It seems there’s little else to talk about these days that’s not related to the COVID-19 pandemic that’s plaguing the world, and still our questions persist as things change.

Dr. Joel Hendryx, the chief medical officer at University Medical Center of El Paso, recently spoke to El Paso Inc. to answer just a few of them.

One thing Hendryx talked about was the use of Remdesivir, the drug that was for a while controversial and has been found to be effective under the right conditions.

“What it does is it helps the body fight off infection quicker,” he said. “They seem to come out of the hospital two to four days soon than the average.”

But when asked why some people lose their sense of smell and taste after going through COVID-19, he had a pretty funny answer.

“Well, I was asking the virus the other day, and it said because it lives up there in the nasal cavity,” he said, going on to say that’s another one of those effects no one understands yet about an intruder that is new to the world.

Here’s what else Hendryx tells us about COVID-19. 

Q: What is the rehab and recovery process like for COVID-19 patients?

If they had a mild disease, then it’s matter of just going home and recovering, getting their strength back and monitoring their breathing. 

We do have more mature individuals or individuals who’ve had a lengthier stay or have been on the ventilator, and those may require a more extended stay in other facilities until they can get their strength back and are able to go home and return to their daily activities.  

Q: What about the long-term effects of COVID-19? Don’t some patients come away with significant impairments and problems they’re going to experience in the future? 

Unfortunately, there are individuals that have a devastating type of recovery. It takes them a long time or there’s some (unexpected effects or complications). For example, the loss of taste and smell. There is a small number of individuals who may - we don’t know for sure yet - end up not recovering that taste or smell.

Certainly pulmonary, as far as their breathing, their activity level, all those things are going to be variable depending on the individual, their age, and how bad, how hard it hits going forward. 

Q: Why would people lose their sense of smell and taste? It seems like a minor thing, but it would take a lot of joy out of life for sure.

Well, I was asking the virus the other day, and it said that because it lives up there in the nasal cavity, it’s close. There are articles that suggest that the virus may be able to affect the sense of smell it’s in close proximity and somehow it’s able to get into it. We don’t know for sure.

But the theory that somehow it does get to the olfactory bulb, and that that can cause some loss of taste or smell. In many cases it returns. But there are reports that in some cases it hasn’t returned to some individuals for a while. 

Q: Some patients are being treated with Remdesivir. Who’s getting it and what kind of results are you seeing?

Remdesivir is the one medication that has been approved. It’s not curative. What it does do is it helps the body fight off the infection quicker. So, we are starting to see some hopefully beneficial results from that. 

And we have received multiple doses. We do know that if the Remdesivir is given late in their course, that it doesn’t seem to have any effect at all. So, then it’s a matter of trying to get it to those individuals prior to them requiring a ventilator, so that they can keep up their oxygenation. And with that, they seem to be able to come out of the hospital two to four days sooner than the average. 

Q: Will people who’ve had COVID-19 have an immunity to it and how long might that last?

That steers into antibody testing. What does that mean? If you have the antibodies, how long do they last? Is it like influenza where, you know, every year you’re going to have to have a vaccine? We just don’t know at this point, and we don’t know how fast the virus is going to change and whether your antibodies will be able to recognize the new virus, if it does change. It may not.

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