Special to Iredell Free News

RALEIGH — During the current period where COVID-19 cases are increasing, treatment is readily available and appropriate for the majority of North Carolinians.

Using antiviral treatments reduces the risk of serious illness and preliminary data indicates treatment is associated with reduced risk of developing long-COVID. Treatment works most effectively when started early and is advised for those at high risk for severe disease, even if your current symptoms are mild.

There are no supply constraints limiting providers’ ability to prescribe treatment. NCDHHS recently sent a memo to health care providers across the state with updated information on treatment options for their patients with COVID-19. Having a supply of rapid tests at home allows individuals to determine if they are positive for COVID-19 and minimize the spread to others and can help providers to prescribe treatment. People with a positive test result can also access treatment through eMed’s Home Test to Treat Program, a free nationwide telemedicine program.

“We expect COVID-19 trends to rise and fall, but we are in a much different place than we were at the start of the pandemic,” said Dr. Elizabeth Cuervo Tilson, State Health Director and NCDHHS Chief Medical Officer. “We have the tools to manage COVID-19, so it doesn’t manage us. Treatments are safe, effective and widely available.”

Staying up to date with vaccines is the best way to reduce hospitalization and death due to the illness. The most up-to-date booster aligned with circulating variants is expected to be available later this month.

A large proportion of the North Carolina population is considered at high risk for severe illness based on age or underlying conditions. People who are likely to get very sick from COVID-19 include older adults (age 50 and older), people who are unvaccinated and people with underlying health conditions.

Oral antiviral medications for COVID-19 are being distributed for free by the U.S. Government. Any prescribing provider in the state can send a prescription for oral antiviral drugs to the nearest pharmacy that has the drug in stock. Paxlovid is the preferred oral antiviral per the NIH COVID-19 Treatment Guidelines and can be given to people 12 years and older. All currently authorized and approved treatments are expected to retain effectiveness against the COVID-19 variants currently circulating, including the BA.2.86 variant that has recently been identified.

As COVID-19 cases rise, be prepared to test and seek treatment if you are feeling ill or if you have been exposed to someone with COVID-19. Talk with your health care provider to determine the best treatment option for you. Visit Testing & Treatment | NC COVID-19 (ncdhhs.gov) for information on how to get COVID-19 tests and more information on accessing treatment, including test-to-treat sites.

Stay Healthy

Taking the following actions can help you stay healthy:

♦ Stay up to date on vaccines;
♦ Get the updated COVID-19 vaccine when authorized and available this fall;
♦ Get your seasonal flu vaccine;
♦ People 60 years and older should talk to their doctors about whether an RSV vaccine might also be good for them;
♦ Practice basic protective measures, like washing your hands, covering your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze, cleaning surfaces often and staying home when sick. Consider an extra layer of protection of masks in higher-risk indoor settings and/or if an individual is high risk; and
♦ Check the North Carolina Respiratory Virus Summary Dashboard for up-to-date information on respiratory virus activity, including COVID-19, influenza and RSV.