Global COVID-19 guidelines on masks, treatments and patient care updated

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Special to The Dallas Examiner

 

The World Health Organization has brought some of the world’s most skilled scientists and health professionals together to accelerate the research and development of medications and treatments, since it first announced the 2019 Novel Coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan, China. Moreover, it has developed policies and standards to help contain the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic and care for those affected, according to the organization’s representatives.

Recently, WHO updated its guidelines on mask wearing in community settings, COVID-19 treatments and clinical management. This is part of a continuous process of reviewing such materials, working with guideline development groups composed of independent, international experts who consider the latest available evidence and the changing epidemiology.

 

Key tool against COVID-19

With the rapid spread of the current COVID-19 subvariants, WHO recommends individuals continue to wear masks in crowded, enclosed or poorly ventilated space, regardless of the local epidemiological situation.

Masks are also recommended for individuals at high-risk of severe COVID-19, as well as anyone who has been exposed or suspects they have been exposed to the virus, to prevent exposing others.

Previously, WHO recommendations were based on the science and data-driven information based on the causes, spread and risk factors of COVID-19. The global organization has now added rising hospitalization levels, levels of vaccination coverage and immunity in the community.

 

People with symptoms

Anyone who has tested positive for COVID and have symptoms should isolated themselves for at least 10 days after the first day of noticing symptoms, plus an additional three days after symptoms disappear – when they are without fever and without respiratory symptoms, as recommended by WHO.

The agency also recommended that individuals not experiencing symptoms should isolate themselves for no less than 10 days after testing positive.

Furthermore, it recommended that symptoms of those with COVID-19 be monitored regularly, and call a health care provider immediately if they experience the following dangerous signs:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Chest pain
  • Confusion
  • Loss of speech or mobility

Parents and caregivers of young children should seek immediate medical attention if they experience any of the following symptoms:

  • High fever
  • Rapid breathing
  • Lethargy or not interacting when awake
  • Difficulty in feeding (unable to drink or breastfeed)
  • Blue lips or face

 

Reduced isolation period for COVID-19 patients

Isolation of people with COVID-19 is an important step in preventing others from being infected. This can be done at home or at a dedicated facility, such as a hospital or clinic.

WHO has revised its advice, stating that a COVID-19 patient can be discharged from isolation early if they test negative on an antigen-based rapid test.

The new guidelines suggest that patients with symptoms that aren’t testing should isolate for 10 days from the date of symptom onset. Previously, WHO advised that patients continue to isolate three additional days after their symptoms had resolved.

For those who test positive for COVID-19 but do not have any signs or symptoms, WHO now suggests five days of isolation in the absence of testing, compared to 10 days previously.

The evidence considered by the guideline development group showed that people without symptoms are much less likely to transmit the virus than those with symptoms. Although of very low certainty, evidence also showed that people with symptoms discharged at day 5 following symptom onset risked infecting three times more people than those discharged at day 10.

 

Review of COVID-19 treatments

WHO has extended its strong recommendation for the use of nirmatrelvir-ritonavir – also known by its brand name Paxlovid.

Pregnant or breastfeeding women with non-severe COVID-19 should consult with their doctor to determine whether they should take this drug, due to “likely benefits” and a lack of adverse events having been reported.

Nirmatrelvir-ritonavir was first recommended by WHO in April 2022. WHO strongly recommends its use in mild or moderate COVID-19 patients who are at high-risk of hospitalization. In December 2022, the first generic producer of the drug was prequalified by WHO.

WHO also reviewed the evidence on two other medicines, sotrovimab and casirivimab-imdevimab and maintains strong recommendations against their use for treating COVID-19. These monoclonal antibody medicines lack or have diminished activity against the current circulating virus variants.

There are currently six proven treatment options for patients with COVID-19, three that prevent hospitalization in high-risk persons and three that save lives in those with severe or critical disease. Except for corticosteroids, access to other drugs remains unsatisfactory globally.

 

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