This week on the Minnesota Native News Health Report, Covid case numbers climb, we follow up with a patient, and get a reality check on a treatment.
The pandemic is eight months old. Health professionals are learning more about the virus, but they need more people to take it seriously to stop it’s spread. At a health briefing this week Infections Disease Director Kris Ehresmann mentioned a recent large funeral at a church in Martin County that led to 33 cases and counting…
“The effect of these events is more people in the community who are infected and can spread so yes, it is concerning,” said Ehresmann .
Health officials have been repeating the refrain for months: wear masks, wash your hands, keep a distance. But Laurie Stern has the story of one woman who hopes sharing her experience will remind people that lives are at stake.
We first met Sharon Walker last month. She’s an enrolled member at White Earth and a nurse-practitioner at the Indian Health Service. She was hospitalized with Covid-19 in July.
“I felt like my lungs got worse when I was in the hospital and I was in the hospital 5 days. I couldn’t catch my breath, I was short of breath,” said Walker.
Sharon needed oxygen to breathe in the hospital and for weeks at home. She went back to work after Labor Day but tires easily and needs extra personal protective gear because she sees patients with COVID.
More than 84 thousand Minnesotans are – like Sharon – past the contagious stage. But as Sharon said, there is some evidence that it IS possible to get COVID more than once. Whether and how that happens is one of many questions being studied right now. Another is about using plasma from people like Sharon – who have recovered from COVID to treat current patients. To learn more, I called, Dr. Claudia Cohn, associate professor at the University of Minnesota Medical School and director of the Blood Bank Laboratory for M Health Fairview.
“We know very little at this point. We have not been able to substantiate that with randomized control trials yet but the trials are ongoing and gathering evidence. So the jury is out.” said Dr. Cohn.
Dr. Cohn knows that doctors and patients are hungry for answers. For now, they are relying on what she calls low-quality studies that show convalescent plasma can help – if it’s given early in treatment and if the plasma contains a high concentration of antibodies. Scientists are convinced using convalescent plasma does no harm, so what’s important now is figuring out how to use it.
“The US government has said that they want to stockpile hundreds of thousands of units of convalescent plasma in case we get wave after wave of COVID,” said Dr. Cohn.
If you or someone you know has had COVID and is interested in donating, you have two choices:
“Either they donate convalescent plasma through a blood center where they get no renumeration or they go to a plasma center. Plasma centers will offer you a lot more money these days…they’ll ask you to come back repeatedly as well.” said Dr. Cohn.
To find out more about donating, Dr. Cohn suggests you visit a website called The Fight Is In Us. You can enter your zip code and find where to donate. There are many choices for people who live in the cities. For Sharon Walker in Cass Lake, the nearest donation center is Hibbing.
Laurie Stern reporting for Minnesota Native News