The COVID-19 pandemichas been a challenging time for everyone, particularly those with chronic health conditions such as MS.
For most people, including those with MS, COVID-19 is a mild infection. This is supported by preliminary research from Italywhich found that people with MS who contracted COVID-19 did no worse than the general population (Sormani et al., 2020). A study from the UK looking at how well people with MS recover from COVID-19 has also provided reassuring results, with the majority recovering within an average of 10 days (Gariani et al., 2021).
With the COVID-19 vaccine and booster programmes being rolled out across many countries, and protecting those most vulnerable, restrictions have been lifted in most countries. Generally, people with MS are now advised to follow the same guidance as the general population.
The COVID-19 pandemic has stimulated MS healthcare professionals to find new solutions to deliver interventions to people with MS, including the use of telemedicine and digital health (Brichetto et al., 2022). A study of neurologists conducted by ECTRIMS found that almost three-quarters of clinicians implemented virtual consultations for the first-time during the pandemic (Portaccio et al., 2022). Following this rapid expansion, it is highly likely that the benefits of telemedicine will continue to be embraced, especially given the chronic healthcare needs of people with MS (Xiang et al., 2021) Whilst for many patients it is a positive experience, for others it can be more impersonal and intimidating (Ahmand et al., 2021). It is important therefore that telemedicine complements current practice rather than replace it.
In addition, some patients may require new services, especially regarding mental health. Mental health needs should be regularly addressed, and appropriate support should be offered. MS organisations have recognised the impact of COVID-19 on the mental health of the MS community. In response, organisations have produced resources to help people with MS understand and manage additional stress caused by the pandemic. See the EMSP's Updated global COVID-19 advice for people with MS page for more information about some of the resources available.