objects, such as doorknobs, rails, phones. Don’t share towels, hand towels, cutlery and cups.
What does COVID-19 response Alert Level 3 mean for your cancer care?
To keep safe and out of contact with COVID-19, hospitals are limiting clinics. Most patients will have appointments over the phone or online.
Your cancer care team will contact you to let you know if there are any appointment changes.
Carry on taking your cancer medicines. Your cancer care team will talk with you about changes to your treatment plan.
Your specialist can fax or scan a prescription for medication to a pharmacy and your medicine can be collected from there.
There may be changes to where and how you get your blood tests done.
Ask your cancer care team where to go for blood tests
Your cancer care team will let you know if you can have less blood tests.
Please get your flu vaccination. A flu vaccination will not prevent you from getting COVID-19 but it will prevent you from getting the flu which is an important step.
More information about the flu vaccination is available here.
What to do if you have cancer or a low immune system and feel unwell with flu symptoms?
If you have a temperature, cough, breathlessness or difficulty breathing you should:
Call your cancer care team, your GP or Healthline on 0800 358 5453
DO NOT go straight to your GP or hospital. RING FIRST
Call 111 if you are experiencing chest pain, abdominal (puku) pain, sever or abnormal bleeding or stroke symptoms.
What to do if you have cancer and someone in your whare is unwell?
If someone else in your whare is unwell, the following information will help you to keep yourself safe:
If someone in your whare becomes unwell with a cough, fever or shortness of breath, you should call your cancer care team or the Healthline on 0800 358 5453 as soon as possible. They will advise you with what to do next.
In the meantime, the mauiui (sick) person should stay isolated away from the main living areas to limit the possibility of infecting others in your whare.
If others in your whare want to clean your room, ask them to wear a mask, gloves and to wash their hands for 20 seconds before and afterwards.
Carrying on following the 4 basic infection prevention steps above.
What to do if you need to out of you whare
If you need to go to the supermarket, service station or pharmacy, ask someone to go for you. If no one else can go for you, to keep yourself safe, you should:
Wash your hands before you go
Keep a safe distance (at least 2 metres) from others at all times
Avoid touching surfaces and your face while you are out
Use sanitiser and wash hands if possible while you are out and then again when you get home.
Tiaki wairua, tiaki hinengaro
While staying home is best for you, we also know that this can sometimes cause anxiety and stress. Caring for your wairua and hinengaro will be important going forward. If your mauri is low and you feel anxious, stressed out and need someone to talk to free call or text 1737 which is available 24 hours a day.
Other tips for maintaining mauri ora are listening to or composing waiata, having regular karakia, skyping and keeping in touch with whānau, journaling, doing mahi toi or rāranga.
Hei Āhuru Mōwai is committed to providing Māori cancer leadership in Aotearoa and we hope you find this information helpful. Should there be further changes, we will update this information accordingly.
For other tips, information and guidance on tiaki whānau, tiaki kaumātua, tiaki wairua and hinengaro, you can also go to www.uruta.maori.nz
For any general advice please go to www.covid19.govt.nz