Antibody treatment can reduce severity for some

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Coming down with Covid-19 can be frightening, but there is monoclonal antibody treatment now available that, when administered within 10 days of becoming ill, can lessen unpleasantness. While ample supplies have been made available to hospitals, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has reported only 5-20 percent of the available supply has been used.

Several Eureka Springs residents have reported good results from getting the treatment, including Dr. Jim Dudley of Eureka Springs, an optometrist.

“The Regeneron monoclonal antibody is genetically engineered especially against the coronavirus,” Dudley said. “Researchers say there is about a seventy percent less chance you will have to be hospitalized if you take this infusion within ten days. I was exposed to Covid on Friday, Dec. 18. Monday, I got wind I had been around someone who had tested positive, and I started getting cold symptoms. The next day I went up to the tent at the Family Clinic on Passion Play Road and got a test. It came back positive. I called my doctor, Dr. John House, that day and told him I’d like to get the monoclonal antibodies treatment. They gave it to Trump and I thought, if it was good enough for him, it’s good enough for me!”

House sent Dudley to get the treatment at Washington Regional Medical Center in Fayetteville. Dudley said the process was easy. After signing a consent form, he was quickly scheduled for the treatment that he said was no more difficult than donating blood.

“The only infusion center in Northwest Arkansas I know of is at Washington Regional,” Dudley said. “But any licensed physician in the state can send a patient. The doctor doesn’t need hospital privileges at Washington Regional in order to send a patient there. I went over there on day eight of my diagnosis – you need to have the infusion within ten days.”

Dudley’s experience with Covid was that “it lasts and lasts and lasts. You think you are getting over it, and it will kick back up on you. My main symptoms were sinus problems, a headache, and a little congestion in the lungs. I couldn’t get my temperature down to normal. So, I went over there feeling bad.”

After arriving, he called the number and a nurse from the infusion center escorted him inside through a special entrance to avoid exposing other people. The large room had about a dozen chairs in a circle. The needle was inserted into his arm and it took about an hour to receive the infusion and an hour to be administered a bag of saline to make sure he had enough fluids and that enough time passed to make sure he didn’t have an allergic reaction.

“I was the first patient at around 9 a.m., was out of there by eleven and home by noon,” Dudley said. “I was still feeling pretty bad after the infusion – not because of infusion, but because of the coronavirus. An antibiotic, whether oral or intravenous, takes a couple days to kick in. You don’t usually feel immediate results.

“I’m on day 14 now and I’ve had some rough days since then, too, but I haven’t had any shortness of breath or breathing difficulties. I’ve had a hard time knocking my temperature down, but it comes down a little each day. I think in the next day or two I will get through the day with a normal temperature without taking Tylenol or ibuprofen.”

Dudley was surprised that the infusion center was not busier than it was. When he left, it was only about half full. A nurse told him that they have plenty of stock of the monoclonal antibodies.

Patients must meet certain criteria, including being over 55 and/or having underlying illnesses. Dr. House said the idea is to treat those with Covid-19 who are at the greatest risk of developing serious complications to help prevent hospitalization.

At this time, House knows of no plans for this treatment to be available in Eureka Springs. “For those who are patients of our clinic here in Eureka and who meet the guidelines, we can arrange treatment at WRMC Fayetteville,” House said.

Dudley said he also took other recommended over-the-counter medicines or supplements including vitamin C, vitamin D3, zinc, and melatonin. He said a lot of doctors also advocate taking an H1 antihistamine blocker (like citarazine) and an H2 blocker (like Pepsid).

Ironically, the day he was notified he was positive for the virus that causes Covid-19 he got a letter from the state medical board about being eligible for a Covid-19 vaccination shot in early January. Then he received an email from the administrator at the ECHO Clinic, where Dudley volunteers, saying Dr. Dan Bell had procured the vaccine for all the clinic doctors and staff.

“If I could have held off getting sick for two more weeks, I would have had two chances of getting vaccinated,” Dudley said. “But once you have had corona, they said I’d have to wait ninety days until I can get vaccinated.

“If you have testing done at the clinic drive-through on Passion Play Road, it takes about five minutes,” Dudley said. “It’s easy. They come out to your car, swab your nose, and let you know within 24 hours. If you are positive, you can immediately sign up for the infusion if you meet the criteria. I am all for letting people know that testing and the infusion are easy and available.”

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