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Weather, treatment options addressed

By The Associated Press

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Does weather affect the spread of the coronavirus outside?

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Not really.

The World Health Organization says the virus can be transmitted in any kind of weather and that there is no reason to believe that cold weather can kill it.

The U.N. health agency says the virus is mainly spread between people.

Rain and snow might dilute any traces of the virus on benches or other outside objects, but transmission from surfaces is not believed to be a major contributor to the pandemic.

Scientists say the real concern about cold weather is that lower temperatures are more likely to keep people indoors — potentially in more crowded spaces where the virus can spread more easily.

Studies have shown that a significant percentage of spread happens within households when people are sharing common areas like kitchens and bathrooms.

WHO and others have also warned that in indoor spaces with poor ventilation, transmission happens more easily because the virus can be spread in the air and infectious particles might remain suspended in the air for several hours.

Superspreader events have been traced to nightclubs, gyms and even choir practices.

The coronavirus does not transmit as often outdoors because fresh air disperses the virus particles and people are more easily able to keep their distance from others.

But experts caution that if people spend extended periods of time outdoors close to others without wearing masks, coronavirus spread is still possible.

Health officials say the best way to stop transmission of the virus is to wear a mask in public, stay at least 6 feet (2 meters) away from people not in your household and frequently wash your hands.

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What are the treatment options for COVID-19?

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There are several, and which one is best depends on how sick someone is.

For example, steroids such as dexamethasone can lower the risk of dying for severely ill patients.

But they may do the opposite for those who are only mildly ill.

In the United States, no treatments are specifically approved for COVID-19, but a few have been authorized for emergency use and several more are being considered.

A panel of experts convened by the National Institutes of Health updates guidelines as new studies come out.

Here’s what’s advised for various patients:

≤ Not hospitalized or hospitalized but not needing extra oxygen: No specific drugs recommended, and a warning against using steroids.

≤ Hospitalized and needing extra oxygen but not a breathing machine: The antiviral drug remdesivir, given through an IV, and in some cases also a steroid.

≤ Hospitalized and on a breathing machine: Remdesivir and a steroid.

What about convalescent plasma, an infusion of blood from a COVID-19 survivor that contains antibodies that fight the virus?

Not enough is known to recommend for or against it, the guidelines say.

However, enough is known to advise against hydroxychloroquine and certain drugs that affect the immune system — multiple studies have found them ineffective against the coronavirus.

Aside from drugs, doctors have learned more about ways to treat hospitalized patients, such as putting them on their bellies and other measures that may prevent the need for breathing machines.

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