Judson Haims: Blood donations may help in the COVID-19 cure
Special to The Aspen Times
Currently, there is no cure for COVID-19, and although there are some drugs getting much attention (Hydroxychloroquine and Azithromycin), none are proven and more research is needed.
However, there is a tried and tested therapy that may lead to an effective cure: plasma therapy. This therapy uses antibodies acquired from the blood of people who have already fully recovered from COVID-19. Once the antibodies are collected, researchers believe the antibodies can be infused into patients who are ill and thus assist in neutralizing infections.
Plasma therapy has been used to treat several diseases. Before vaccines were made available to treat measles, mumps, polio and the 1918 flu pandemic, this therapy was used. More recently, plasma therapy has been used in an attempt to cure MERS, SARS, and H1N1.
At Shenzen Third People’s Hospital in China, plasma therapy has proven to be effective in decreasing the viral loads of COVID-19. The viral loads that occur with COVID-19 can happen rapidly — this is known as a Cytokine storm.
As mentioned in the April 7 on Aspen Times article — “Don’t wait for your breath to become labored” — a cytokine storm “occurs when an overactive immune response wreaks havoc on healthy lung tissue which leads to acute respiratory distress and multi-organ failure. Unfortunately, without being identified quickly, a cytokine storm syndrome is frequently fatal.”
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Restarting our economy and getting back to a new normal is going to depend on our ability to manage the spread of this virus and find a cure.
At Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, researchers believe that in order to reduce the spread of the virus, we will need to learn more about antibodies, people’s immunity and achieving a Herd Immunity.
As per an April 10 article from Johns Hopkins, “When most of a population is immune to an infectious disease, this provides indirect protection — or herd immunity (also called herd protection) — to those who are not immune to the disease.
“For example, if 80% of a population is immune to a virus, four out of every five people who encounter someone with the disease won’t get sick (and won’t spread the disease any further). In this way, the spread of infectious diseases is kept under control. Depending how contagious an infection is, usually 70% to 90% of a population needs immunity to achieve herd immunity.”
Achieving a herd immunity will take time. Until this happens, we must remain vigilant in maintaining social distancing.
We all also can help by contributing blood to our blood banks. The Red Cross is looking for people who have fully recovered from the virus to donate blood. Antibodies in your blood may very well provide temporary relief to others who are in life threatening positions. Further, your donated blood may greatly assist scientists in developing an antidote.
If you are inclined to donate blood, please contact an American Red Cross or Vitalant location. Locally, St. Mary’s Medical Center in Grand Junction is the closest Red Cross location to donate because of the pandemic, but they will be sending out a mobile truck for blood donations in the next couple of months (a confirmed date and location has not been established).
You can make an appointment at St. Mary’s to donate blood. They can be reached at 970-298-2555.
While the stay-at-home order soon will be partially lifted, we cannot let up yet social-distancing guidelines. This virus is extremely infectious. Until a vaccine is developed and made readily available, our best hope for containing the virus and rebuilding our community is to make sure new outbreaks don’t occur.
When the stay-at-home restriction subsides, I hope we all we proceed with caution. We should all be mindful and educate ourselves with what happened with the 1918 Spanish influenza. It receded in summer and then returned with much greater devastation in the fall.
Judson Haims is the owner of Visiting Angels Home Care in Aspen, Basalt and Carbondale. He is an advocate for the elderly and is available to answer questions. He can be reached at http://www.visitingangels.com/comtns and 970-328-5526.
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