In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, researchers around the world are working to develop effective treatments.
In this article, we discuss Veklury and other potential treatments for COVID-19. We then explain how doctors treat people with severe symptoms in the hospital and what the at-home treatment options are for people with a milder form of the illness.
We also discuss current vaccine developments and how to avoid infection with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes the condition.
The FDA have removed the Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine for the treatment of COVID-19. Based on a review of the latest research, the FDA determined that these drugs are not likely to be an effective treatment for COVID-19 and that the risks of using them for this purpose might outweigh any benefits.
To date, according to Johns Hopkins, tens of millions of people have tested positive for the novel coronavirus, and it has contributed to more than 1 million deaths worldwide.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) say that a person can have a SARS-CoV-2 infection for 2–14 days before they develop symptoms of COVID-19. The symptoms of COVID-19 include:
Veklury is the first drug that the FDA have approved to treat COVID-19. Doctors can use Veklury to treat people with diagnosed or suspected COVID-19 that is severe enough to require hospitalization.
It is suitable for adults and children aged 12 years and older who weigh at least 40 kilograms (kg).
The FDA had previously granted the drug an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA).
Veklury still retains its EUA status for the treatment of COVID-19 in hospitalized children younger than 12 years, who weigh at least 3.5 kg.
According to the FDA, studies have shown that using Veklury could speed up the recovery time from COVID-19. The median recovery time was 10 days for people taking Veklury compared with 15 days for those in the placebo group.
On June 15, 2020, the FDA revoked the EUA for the antimalarial drugs hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine for the treatment of COVID-19 symptoms.
The FDA had given the authorization in March but released a statement on April 24, 2020, warning that both medications carry the risk of “serious and potentially life threatening heart rhythm problems.”
Scientists are still investigating a range of other drugs as potential COVID-19 treatments.
The majority of people — about 80% — who develop COVID-19 symptoms do not require hospital treatment.
People who think that they might have COVID-19 can consider taking the following steps:
- staying home unless seeking medical care
- tracking the symptoms and keeping in contact with healthcare providers
- avoiding public places, such as grocery stores and public transport
- wearing a face mask or cloth covering over the nose and mouth when around other people
- self-isolating, including from other members of the household, until the symptoms resolve
- washing the hands and using hand sanitizer frequently
People can also consider the following at-home treatments for any COVID-19 symptoms they develop:
- drinking plenty of water to stay hydrated
- taking an over-the-counter pain reliever, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) for body aches, headaches, and fever
- trying cough syrup or throat lozenges for persistent coughing
- drinking warm liquids, such as tea or soup, to relieve a sore throat
The CDC advise that people with COVID-19 symptoms only end their self-isolation when:
- at least 10 days have passed since symptoms first appeared
- they have not had a fever for 3 consecutive days without using fever-reducing medications
- other symptoms have improved
Most people develop mild or moderate symptoms of COVID-19. However, some individuals experience severe respiratory symptoms, including:
- severe fatigue
- difficulty breathing
- persistent pain or pressure in the chest
- bluish lips or face
- Mechanical ventilation: The healthcare team will insert a tube into the person’s lungs through their nose or mouth. The other end of the tube connects to a device called a respirator. The respirator uses pressure to send oxygenated air into the lungs and remove carbon dioxide from the body. Doctors also call this intubation.
- Intravenous (IV) treatment: Doctors can use this to treat and prevent dehydration and restore electrolytes to the body.
- Sedative treatment: This treatment can include antipsychotic or anti-anxiety medications. It can help people who experience significant psychological distress, delirium, or confusion.
Researchers around the world are working on testing and developing potential vaccines for COVID-19.
According to some sources, a fast-tracked vaccine could reach the market between the end of 2020 and the middle of 2021.
Several government organizations and private pharmaceutical companies from the United States and Europe initiated the Accelerating COVID-19 Therapeutic Interventions and Vaccines (ACTIV) partnership in April, 2020.
The ACTIV program focuses on identifying potential vaccine and drug candidates for future clinical trials.
Many potential COVID-19 vaccines are under investigation worldwide. Some of these have reached phase 3 clinical trials, which are trials that involve thousands of people and analyze the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine.
Vaccines currently in phase 3 clinical trials include:
- mRNA-1273, which Moderna sponsor. This vaccine is under investigation at the Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute.
- AZD1222, which the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca sponsor in part.
- BNT162, which Pfizer and BioNTech sponsor. Investigations are underway at multiple study sites in Europe and North America.
People can stay up to date with the latest vaccine developments using the Regulatory Affairs Professionals Society’s COVID-19 vaccine tracker.
People can use many protective measures to reduce their risk of contracting SARS-CoV-2.
The first step involves understanding which populations have a higher risk of contracting the infection and which groups are more likely to develop severe complications from an infection.
The SARS-CoV-2 virus spreads from person to person through respiratory droplets in the air or on contaminated surfaces.
As a result, healthcare professionals and individuals caring for people with confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infections have an increased risk of contracting an infection.
According to the CDC, older adults have a higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19. The greatest risk is among those aged 85 years or older.
The CDC also report that people with certain medical conditions have a higher risk of developing severe COVID-19 symptoms, including people with:
- chronic kidney disease
- severe obesity
- chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
- weakened immune system function
- type 2 diabetes
Avoiding or limiting contact with people who have COVID-19 symptoms or a confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infection is the best way to prevent the spread of infection.
SARS-CoV-2 can still transmit to others from people who do not develop symptoms. Due to this, people should practice physical distancing.
Physical distancing means keeping 2 meters (6 feet) away from people when outside, limiting contact with others, and avoiding large public gatherings, as much as possible.
Other precautions against SARS-CoV-2, and possible COVID-19, include:
- staying at home as often as possible
- wearing a face covering in public areas
- avoiding touching the face, eyes, nose, or mouth when around others or if the hands are dirty
- covering the mouth when sneezing or coughing
- washing the hands properly for at least 20 seconds with soap and warm water and repeating frequently
- disinfecting high touch objects, including electronics, keys, doorknobs, and countertops
The protective measures above may help reduce the spread of SARS-CoV-2. However, these measures do not guarantee complete protection against COVID-19.
Researchers and public health agencies around the world are working to find treatments and symptom relief for people with COVID-19. They are also working on a vaccine against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes it.
People can prevent the spread of SARS-CoV-2 by using protective measures, such as practicing physical distancing in public spaces and self-isolating when sick.
Limiting or avoiding contact with people who have a suspected or confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infection can also help reduce the risk of getting sick.
Most people with mild-to-moderate COVID-19 symptoms can use self-care at home. Severe symptoms may require intensive medical intervention and hospitalization.