Department of Health emphasizes COVID-19 treatment alternatives

Department of Health emphasizes COVID-19 treatment alternatives

To the Christmas longest in the world”, there are still festivals, meetings and promises of Three Kings, and the exposure and risk of becoming infected with COVID-19 It is also higher, so it is recommended that prevention measures be taken and, in case of illness, treatment.

“With this holiday season, such as the Three Kings and Calle San Sebastian celebrations, that are coming around, it is expected that cases of respiratory diseases will increase. But there are ways to prevent this from becoming a tragedy. If you feel bad, seek help because there are treatment alternatives”the doctor advised this Saturday Iris Cardonachief medical officer of the Health Department.

The pediatric infectious disease specialist also highlighted the importance of taking preventive measures, such as vaccines and masks -in places deemed necessary-, as well as taking a COVID-19 test if the person presents symptoms. If the diagnosis is positive, he recommended consulting with a doctor to evaluate if the patient is eligible to use antiviral medications, such as Paxlovid either Molnupiravir.

A study conducted with one million high-risk people with COVID-19 in the United States revealed that only 15% of those eligible to receive antivirals used them. According to researchers, if half of the eligible patients in that country had used them, 48,000 deaths would have been avoided, he reported. The New York Times. Antiviral medications reduce the risk of hospitalization, complications and death, said the study by the National Institutes of Health.

Cardona explained that, among the criteria for a person to receive antiviral treatment, are being over 12 years old and being in the first five days of diagnosis, in addition to suffering from various health conditions, such as diabetes and lung, kidney or cardiovascular diseases. . For her, the age factor is crucial, since the majority of people who have died from COVID-19 were older adults.

“The most important factor is that the oldest person (65 years or older), whether or not they have a health condition, is eligible”he said, citing official statistics on COVID-19 fatalities.

In 2021, 1,666 people died and 51% were over 70 years old; In 2022, which was the year with the most deaths from the virus, there were 2,587 deaths and 77% were over 70 years old; Last year, 1,135 deaths occurred, 83% of which were people over 70 years of age, Cardona detailed.

To deal with this scenario, since 2021, when the federal government authorized antivirals and established the program that has allowed them to be administered at no cost to patients, Health began to create a network of centers where tests, evaluations and the delivery or administration of medications could be carried out..

Cardona anticipated that, although the medication will continue to be available, At some point this year, the federal program is expected to change and no longer be free.so it must be paid for by medical plans or public assistance programs for those who do not have coverage or receive benefits from the Medicaid.

Where to get the antiviral?

To carry out tests and offer medicines, in 2021 a center was established at the Ramon Ruiz Arnau University Hospital (Hurra), in Bayamon, with an infusion center and service car. At that time, monoclonal treatment was given, which is no longer used.

“In 2022, we also made collaborative agreements with Centros 330 and now there are 20, plus Hurra, which are testing and treatment centers”highlighted the official, referring to medical facilities in 20 municipalities, including Vieques.

Cardona offered data on what has happened since then in Hurra, and highlighted that, in 2022, 25,966 tests were carried out, of which 13,107, or 51%, were positive. Of those, 12,962 (99%) were evaluated by the doctors assigned to the tents where the service is provided. Ultimately, 11,409 people, 88% of those eligible, received treatment.

While, In 2023, 9,107 tests were carried out and, of those, 3,715 (41%) gave positive results. In turn, 2,749 (74%) patients were evaluated and 2,520 (92%) agreed to be treated..

In addition to the centers for diagnosis and treatment, there is also a network of providers, where people can purchase antiviral medication once they have a diagnosis and the criteria to receive treatment.

“We have 543 locations throughout Puerto Rico” including community pharmacies, Centros 330 pharmacy chains and hospital pharmacies, Cardona highlighted. Since 2021, 160,435 people have received treatment with antiviral medications in these establishments.

As part of the work, the official indicated that Salud trained health providers and developed a user guide that explains who receives this treatment, how it is prescribed and how it is supplied, which remains on the agency’s virtual page. .

Meanwhile, with the project aimed at shared housing institutions of older adults, in 2022, evaluated 4,208 people infected with COVID-19, of which 1,132 were eligible and about half accepted the treatment. In 2023, they evaluated 4,258 people, of which 2,213, or 52%, were candidates for the antiviral and, of those, half were treated. Refusal to treatment was due to the desire to consult with their family or their primary doctor or because they did not approve the treatment due to pre-existing conditions, among other reasons..

Cardona stressed the importance of continuing to take care of oneself because the level of contagion is rising. At the end of 2023, last week, the positivity level was 23% and yesterday it was 27%. “At this date (a year ago), the average number of daily cases was 1,400 and today (yesterday) there were 625,” revealed Cardona, who, however, also acknowledged that fewer tests are done to detect contagion. As of yesterday, there were 85 adults and eight minors hospitalized for COVID-19. She added that 25% of cases in Puerto Rico now respond to JN.1, a new sublineage of omicronwhich was noted as one of interest by the World Health Organization due to its level of contagion.

For more guidance and to request coordination to vaccinate bedridden people, you can call 787-522-3985, Monday through Friday, from 7:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

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