This article includes the various vaccines and medicines under trial to prevent and treat COVID-19. Also, read about the preventive tips.
To date, there are no approved vaccines or medicines that can prevent or cure COVID-19 (Coronavirus Disease-2019). The best we can do to prevent this infection is by following strict hand hygiene and maintaining social distancing. Clinical management includes infection control and supportive care. Earlier this week, it was announced that Dexamethasone reduces the mortality rate in critically ill patients. This new finding has made doctors across the globe to consider a change in treatment protocols.
There was a lot of hype surrounding the use of Hydroxychloroquine and Chloroquine for the treatment and prevention of COVID-19. But, FDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration) removed the emergency use of these drugs on 15th June 2020. The FDA decided that the risks of using these drugs outweigh their benefits, and they were found to be an ineffective treatment for COVID-19.
We will be discussing ways to prevent infection caused by the new coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) and various treatment options for COVID-19 symptoms. We have also listed ways to treat this infection at home and ongoing treatment and vaccine studies.
The infection caused by SARS-CoV-2 (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2), which was first identified in Wuhan, China, is called COVID-19. This infection was previously referred to as the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) respiratory disease. The World Health Organization (WHO) then declared COVID-19 as the official name of this infection on 11th February 2020.
This new coronavirus belongs to the family called coronaviruses, which comprises other strains that result in the common cold to more serious infections like severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and the Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS). Similar to these strains, SARS-CoV-2 also primarily affects and infects the respiratory tract. The severity of the infection can be mild to fatal. Most infected patients, about 81 %, show only mild symptoms. Only the rest 19 % of patients develop moderate to severe symptoms due to pneumonia and acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS).
The new coronavirus can spread from one person to another through:
Large respiratory droplets or aerosols generated when an infected person sneezes, coughs, talks, sings, or drips.
Kissing or shaking hands with someone who is infected.
Touching your mouth, eyes, or nose after touching a contaminated surface.
Dry cough, fever, and shortness of breath (breathing difficulty) are the most common symptoms of COVID-19. These symptoms can start between 2 and 14 days after exposure (incubation period).
According to research published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, the median incubation period (the period between exposure to the virus and the appearance of first symptoms) is said to be 5 days. Almost 98 % of infected individuals will develop symptoms before 12 days.
Another study suggests that a loss of smell and taste is an early sign of the new coronavirus infection. They also found that patients who developed loss of smell and taste before any other symptoms of COVID-19 usually suffered from mild infection.
On 27th April 2020, the CDC added six new symptoms, which include:
Loss of taste or smell.
Repeated shaking with chills.
The CDC has included the following group of people in the list of people who are more prone to develop life-threatening complications if they get infected with the new coronavirus:
Older adults (people above 65 years of age).
People who have pre-existing medical conditions like heart disease, asthma, COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), and diabetes.
People who live in long-term care facilities, old age homes, or nursing homes.
People under treatment for cancer.
Morbidly obese individuals.
A recent study suggests that people who smoke may be more susceptible to this virus. Evidence also suggests that those who use e-cigarettes are at a higher risk of developing severe respiratory infections.
As there are no vaccines or medicines available, avoiding exposure to the virus is the best way to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Some of the most effective preventive measures are:
Wash your hands. Using warm water and soap, lather by rubbing all the surfaces of your hands together, including your nails for 20 seconds. Make sure you wash your hands:
Prior to and after cooking.
After using the restroom.
When they are visibly soiled.
After working with pesticides or heavy metals.
When your hands are oily or greasy.
Prior to and after eating.
If soap and water are not readily available, make use of an alcohol-based hand sanitizer containing more than 60 % alcohol.
Take a coin size of hand sanitizer into your palm and rub together all surfaces of your hands, including your nails, for 20 seconds.
Please wait till the sanitizer dries up and do not wipe your hands on a cloth.
Hand sanitizer will not be effective if your hands are muddy, oily, greasy, or contaminated by heavy metals.
Do not touch your mouth, eyes, nose, or face without washing your hands first.
Stay away from people who are sick and exhibit symptoms of influenza-like illnesses.
Make sure you sneeze or cough into a tissue or your bent elbow.
Clean and disinfect high-contact surfaces like doorknobs, light switches, tabletops, toilets, faucets, etc., using soap and water first and then with 0.1 % sodium hypochlorite or an EPA-registered disinfectant.
Use disinfectant wipes to clean and disinfect your mobile phones and other devices.
Using a face mask can reduce exposure to the deadly virus. Wear a cloth face mask when you go to places where social distancing might be hard to maintain, for example, grocery stores, markets, etc. Face masks will remind you not to touch your face and prevent the spread of the virus.
Maintain social or physical distancing. Meaning, keep at least 6 feet (2 meters) distance from others, avoid gatherings, and stay out of crowded places.
In case you develop signs of upper respiratory tract infection, such as cough, sore throat, runny nose, etc., self isolate yourself. That is, stay home and away from other people for 14 days.
STAY HOME as much as possible.
If you came in contact with a person who later tested to be COVID-19 positive, the best thing you can do is self-isolate yourself. Stay home, as it might take 2 to 14 days for you to show symptoms. So to prevent the spread, isolate yourself from others for 14 days.
In case you develop fever, cough, or other mild symptoms of COVID-19, do not panic. People with mild symptoms have been known to get better at home. But, call and talk to your doctor, keep track of your symptoms, and look out for warning signs.
If you are sick and exhibiting symptoms of influenza-like illness, follow these steps to prevent the spread of the virus:
Isolate yourself at home and avoid going out to public places, except for medical care.
Take rest, and keep drinking water or fluids to keep yourself hydrated.
For fever, you can take over-the-counter medicines like Paracetamol (Acetaminophen).
Stay in a separate room, and do not come in contact with others at home.
Use a separate bathroom if possible.
Wear a face mask to cover your nose and mouth if you are around your caregiver and pets. You can choose not to wear a mask when you are alone.
Keep taking your temperature and note down all the other symptoms.
Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you sneeze or cough. Immediately throw away the tissue in a closed bin and wash your hands.
Keep washing your hands with soap and water.
Do not share personal items, such as your dishes, glasses, eating utensils, and bedding with people in your home.
You should stay away from others and isolate yourself for at least 10 days, beginning from the day of the first symptom.
According to the CDC, people with COVID-19 symptoms can end self-isolation if:
It has been 10 days since the first symptom.
It has been 10 days since they were tested positive.
No fever for 3 consecutive days without medications.
The treatment options for critically ill patients are:
Mechanical Ventilation (Intubation) - to help the patient breathe, a tube is inserted into the patient’s lungs through the nose or mouth. This tube is then connected to a respirator, which sends oxygenated air into the lungs and removes carbon dioxide.
Intravenous (IV) electrolytes - are given through the veins to prevent dehydration.
Sedation - antipsychotic or anti-anxiety medications are administered to patients with symptoms like delirium or confusion.
If you or any of your relative shows the following signs and symptoms, seek immediate medical care:
Breathing difficulties or gasping for air.
Chest pain or chest discomfort.
Lips or the face turns bluish.
Inability to stay awake.
Before visiting the hospital, call the hospital and inform them that you are bringing in someone with possible COVID-19 symptoms. Also, when you call for an ambulance, please notify the operator that you want emergency medical care for someone who may have COVID-19.
At present, the FDA has not approved any drug for the treatment for COVID-19. Various studies are ongoing to understand the effectiveness of the following drugs:
Dexamethasone - a steroid used to reduce inflammation and swelling in various conditions. Researchers at the University of Oxford found this drug to reduce fatality rates in critically ill COVID-19 patients (by 1/3rd).
Hydroxychloroquine and Azithromycin - A study where 20 COVID-19 patients were given these drugs showed them to be virologically cured within 6 days. Clinical trials are going on.
Hydroxychloroquine Sulfate - On 9th March 2020, the journal called Clinical Infectious Diseases suggested that Hydroxychloroquine (a malaria drug) effectively killed the coronavirus in lab experiments. After issuing an emergency use authorization (EUA) in March 2020, the FDA revoked the EUA on 15th June 2020.
Ivermectin - a study conducted in Australia showed this anti-parasitic drug to be effective against SARS-CoV-2. Clinical trials are going on.
Lopinavir, Ritonavir, and Oseltamivir - this combination of drugs is said to have helped an old Chinese woman to recover from severe COVID-19 pneumonia completely. But, a study presented in the New England Journal of Medicine showed no benefit.
Remdesivir - an antiviral drug that is under clinical trials in China, the US, and the UK. This drug showed positive results against SARS and MERS.
Interferon-beta-1a - a drug used in the treatment of multiple sclerosis.
Bemcentinib - it has been reported to exhibit antiviral action against the Ebola virus, Zika virus, and other enveloped viruses. Its effectiveness in the treatment of hospitalized COVID-19 patients is in progress.
Bevacizumab - studies to determine its effectiveness as a treatment for lung injury and acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) in severely ill COVID-19 patients are ongoing.
Colchicine - an anti-inflammatory drug, which is being studied in preventing COVID-19 complications in high risk patients.
Favipiravir - an antiviral drug used as a treatment for influenza, is being used in clinical trials as a treatment for pneumonia caused by the new coronavirus.
Other drugs that are under trial or studied for its possible use against SARS-CoV-2 are Umifenovir, Tocilizumab, STC3141, Sarilumab, Baricitinib,EIDD-2801, Methylprednisolone, and Leronlimab. There are more than 20 vaccines that are under development, or human trials are ongoing.
THESE DRUGS ARE NOT APPROVED. AVOID SELF-MEDICATION.
Patients with mild to moderate symptoms can stay at home while their body fights this infection. Medical intervention and hospitalization are only required for people with severe symptoms.
Last reviewed at:
31 Aug 2020 - 8 min read
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