Covid-19 and Bardet-Biedl Syndrome

Coronavirus (COVID-19) can make anyone seriously ill. But for some people the risk is higher. There are two levels of higher risk:

  1. clinically vulnerable
  2. clinically extremely vulnerable

Patients who have BBS are likely to fall within one of these two categories.

People who are Clinically Vulnerable (moderate risk)

If you are clinically vulnerable, you could be at higher risk of severe illness from coronavirus and are advised to stay at home as much as possible, carefully follow the rules and minimise contact with others. You should also continue to wash your hands carefully and more frequently than usual and maintain thorough cleaning of frequently touched areas.

Clinically vulnerable people are those who:

  • aged 70 or over (regardless of medical conditions)
  • under 70 with an underlying health condition listed below (that is, anyone instructed to get a flu jab each year on medical grounds):
    • chronic (long-term) mild to moderate respiratory diseases, such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), emphysema or bronchitis
    • chronic heart disease, such as heart failure
    • chronic kidney disease
    • chronic liver disease, such as hepatitis
    • chronic neurological conditions, such as Parkinson’s disease, motor neurone disease, multiple sclerosis (MS) or cerebral palsy
    • diabetes
    • a weakened immune system as the result of certain conditions or medicines they are taking (such as steroid tablets)
    • being seriously overweight (a body mass index (BMI) of 40 or above)
  • pregnant.

People who are Clinically Extremely Vulnerable (CEV)

People who are defined as clinically extremely vulnerable are at very high risk of severe illness from COVID-19. There are 2 ways you may be identified as clinically extremely vulnerable:

  1. You have one or more of the conditions listed below, or
  2. Your hospital clinician or GP has added you to the Shielded patients list because, based on their clinical judgement, they deem you to be at higher risk of serious illness if you catch the virus.

If you do not fall into either of these categories and have not been informed that you are on the Shielded patients list, follow the new national restrictions from 5 November.

If you think there are good clinical reasons why you should be added to the Shielded Patient List, discuss your concerns with your GP or hospital clinician.

Adults with the following conditions are automatically deemed clinically extremely vulnerable:

  • solid organ transplant recipients
  • those with specific cancers:
    • people with cancer who are undergoing active chemotherapy
    • people with lung cancer who are undergoing radical radiotherapy
    • people with cancers of the blood or bone marrow such as leukaemia, lymphoma or myeloma who are at any stage of treatment
    • people having immunotherapy or other continuing antibody treatments for cancer
    • people having other targeted cancer treatments that can affect the immune system, such as protein kinase inhibitors or PARP inhibitors
    • people who have had bone marrow or stem cell transplants in the last 6 months or who are still taking immunosuppression drugs
  • those with severe respiratory conditions including all cystic fibrosis, severe asthma and severe chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • those with rare diseases that significantly increase the risk of infections (such as severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID), homozygous sickle cell disease)
  • those on immunosuppression therapies sufficient to significantly increase risk of infection
  • adults with Down’s syndrome
  • adults on dialysis or with chronic kidney disease (stage 5)
  • women who are pregnant with significant heart disease, congenital or acquired
  • other people who have also been classed as clinically extremely vulnerable, based on clinical judgement and an assessment of their needs. GPs and hospital clinicians have been provided with guidance to support these decisions.

The updated guidance for clinically extremely vulnerable people strongly advises:

  • Stay at home as much as possible, although people can exercise outside in their support bubble
  • Avoid all non-essential travel, except to GP and hospital appointments unless told otherwise
  • Don't go to any shops or pharmacies
  • Don't go to work if you cannot work from home - you may be eligible for Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) or Employment Support Allowance (ESA). People in the same household can still attend work
  • Most children who were shielding no longer need to be and can go to school - but parents should check with their GP if they are unsure
  • Children who live with someone who is clinically extremely vulnerable should still go to school

Updated advice for those living with an extremely vulnerable person

Those living with an extremely vulnerable individual are advised to adopt some protective measures particularly if there is a possibility that they have been exposed to the virus.

  • Shared spaces should be kept well ventilated - open a window.
  • Where possible, the extremely vulnerable individual should have a separate bathroom and bedroom from the rest of the household. Make sure separate towels are used.
  • If there is no option but to share a toilet and bathroom, they should be cleaned after every use. Consider drawing up a rota for bathing, with the shielded individual using the facilities first.
  • The extremely vulnerable individual should use the kitchen when others are not in there and take their meals back to their room to eat. Coronavirus is spread through droplets (from coughs and sneezes), so cutlery or crockery should not be shared, unless it is clean. A dishwasher should be used if available otherwise soap or washing up liquid and water gets rid of the virus too.
  • Surfaces that are frequently touched should be kept clean including door handles, taps and handrails.


Credits: The UK Government website -

BBC News website -