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Promising Treatments for COVID-19 Patients, plus an Update on Surgeries and Hospital Safety

  • Category: COVID-19
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Promising Treatments for COVID-19 Patients, plus an Update on Surgeries and Hospital Safety

The COVID-19 virus is a novel virus, meaning it’s a new strain that has not previously been identified in humans. Unfortunately, that means little was known about it when it started wreaking havoc on a global scale. Treatments were elusive, at best. Initially, the way the virus was transmitted also proved to be ambiguous.

Doctors and scientists have come a long way since the first stages of the virus. Vaccine research is in the works, and certain treatments are showing promise.

Convalescent Plasma and Remdesivir

One treatment being used on very sick patients and being used at Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital is convalescent plasma. Convalescent plasma is the liquid part of blood that is collected from patients who have recovered from the Coronavirus disease.

“Convalescent plasma essentially neutralizes the virus. It gets to the virus before the virus can get in the cell or start multiplying,” explains Dr. Mahendra Poudel, MD, infectious disease specialist at Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital.

To listen to an interview on this topic with Dr. Mahendra Poudel, infectious disease specialist at Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital, click here.

This treatment works best when it is applied early on in the virus’s infection, before it has a chance to really replicate. The downside is that it’s somewhat of a cumbersome process to harvest and process the plasma which limits the supply. So, not every patient who is diagnosed with COVID-19 is able to receive the plasma.

Fortunately, people seem to be willing to help as part of the greater good. “When I talk to patients who have recovered from COVID-19 at our hospital, a lot of them are enthusiastic about donating their blood so that somebody else who is hospitalized can use it,” notes Dr. Poudel.

Doctors at SVMHS are also using the drug Remdesivir to treat patients. This anti-viral medication works similarly to convalescent plasma in that it decreases viral replication in the cell. Based on early studies, Remdesivir decreases hospitalization. “From what we've seen, with anecdotal experiences, patients seem to get better if we can get administer the medication early on,” states Dr. Poudel.

No “Miracle” Treatment

One note of caution from Dr. Poudel: neither Remdesivir nor convalescent plasma is a substitute for social distancing, using masks, or hand hygiene.

“These are medicines we give to patients who are really sick and hospitalized. Because our supplies are so limited, you may not be able to get it even if you are hospitalized,” stresses Dr. Poudel. “I would really urge individuals to maintain social distancing. When you go out, please wear a mask. Don't touch your face or eyes, and continue to wash your hands. We know these common-sense measures are going to decrease infection, help you stay safe, your family stay safe, and your community stay safe.”

Precautionary Measures Ensure Hospital and Patient Safety

When the pandemic took hold, hospitals across the country were forced to cancel elective and non-emergent surgeries. As states begin to reopen, including California, these facilities are slowly assessing which surgeries can now be performed. SVMH has put in place a number of precautionary measures for patients who are scheduled to undergo surgical procedures, such as testing for the virus and implementing safety policies and procedures for both patients and staff.

Dr. Poudel also wants the community to know they do not need to fear the ER or other hospital environments. He stresses, delaying urgent medical care for a chronic illness can be life threatening and should not be done.

“We are taking all the precautions to protect you, our healthcare staff, and the community. We really are concerned about all our patients, and we want to operate within the safest environment,” says Dr. Poudel. “We recognize this is a tough period for our community. As we all are going through this pandemic, I want individuals to know they will be taken care of here. They do not need to be scared.”