Coronavirus Update

COVID-19 is a new illness that can affect your lungs and airways.  It is caused by a virus called coronavirus. 

UPDATED: 7th April 2020

Alpha-1 is a genetic condition and many people with it are healthy and well.  For this group, the risk to your health due to COVID-19 is the same as someone your age without a diagnosis of Alpha-1 and you should follow today's government advice which is to stay at home as much as possible (more details here).  However, some people with Alpha-1 have lung diseases like COPD and emphysema and are therefore more vulnerable to the effects of viral infections like COVID-19.  If you have lung (or liver) disease caused by Alpha-1 you need to exercise extreme caution in order to avoid the risk of infection with COVID-19.  This should involve cocooning to ensure your safety as a vulnerable person with a serious health condition.  Cocooning means staying at home and completely avoiding contact with other people. To read an excellent poster on what cocooning means click here.


As of March 27th the Irish Government has issued further restrictions and highlighted the extremely medically vulnerable groups who should cocoon immediately.  For those with Alpha-1 who have severe chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and those who have received a lung or liver transplant it is vital to cocoon to reduce the risk of life threatening COVID-19 infection.  Cocooning is a measure to protect those over 70 years or those extremely medically vulnerable by minimising interaction between them and others.  This means that these extremely medically vulnerable groups should not leave their homes, and within their homes should minimise all non-essential contact with other members of their household.  This advice is to protect those who are at very high risk of severe illness due to COVID-19.  For more on this potentially life-saving advice visit here

Put simply, the following Alpha-1 groups should cocoon immediately:

  • All ZZs 

  • SZs and MZs with lung disease (e.g. COPD, emphysema, bronchiectasis) or liver disease (e.g. cirrhosis)

  • ZZ, SZ, and MZ who have received a lung or liver transplant

NOTE: If you do not know if you are ZZ, SZ, or MZ type Alpha-1, please ring the Foundation on 01-8093871 to discuss.

Remember your family and friends can be your first line of defence in preventing infection.  Please encourage them to strictly adhere to the hygiene guidelines and refrain from any contact with you until they have washed their hands and taken all necessary steps.  Everyone can play a role to stop the spread of COVID-19. 

In order to support the Alpha-1 community at this difficult time, we have two processes in place:

  1. An Alpha-1 Helpline [01-8093749] is available Monday to Friday 1pm – 2pm. This will be attended by a member of the Alpha-1 Medical team who will answer any concerns you may have.

  2. For all other times we invite people to submit questions to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and we will respond in a timely fashion.

For people with a lung disease, such as emphysema or COPD, there is an excellent Q&A interview with an infectious diseases expert that can be found on the European Respiratory Society website hereThis article has been updated since it first appeared and now includes even more information and advice for people with lung problems. 

There is an excellent new COVID-19 section on the HSE Health Protection Surveillance Centre website here.  The World Health Organisation also has an excellent Q&A section here. This page and a dedicated WHO Coronavirus website here are being updated regularly as knowledge of the virus improves.  NOTE: Always remember to get your information from reliable and trusted sources, rather than unverified sources on the internet or on social media. 


Importantly, because health information and guidance on COVID-19 can change rapidly, Alpha-1 Foundation Ireland recommends that the Alpha-1 community review the following 3 websites on a regular basis.  They are key sources of reliable, expert health information about COVID-19 (Coronavirus).  


  • To find out more about COVID-19 (Coronavirus) visit the HSE website here


  • For latest updates from the Health Protection Surveillance Centre visit here


  • For travel advice visit the Department of Foreign Affairs website here


If you have concerns you may have COVID-19 (Coronavirus) phone HSE Live on 1850 24 1850.  For all other health issues please contact your GP as normal.  

If you want to find out more about Alpha-1 why not check out our video gallery here.


If you think you have two of the following symptoms of COVID-19 [a cough - any kind of cough, not just dry, shortness of breath, breathing difficulties, fever (high temperature, 38 degrees Celsius or above) or chills] you will need to self-isolate immediately and phone your GP.  The people in your household will also need to restrict their movements.  Do not go to a GP surgery, pharmacy or hospital.  Phone your GP and he/she will assess you over the phone.  If they think you need to be tested for COVID-19, they will arrange a test.  For a detailed explanation of the testing criteria visit here


REMEMBER TO TAKE EVERYDAY PREVENTATIVE ACTIONS that are always recommended to prevent the spread of ALL respiratory viruses.  In the absence of a vaccine and specific treatments, at the moment prevention is our best weapon.

  • Stay at home as much as possible
  • Follow social distancing advice
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub with at least 60% alcohol.
  • Cover your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands; germs spread this way.
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with germs. 
  • Avoid close contact with sick people.
  • Encourage good hygiene in your home.  Your family and friends can be your first line of defense.

 Following these guidelines can help prevent the spread of this virus, reduce the pressure on our health system, and save lives.