by Yokany Oliveira
WHILE scientists are working towards finding a clinically approved vaccine for Covid-19, people around the world are turning to home remedies to treat the symptoms.
A number of articles can be found online on how herbal medicines, vitamin supplements, and certain foods or teas can alleviate some of the symptoms of the disease – even though they are not a cure.
Some of these may simply help the body fight the disease by strengthening the immune system.
Most healthcare professionals and organisations are reluctant to prescribe home remedies that allegedly alleviate symptoms.
The World Health Organisation insists on basic guidelines: “If you feel sick you should rest, drink plenty of fluids, and eat nutritious food. Stay in a separate room from other family members, and use a dedicated bathroom if possible. Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces.”
The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the United States of America says there is no specific antiviral treatment for Covid-19. Patients rather receive supportive care to help relieve symptoms. In severe cases, the CDC says treatment should be in support of vital organ functions.
Treatment for Covid-19 patients in Namibia
“The mainstay treatment of anyone diagnosed with Covid-19 is supportive. There is no proven treatment yet. All drugs are currently on trial,” Bernard Haufiku, former minister of health and social services says.
Supportive treatment includes ensuring the patient is made comfortable at all times, that their lungs are getting enough oxygen, and that they are well hydrated to ensure all vital organs are optimally functioning and not compromised in any way, he says.
This also includes keeping the patient pain free, which can be done by taking painkillers.
He said Covid-19 patients must continue taking their usual medication for pre-existing conditions.
“It may, however, be advised that one asks the treating doctor to check for possible drug interactions,” Haufiku says.
He says temperatures are closely monitored, because fever impairs the normal functioning of organs.
“A person [especially young children] may develop seizures when their temperature is uncontrollably high,” he says.
Covid-19 and secondary infections
When treating Covid-19 patients, doctors look out for secondary infections, usually caused by bacteria, but also by “opportunistic infections” such as fungi.
Haufiku said this is more important among people with depressed immune systems, such as those on immunosuppressive medication like steroids and cancer treatment.
“If a secondary infection is suspected, it must be investigated, diagnosed and treated promptly and appropriately with effective antibiotics,” he says.
Haufiku says antibiotics such as Azithromycin and many others are only to be given once a bacterial infection has been properly diagnosed.
He said viral infections, including Sars CoV-2, which causes Covid-19, are not treated with antibiotics, only with antiviral medicine when available, or a vaccine.
“Of course anyone with pre-existing underlying medical or surgical conditions needs to continue taking his or her medication without interruption by supportive treatment for Covid-19,” he says.
“We know many Namibians are on antihypertensive, antidiabetic and antiretroviral therapy for life. Others are epileptics, asthmatics, etcetera,” he says.
Nutrition and vitamins
Haufiku said it is prudent to practice and maintain good infection control measures as per established treatment protocols.
“Vitamins and minerals can perhaps soothe the patient and help those who are malnourished, but they are not definitive therapies for Covid-19, not even for influenza,” he said.
Other factors such as proper nutrition and psycho-social support to the patient and their family are equally important, Haufiku said.
Treatment on trial
Haufiku said many potential drugs for Covid-19 are still undergoing trials.
“Products such as Atemesinin-based herbal products from Madagascar and others have not been scientifically tested yet and proven to be effective for Covid-19,” he said.
There are, however, a few products both old and new, that are under investigation by the WHO through the so-called Solidarity Trial with other centres globally, Haufiku said.
These include countries such as South Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Egypt and others.
“This is where drugs such as Remdesivir (which was originally meant for Ebola), Hydroxychloriquine (which I hear has been stopped), Lopinavir/Ritanovir (Aluvia or Kaletra) , which is extensively used for HIV, are all under investigation at the moment,” he said.
A Windhoek-based doctor, who declined to be named, believes the coronavirus is part of the normal yearly flu cycle.
“This virus is mostly affecting the lungs and therefore, there are more people with pulmonary symptoms,” the doctor told The Namibian.
He, however, said vitamin C (up to 5g) and vitamin D are important to strengthen the body’s immune system.
International organisations such as the Institute for Safe Medication Practices (ISMP) and the Food and Drug Administration in America, are constantly on the lookout for drugs that may harm or help the public and have provided designated information for the public regarding Covid-19.