Northern Virginia’s biggest medical provider is putting a spotlight on the only known outpatient treatment for COVID -19. Doctors believe a type of antibody infusion can help patients recover quicker.
Inside Inova’s emergency room, Dr. Chris Sponaugle had been treating COVID-19 patients for 10 months when he contracted the illness himself, at first feeling fatigued.
“I woke up that Monday morning with an actual fever and knew at that point I’d probably contracted it,” he said.
Sponaugle became one of the first patients at one of Inova’s three infusion clinics, opened in mid-December to provide monoclonal antibody infusion.
“This kind of gets your immune system jumpstarted so right in the beginning of illness, before your immune system has a chance to work, these antibodies start to work and allow your immune system to better control the disease,” Dr. John Paul Verderese said.
The goal is to keep patients from becoming hospitalized.
The infusions take about an hour with an hour of observation time afterward, though few patients have had bad reactions.
“In terms of side effects, I didn’t have an real side effects,” Sponaugle said. “I was incredibly fatigued; I slept for like 12 hours afterwards.”
Within about 48 hours, his symptoms began to lift.
Maybe even more importantly, both of his parents also contracted COVID-19. They also got infusions and got better quickly.
“I can’t tell you it’s going to fix you, but I can tell you if you don’t do it and got sicker, you haven’t, unfortunately, tried everything,” Sponaugle said. “We have something available you can at least try, and it’s not harmful.”
Not everyone is a candidate. Patients must be at high risk to develop severe COVID-19, have symptoms and be within 10 days of the onset of the illness.
Inova is still analyzing data, but Verderese is convinced the infusions are helping patients avoid a hospital stay.
“It seems to work. I think it seems to work best early on in illness,” he said. “It’s safe and it’s the one treatment that we have for patients trying to recover safely at home.”
Those who do get the infusions have to wait at least three months before getting vaccinated.
Find more information about how the clinics work here or by calling 571-472-4502.