Welcome to the Prader-Willi Syndrome Association of New Zealand
Freephone PWS Helpline: 0800 4PWS HELP | 0800 4797 4357

COVID-19 and PWS Alert

It is thought that the majority of people with PWS are not necessarily immune compromised, however, the underlying health conditions associated with PWS mean that if they were to become infected with Covid-19, they are more likely to experience complications of illness.

Respiratory tract infections can significantly affect people with PWS, particularly if they are obese or have sleep apnoea /sleep disordered breathing. Hypotonia can also affect the ability to cough effectively and clear airways.
Illness can also be difficult to detect and monitor in PWS due to body temperature irregularities, the possibilities of a high pain threshold or lack of vomiting, plus the unlikelihood of being ‘off food’. Individuals with PWS may not present with typical symptoms of Covid-19, such as fever, and subtle changes in appearance, behaviour, sleep or anxiety may be an indicator of illness.

If you are evaluating an individual with PWS, please make use of the Medical Alerts booklet or the medical information on this website, particularly the section on respiratory concerns and the A&E resources. Extra precautions should be taken if any additional risk factors exist, such as:

  • significant hypotonia
  • infancy / older adulthood
  • sleep apnoea / sleep disordered breathing (or history of snoring / history of excessive daytime sleepiness)
  • diabetes
  • obesity
  • hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • hypoventilation
  • cardio vascular disease
  • central adrenal insufficiency
  • asthma
  • history of respiratory illness
  • history of pulmonary embolism

Not all individuals with PWS will respond in the same way to illness and their ability to fight a virus such as Covid-19 will vary.