The world is currently swept up in a panic over the growing COVID-19 (novel coronavirus) pandemic. Mortality rates of the virus are still not known for certain, with the global mortality rate currently estimated at 3.4% but actual rates varying widely based on age and other vulnerability factors.
Most younger people who are otherwise healthy may experience only mild flu-like symptoms for a few days if they catch the virus, but anyone who is older or has other underlying health conditions has a higher chance of experiencing severe symptoms and potentially requiring hospitalization. If you are worried for your own safety or for that of a family member or other loved one, you may be wondering if there is a cure for the virus or what treatments are available.
The short answer is–No. There isn’t a cure for COVID-19. However, the good news is that if you catch COVID-19 and are young and otherwise healthy, chances are high that all you need to do is rest for a few days at home before all symptoms subside on their own. Slightly more severe cases are also likely to pass on their own. Acetaminophen (Tylenol) is a good way to treat high fever or severe discomfort during the illness.
If you are experiencing more severe symptoms such as difficulty breathing, you should consult with your healthcare professional as soon as possible. A severe case of COVID-19 can result in pneumonia, and this can be treated in the hospital with supplemental oxygen and a ventilator to assist breathing.
However, most vaccines and treatments for COVID-19 are still being researched and are many months away from being ready to be deployed. A number of antiviral drugs are being tested for treatment of COVID-19, although none have been approved yet. Antibiotics cannot be used as a treatment, as the disease is caused by a virus and not bacteria. Around 30 different companies and institutions are working on a vaccine, but it will probably be over a year before a vaccine is ready for public use.
This means that currently the best way to protect yourself and your loved ones from the disease is to put into effect all practices possible to prevent spreading the virus around in the first place. Washing your hands well and often and using hand sanitizer when washing isn’t possible, avoiding crowds (especially, but NOT only, air travel and cruise ships), keeping a distance of several feet from others while out in public, and limiting any unnecessary trips out in public are all important parts of limiting the spread of COVID-19.
A person who has caught the virus can potentially be contagious for two weeks or more before ever developing symptoms, so guidelines for containing the virus apply to everyone, not only people who seem ill.
The current situation may seem scary–especially since we are dealing with an illness that we are unfamiliar with–but researchers across the globe are working nonstop towards solutions. While cures and vaccines for COVID-19 are still in the works, we need to all do our part to avoid spreading the virus as much as possible.