- Remdesivir, steroids, blood thinner use is aiding prognosis
- Doctors have gained experience over months of U.S. outbreak
Covid-19 continues to kill close to 1,000 Americans a day. But for those who develop dangerous cases of the infection, advances in medical care and the growing experience of doctors are improving the chances of survival.
Since the first case arrived in the U.S. at the start of the year, medical professionals have gone from fumbling in the dark to better understanding which drugs work — such as steroids and blood thinners, and the antiviral medicine remdesivir. Allocation of intensive medical resources have improved. And doctors have learned to hold off on the use of ventilators for some patients, unlike with many other severe respiratory illnesses.
Doctors and experts say that improved medical tactics and earlier treatment are helping improve the outcomes for very sick patients, said Andrew Badley, head of Mayo Clinic’s Covid Research Task Force.
“Health-care preparedness today is much better than it was in February and March,” Badley said in an interview. “We have better and more rapid access to diagnosis. We have more knowledge about what drugs to use and what drugs not to use. We have more experimental treatments available. All of those contribute to possible improvements in the mortality rate.”
One study looked at 4,689 Covid-19 hospitalizations from March to June in New York, adjusting patients’ mortality rate for factors such as age, race, obesity and any underlying illnesses they might have had. In the first half of March, the mortality rate for hospitalized patients was 23%. By June, it had fallen to 8%. The research hasn’t yet been peer-reviewed, a process through which other experts examine the work.
Despite the gains, the U.S. will soon pass 200,000 deaths, and tens of thousands of Americans are confirmed infected each day. The number killed by the disease is still in large part a factor of how many are infected in the first place — the more people who get sick, the more die. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has emphasized that a mask is still the best available protection from the virus for most people. And experts warn that the virus is still very dangerous and can kill even seemingly healthy individuals.