What is the current treatment for coronavirus 2019?


There is currently no approved treatment for COVID-19. Symptomatic cases are offered supportive care. Clinical trials investigating possible treatments for COVID-19 are currently underway. This means that information about COVID-19 treatment may change as results from these trials become available.

With clinical information continually being updated, the treatment procedure for coronavirus is likely to adapt as health officials learn more. How is coronavirus currently being treated? Here’s a breakdown of what you need to know.

A healthcare professional should clinically assess you if you show any signs and symptoms of COVID-19, the disease caused by a new strain of coronavirus 2019 (SARS-CoV-2). The decision to test for the virus will be guided by a detailed assessment that will be done by your healthcare professional. This will include an evaluation of a detailed history of your symptoms, contact with individuals with confirmed COVID-19 and your travel history.

“Any potential exposure to the virus must be taken seriously, especially if a person suspects that they have been around someone with signs or symptoms of the disease, or has travelled to a destination with a known outbreak. Any suspected symptoms must be immediately discussed with a medical professional,” says Discovery Health’s Head of the Centre for Clinical Excellence, Dr Noluthando Nematswerani.

Once a person has received a confirmed laboratory diagnosis of COVID-19, they should follow the necessary isolation protocols in order to prevent spreading the virus. The healthcare provider will advise on the appropriate supportive care.

How is COVID-19 currently being treated?

Since COVID-19 is caused by a virus, there is no specific FDA-approved antiviral treatment or medicine officially recommended for COVID-19 yet. Antibiotics are not effective against COVID-19, a viral infection, as they only treat bacterial infections.

Note: You should only take antibiotics if your healthcare professional diagnoses you with a secondary bacterial infection.

The supportive management of confirmed COVID-19 will be guided by the patient’s symptoms and signs.

Mild to moderate support treatment

"Anyone displaying mild to moderate signs and symptoms of COVID-19 may not necessarily require hospitalisation and can be safely managed in the out-of-hospital environment guided by a healthcare professional. Should symptoms worsen, an evaluation by a healthcare professional is advised and a decision on the appropriate care will be decided,” says Dr Nematswerani.

For home care to be considered, a healthcare professional needs to ensure that:

  • The person is stable enough to be able to recover in their home environment
  • Appropriate caregivers are available to assist if needed
  • A separate bedroom can be used for recovery, and that it will not be shared with anyone else
  • The person is able to safely access food and the other supportive care essential for recovery.
  • The person and any other people who live in the household have access to appropriate protective gear or equipment such as face masks, gloves and eye protection
  • There are no other household members living in the same environment who  are at high risk of infection, such as, older people and those with underlying chronic conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, chronic lung disease or individuals with compromised immune systems.

Supportive care involves:

  • Plenty of rest and fluids
  • It’s recommended that a sick person drinks plenty of fluids (such as water to prevent or alleviate dehydration.)
  • In the case of severe illness, a person who is not able to drink fluids on their own will be cared for in a hospital environment and a healthcare professional will administer an IV line (drip).
  • Bed rest helps the body’s immune system to fight the infection and to speed up recovery.
  • Fever control
  • This can involve over-the-counter or prescribed medicine, such as paracetamol or other non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) to help alleviate fever.

More severe illness treatment

If the signs and symptoms of severe or critical illness are evident, more comprehensive supportive care is needed. In such instances, a person will require hospitalisation under the care and management of a healthcare professional.

Clinical care may involve management of symptoms, as well as treatment supportive care in case of vital organ complications.

In all instances, anyone experiencing signs and symptoms of COVID-19 can benefit from ensuring that the room or environment that they are recovering in is kept at a comfortable temperature. For additional comfort during recovery, it’s also advisable to wear light clothing and use light sheets or blankets.

What precautions should I take while recovering?

“While recuperating, it’s also important to understand that preventive measures can help to reduce the worsening of a confirmed condition and prevent further illness from developing,” says Dr Nematswerani.

Some precautions can include:

  • Practicing effective hygiene, such as frequently washing hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or using a hand sanitiser with at least a 60% alcohol content.
  • Not touching your mouth, nose or eyes with unwashed hands.
  • Covering a cough or sneeze using a tissue, and throwing it away at once. Alternatively, you can cover your nose and mouth with your elbow when needed.
  • Avoiding close contact with other individuals (keep 2 metres away).
  • Avoid sharing cutlery such as dishes, eating utensils and glasses with others. It is also advisable not to share hygiene products, towels or clothing.
  • Cleaning any surfaces that you frequently touch with disinfectant.
  • Wearing a face mask if a healthcare provider recommends that you do so.
  • Avoiding travelling when you are sick.

All medical information found on this website including content, graphics and images, is for educational and informational objectives only. Discovery Health publishes this content to help to protect and empower all South Africans by promoting a better understanding of COVID-19.

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