COVID-19 is an infectious disease caused by a new coronavirus discovered after an outbreak in Wuhan, China, in December 2019.
Since the initial outbreak, this coronavirus, known as SARS-CoV-2, has spread to more than 100 countries around the world, and has affected many thousands of people.
As yet, there’s no vaccine against the novel coronavirus. Researchers are currently working on creating a vaccine specifically for this virus, as well as potential treatments for COVID-19.
The disease is more likely to cause symptoms in older adults and those with underlying health conditions. Most people who develop symptoms of COVID-19 experience:
- shortness of breath
Keep reading to learn more about the current treatment options for COVID-19, what types of treatments are being explored, and what to do if you develop symptoms.
What type of treatment is available for the novel coronavirus?
There currently isn’t a vaccine against developing COVID-19. Antibiotics are also ineffective because COVID-19 is a viral infection and not bacterial.
If your symptoms are more severe, supportive treatments may be given by your doctor or at a hospital. This type of treatment may involve:
- fluids to reduce the risk of dehydration
- medication to reduce a fever
- supplemental oxygen in more severe cases
People who have a hard time breathing on their own due to COVID-19 may need a respirator.
What is being done to find an effective treatment?
Vaccines and treatment options for COVID-19 are currently being investigated around the world. There’s some evidence that certain medications may have the potential to be effective with regard to preventing illness or treating the symptoms of COVID-19.
However, researchers need to perform randomized controlled trialsTrusted Source in humans before potential vaccines and other treatments become available. This may take several months or longer.
Here are some treatment options that are currently being investigated for protection against SARS-CoV-2 and treatment of COVID-19 symptoms.
Remdesivir is an experimental broad-spectrum antiviral drug originally designed to target Ebola.
Researchers have found that remdesivir is highly effective at fighting the novel coronavirus in isolated cellsTrusted Source.
This treatment is not yet approved in humans, but two clinical trials for this drug have been implemented in China. One clinical trial was recently also approved by the FDA in the United States.
Chloroquine is a drug that’s used to fight malaria and autoimmune diseases. It’s been in use for more than 70 yearsTrusted Source and is considered safe.
Researchers have discovered that this drug is effective at fighting the SARS-CoV-2 virus in studies done in test tubes.
At least 10 clinical trialsTrusted Source are currently looking at the potential use of chloroquine as an option for combating the novel coronavirus.
Lopinavir and ritonavir
Lopinavir and ritonavir are sold under the name Kaletra and are designed to treat HIV.
In South Korea, a 54-year-old man was given a combination of these two drugs and had a significant reductionTrusted Source in his levels of the coronavirus.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there could be benefits to using Kaletra in combination with other drugs.
A clinical trial is set to start soon in China to examine the potential of a drug called APN01 to fight the novel coronavirus.
The scientists who first developed APN01 in the early 2000s discovered that a certain protein called ACE2 is involved in SARS infections. This protein also helped protect the lungs from injury due to respiratory distress.
From recent research, it turns out that the 2019 coronavirus, like SARS, also uses the ACE2 protein to infect cells in humans.
The randomized, dual-arm trial will look at the effect of the medication on 24 patients for 1 week. Half of the participants in the trial will receive the APN01 drug, and the other half will be given a placebo. If results are encouraging, larger clinical trials will be done.
China has approved the use of the antiviral drug favilavir to treat symptoms of COVID-19. The drug was initially developed to treat inflammation in the nose and throat.
Although the results of the study haven’t been released yet, the drug has supposedly shown to be effective in treating COVID-19 symptoms in a clinical trial of 70 people.
What should you do if you think you have symptoms of COVID-19?
Not everyone with a SARS-CoV-2 infection will feel ill. Some people may even contract the virus and not develop symptoms. When there are symptoms, they’re usually mild and tend to come on slowly.
COVID-19 seems to cause more severe symptoms in older adults and people with underlying health conditions, such as chronic heart or lung conditions.
If you think you have symptoms of COVID-19, follow this protocol:
- Gauge how sick you are. Ask yourself how likely it is that you came into contact with the coronavirus. If you live in a region that has had an outbreak, or if you’ve recently traveled abroad, you may be at an increased risk of exposure.
- Call your doctor. If you have mild symptoms, call your doctor. To reduce transmission of the virus, many clinics are encouraging people to call or use live chat instead of coming into a clinic. Your doctor will evaluate your symptoms and work with local health authorities and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to determine if you need to be tested.
- Stay home. If you have symptoms of COVID-19 or another type of viral infection, stay home and get plenty of rest. Be sure to stay away from other people and avoid sharing items like drinking glasses, utensils, keyboards, and phones.
When do you need medical care?
About 80 percentTrusted Source of people recover from COVID-19 without needing hospitalization or special treatment.
If you’re young and healthy with only mild symptoms, your doctor will likely advise you to isolate yourself at home and to limit contact with others in your household. You’ll likely be advised to rest, stay well hydrated, and to closely monitor your symptoms.
If you’re an older adult, have any underlying health conditions, or a compromised immune system, be sure to contact your doctor as soon as you notice any symptoms. Your doctor will advise you on the best course of action.
If your symptoms worsen with home care, it’s important to get prompt medical care. Call your local hospital, clinic, or urgent care to let them know you’ll be coming in, and wear a face mask once you leave your home. You can also call 911 for immediate medical attention.
How to avoid infection from the coronavirus
The novel coronavirus is primarily transmitted from person to person. At this point, the best way to prevent getting infected is to avoid being around people who have been exposed to the virus.
Additionally, according to the CDCTrusted Source, you can take the following precautions to lower your risk of infection:
- Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
- Use hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol if soap isn’t available.
- Avoid touching your face unless you’ve recently washed your hands.
- Stay clear of people who are coughing and sneezing. The CDC recommends standing at least 6 feet away from anyone who appears to be sick.
- Avoid crowded areas as much as possible.
Older adults are at the highest risk of infection and may want to take extra precautions to avoid coming into contact with the virus.
The bottom line
At this point in time, there’s no vaccine to protect you from the novel coronavirus, also known as SARS-CoV-2. There also are no special medications approved to treat the symptoms of COVID-19.
However, researchers around the world are working hard to develop potential vaccines and treatments.
There’s emerging evidence that some medications may have the potential to treat the symptoms of COVID-19. More large-scale testing is needed to determine if these treatments are safe. Clinical trials for these drugs could take several months.