The COVID-19 pandemic continues to kill nearly 1,000 Americans a day, but for those developing dangerous cases of the infection, advances in healthcare and the growing expertise of physicians chances of survival are improving.
Since the first case arrived in the United States in early 2020, medical professionals have gone from groping in the dark to better understanding which drugs work, and how steroids and blood thinners, and the antiviral drug. remdesivir they support the infected.
The allocation of intensive medical resources has also improved. And the doctors have learned to delay ventilator use for some patients, unlike many other serious respiratory diseases.
Doctors and experts point out that improved medical tactics and earlier treatment are helping to optimize outcomes for very sick patients, he explained. Andrew Badley, director of the Mayo Clinic COVID research task force.
“Health care readiness today is much better than in February and March,” Badley emphasized in an interview. “We have better and faster access to diagnosis. We have more knowledge about which drugs to use and which ones not to use. We have more experimental treatments available. They all contribute to possible improvements in the mortality rate“.
A study analyzed 4,689 hospitalizations for COVID-19 from March to June in New York, adjusting the mortality rate of patients for factors such as age, race, obesity and any underlying illnesses they may have had.
In the first half of March, the mortality rate for hospitalized patients was 23 percent. By June, it had dropped to 8 percent. The research has yet to be peer-reviewed, a process through which other experts review the work.
Despite the advances, The United States will soon exceed 200 thousand deaths by the SARS-CoV-2 virus and tens of thousands of Americans are confirmed to be infected each day. The number of deaths from the disease is still largely a factor of how many are infected in the first place: the more people get sick, the more die.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has emphasized that the mask it is the best protection available against the virus for most people. And experts warn that the pathogen is still very dangerous and can kill even apparently healthy people.
“Even with these advances, this is not a benign disease “Remarked Leora Horwitz, associate professor of population health and medicine at New York University’s Grossman School of Medicine, who conducted the study in that state on hospitalizations for COVID-19.
“This does not mean that the new coronavirus is now a non-dangerous disease. It continues to be a very serious threat to public health,” he clarified.
The correct number
Public health officials, epidemiologists, observers, and others have analyzed how the pandemic unfolds, looking for how to measure virus lethality.
The death count as a percentage of the general population sheds light on the scope of the pandemic. The excess mortality compares deaths to what the mortality rate is expected to be. But neither method provides information on whether the pathogen it is becoming more or less fatal for a person with a severe case.
Even looking at deaths by the number of confirmed cases can be misleading as the result is largely a function of testsexperts say. If many mild or asymptomatic cases are counted, the mortality rates will be lower. In Europe, for example, there is anecdotal evidence of a similar trend, although much of the lower mortality rate may be due to more cases in younger and healthier people, something that is happening in the US.
“You have to understand who you are analyzing and then what is the real death rate for that demographic“said Aaron Glatt, chief of infectious diseases at Mount Sinai South Nassau Hospital.
There is even the hypothesis that public health measures such as the use of masks and distancing can help reduce the amount of the SARS-CoV-2 virus with which people become infected, leading to less severe cases because the body is not overwhelmed by a large dose of virus at once.
“Even though they are getting infected with the virus, maybe they are getting a lower dose of the virus and therefore getting less sick,” Horwitz said.
In New York, the first major US city affected by the virus, knowledge among doctors was limited as cases were hitting emergency rooms this spring. There have been more than 27,000 confirmed and probable deaths from the pandemic in the city, most of them registered at the peak of the outbreak in March and April.
As the outbreak spread to other parts of the country, such as Texas, healthcare workers had more time to prepare and learn what works.
“We had a ‘playbook’ even before we started seeing any patients in Texas,” recalled Robert Hancock, president of the Texas College of Emergency Physicians. “We have a much better understanding of the things that work right now with COVID. “.
Since March, doctors have learned valuable lessons, not just about how to ensure that hospitals don’t run out of intensive care beds and ventilators, but also on how to put the patient face down can help. Giving patients steroids early on and treating them with blood thinners can also improve a person’s prognosis.
“Now that we know that we may need to start taking blood thinners and heparin for these patients pretty quickly, that is helping,” said Diana L. Fite, president of the Texas Medical Association.
“Many of these COVID deaths are due to blood clotting; blood clots ruin your organs,” he explained.
Although there is still no cure for the new coronavirus, all the improvements in treatment and preventive measures combined contribute to improving the prognosis of patients, Fite said. In Texas, there have been at least 14,590 deaths from the virus, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services.
“Even if these things are not cures, they help improve a small percentage,” said Fite. “You add several of those things and you get a better result overall.”