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Smith: Plenty of treatment options in Eastern Panhandle during COVID surge

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. – Health officials in the Eastern Panhandle say the Delta variant of COVID-19 is still presenting some challenges, but there are plenty of opportunities for treatment.

Dr. Connie Smith

According to WVU Medicine Infectious Disease Specialist Dr. Connie Smith, there are now two infusion clinics available for those who qualify for monoclonal antibody treatment with the opening of the clinic at the Berkeley Medical Center, joining the clinic at the Jefferson Medical Center.

“It’s a synthetic protein that we can give to people in the form of an IV infusion which essentially supports your own immune system and helps you try to start fighting COVID before your own immune defenses have the opportunity to kick in and help you,” Smith said.

Smith said the infusion therapy is most helpful in the early stages of the disease and before any severe complications develop.

“The studies have shown that if we can get the infusion into the patient within 7 to 10 days of when they became infected, that’s when we see the greatest benefits and the greatest chance of that monoclonal infusion helping prevent you needing to be hospitalized,” Smith said. “It’s binding to part of the COVID virus, preventing it from progressing and getting into your body and leading to a more significant illness. The goal of the monoclonal antibody is that it will prevent you from needing to be hospitalized for the infection.”

As for those needing hospitalization and intensive care, Smith at the current time they have a good supply of the medicines they’ve been using to treat severe COVID patients.

“In regard to our supply (of) the monoclonal antibodies, it is true that they are currently being regulated at a federal and a state level,” Smith said. “Currently in the Eastern Panhandle, we have a good supply. We do re-order the product each week and what we are allocated and given in part is based on our need and our request.”

They’ve also made room in the hospital, Smith said.

“In terms of taking care of you in our hospital, we’ve been very fortunate. We have pooled together our resources and we haven’t had turn away any patients with COVID because could not provide the care that we felt that they needed here,” Smith said.

Smith said patients must have tested positive for COVID-19 and have a medical screening to determine health complications and severity of symptoms.

The infusions happen take about two hours total, with time factored in for the patient to be monitored. Potential patients are asked to consult with their medical provider.

The infusion center at Berkeley Medical Center is the second in the Panhandle, joining the one at Jefferson Medical Center, which served 130 patients in September alone. It has been in operation since February.

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