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Timely action can reduce severity of COVID-19

By Nathan Gregory

MSU Extension Service

STARKVILLE, Miss.— The risk of infection and hospitalization from COVID-19 is significantly higher in unvaccinated people, but some fully vaccinated people are also being infected due to the contagiousness of the delta variant of the virus.

Though no vaccine is 100% effective, it is the best method to avoid contracting the virus or suffering a severe illness from a breakthrough infection, said Dr. Tami Brooks, Starkville physician and retired professor of pediatrics at the University of Mississippi Medical Center School of Medicine.

“Vaccines have been given to millions of people and have proven overall to be very safe,” Brooks said. “Aside from taking the vaccine, masking in indoor spaces is the next most effective way to prevent infection, especially for those who are unable to be vaccinated, such as those under age 12 or immunocompromised.”

Knowing what to do — and what not to do — as soon as symptoms appear is equally necessary because it can prevent spread of the virus and help as many people as possible recover properly at home rather than requiring emergency medical care or a stay in the hospital.

The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, coughing, shortness of breath, loss of taste, congestion, headaches and body aches. Anyone who has one or more of these symptoms or has been exposed to someone who tested positive should quarantine immediately and call their health care provider or local health department for further instruction or to schedule a test. They should also inform any recent close contacts that they may have been exposed.

“Start documenting what the symptoms are, and don’t let them get out of hand before you call your healthcare provider,” said David Buys, Mississippi State University Extension health specialist. “Having the most accurate information can help your doctor or nurse practitioner decide if you should come in to get tested or receive monoclonal antibody treatment, based on any prior health complications you may have.”

Many health care providers may direct patients to an on-site testing location. Others may recommend an over-the-counter, at-home test.

“If you have quick access to a test, the sooner, the better, especially if you have fever,” Brooks said. “Realize that the rapid antigen tests at clinics and in home kits can be unreliable if you are within the first 24 to 48 hours of symptoms. You may have to retest 48 hours later if you remain symptomatic.”

Most people who get the delta variant have mild illnesses and can recover at home, by hydrating constantly, taking over-the-counter cold medicine, and taking acetaminophen or ibuprofen for fever.

“Stay in the same room away from other people and pets in your home and use a separate restroom if possible,” Brooks said. “Wear a mask if you have to be around others in your home.”

Confusion, pale skin and inability to stay awake are emergency warning signs, but respiratory complications are the most serious.

“If you test positive, you should see a health care provider if you have chest pain or shortness of breath or are unable to hold fluids down,” Brooks said.

Avoid the use of antibiotics when under COVID-19 quarantine. Do not take Ivermectin to prevent or treat the virus. Calls to the Mississippi Poison Control Center have increased in the last month, at least 70% of which were related to ingestion of livestock or animal formulations of Ivermectin purchased at livestock supply centers.

“Antibiotics are not recommended at all unless there is suspicion of a secondary pneumonia found on a chest X-Ray or other evidence of bacterial infection,” Brooks said. “Ivermectin is not FDA approved or recommended by the manufacturer to be taken to treat COVID-19. There are presently no available reliable studies to support its use in treating any variant and no evidence-based guidelines for dosing.”

There are approved uses for Ivermectin in both people and animals, but animal drugs are highly concentrated for large animals and can be toxic to humans.

“Ivermectin is only currently recommended for use within clinical trials in the U.S. if being used for COVID-19 prevention or management,” Buys said. “Taking a drug without data on its safety and efficacy does much more harm than good. We rely on evidence from research and clinical trials to inform guidelines for prescribed pharmaceuticals, and there is no such evidence for Ivermectin at this time.

“Health care providers adhering to proper prescribing protocols are not trying to hold something back that may be helpful,” he added. “Patients who suggest that doctors and nurse practitioners are not practicing with their best interests in view or that they are hiding a secret treatment from them are adding to the mental toll this pandemic has taken on them and every other member of the medical community.”

Find more Extension information related to the coronavirus and the vaccine at http://msuext.ms/covid.