Since December 2019, the world has been held captive to SARS-CoV-2, also known as the COVID-19 virus. The virus has disrupted the lives of millions of people all over the world; disrupting economies, travel, education and the healthcare industry. As the world approaches over 1 million deaths associated with this virus, it is important to have a better understanding of what we have learned to help curb this virus’s spread.
The earliest published data from the CDC (Centers of Disease Control and Prevention) and WHO (World Health Organization), have shown this to be a highly communicable disease that spreads from person to person.The most common presenting symptoms include fever, dry cough, shortness of breath, and fatigue. Moderate to severe anosmia (loss of smell) and altered taste are also commonly reported. The diagnosis of COVID-19 can be made based on radiologic and laboratory findings as well as two diagnostic tests. The Point of Care test (rapid test) allows for results in minutes, however the PCR test is currently the best test to detect and confirm the diagnosis of COVID-19.
Current guidelines published by the WHO and CDC that recommend physical distancing of at least 6 feet, mask wearing in public, and travel restrictions, have helped slow the spread of the infection. The CDC recommends a quarantine for any close contact to a person with confirmed COVID-19 .The quarantine is recommended for 10 days after the last exposure with monitoring for fever and other symptoms daily. People who are suspected to have COVID-19 should isolate within their home to prevent infection spread. This includes isolating from others in their home and using separate bathrooms, if possible.
The incubation period of the COVID-19 virus is typically between 2 and 14 days. Generally, symptoms appear within five days of exposure. Primary treatment for COVID-19 is supportive care; drinking plenty of fluids, and taking over-the-counter medications to help control fever and cough. It is important to note that any patient experiencing shortness of breath, elevated heart rates, oxygen saturation less than 95%, and increased respiratory rate might require hospitalization.
There are several investigational treatments approved for the treatment of COVID-19 however they are based on severity of illness. Despite a variety of different treatment modalities, Dexamethasone and Remdesivir are the most accepted therapeutic options currently used in Hospital care. The use of Dexamethasone 6mg for a 10 day period in patients with low oxygen levels has shown a reduction in the overall mortality. Remdesivir is a four day therapy that was shown to reduce time to recovery in early clinical trials.
Vaccines have been administered in large numbers in various parts of the world to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. The immune system learns from the vaccine how to quickly recognize the virus and stop it from multiplying. It is important to note that both the Pfizer vaccine and Moderna vaccine have shown 95% effective rate during clinical trials. There is no evidence to suggest that the current vaccines will be less effective against newer variants of the virus. Currently the COVID-19 vaccine is our best hope for ending the pandemic.
It is important for us as a community to continue to wear masks, get vaccinated, and adhere to social distancing guidelines to help stop the spread of the COVID -19 virus.
Dr. Ronnie Tom Oommen