MIAMI (CBSMiami) – The World Health Organization has identified 17 variants of the coronavirus worldwide in the 20 months since the outbreak.
The delta variant is the most problematic and contagious.
The way we treat these variants has changed exponentially, according to the chief medical officer at Broward Health.
"Like night and day. In the beginning, if you think back to March and April of last year, we were treating this like a bad pneumonia. We didn't really have any idea what to treat it with," said Dr. Joshua Lenchus. "Now over the evolution of these 20 months with the use of steroids, use of other medications in the hospital, like remdesivir, we've gone through using convalescent plasma, the monoclonal antibodies coming out last fall, vaccinations coming out in December. All of these things have made a tremendous impact."
Adding to the forefront of the fight, Gov. Ron DeSantis announced the opening of a monoclonal antibody center. He's also mobilizing strike force teams to travel to nursing facilities.
"There's going to be more throughout the state as we roll them out. And each one of them we're looking at doing roughly 320 treatments a day. Hopefully we don't need that many," said DeSantis.
But Broward Health was a step ahead. It added its own monoclonal antibody infusion clinic 10 days ago.
"If you test positive for the coronavirus, come to the emergency room or get checked out at your doctor's office. They don't think your symptoms are severe enough to be checked into the hospital, we can give you this monoclonal antibody to really jump start your immune system," Dr. Lenchus said.
The treatment is similar to an IV drop with the Regeneron infusing over a short period. Anyone 12 and up and meeting certain criteria and have mild symptoms is a candidate.
Dr. Lenchus said, "It's been working great. Over the last 10 days we've given more than 100 of these out. We've expanded our capacity. We're at almost 20 a day and the demand is really pent up."
The results have been impressive.
Dr. Lenchus calls the Regeneron antibody treatment a game changer, and could drastically reduce the number of hospital beds being used.
The infusion reduces hospitalizations and risk of death by 70%. It also reduces household contact to COVID by 82%.
"It's pretty significant," said Dr. Lenchus. "To keep people out of the hospital to reserve this area for those people severe enough to warrant oxygen and intensive care, those kind of things is the total objective of this monoclonal antibody to keep people out of the hospital and giving to people who need it."
Dr. Lenchus said the results are almost immediate.
Monoclonal antibody patients walk out after infusion feeling like a new person and that improves over the next few days.
However, Dr. Lenchus said this isn't a cure and these patients still need the vaccine.
"People who get the monoclonal antibody have to wait 90-days before getting the vaccine," he said. "Because the monoclonal antibody really does jumpstart your own antibodies to start working. So you have a window of protection. During that time, you're not going to get COVID because you have these antibodies. Then we give you the vaccine after that and really boost up your antibodies even further."
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