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As CDC warns of Coronavirus spread, UNMC begins to test possible treatment

The first patient has begun the treatment
Posted at 6:20 PM, Feb 25, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-25 19:38:23-05

OMAHA, Neb. — The CDC is now saying it's not a question of if, but when, the United States will experience community spread of the Coronavirus.

Although the Coronavirus is still contained in the U.S. with just over 50 confirmed cases as of Tuesday, the CDC is now recommending that Americans actively prepare for community spreading of the virus as the situation continues to escalate overseas.

"Ultimately, we expect we will see community spread in this country. It's not so much a question as if this will happen anymore, but rather more a question of exactly when this will happen and how many people in this country will have severe illness," said Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases.

Federal health officials say travel restrictions, school closings, business closings and social event cancellations could be in the future.

"For schools, options include dividing students into smaller groups or in a severe pandemic, closing schools and using internet-based teleschooling to continue education," Messonnier said.

At Nebraska Medicine and UNMC a trial is now officially underway on the very first patient to treat Coronavirus.

"To be enrolled in in the trial they would have to have the Coronavirus test positive and they would have to have signs of lung infection that it's like signs of pneumonia," UNMC infectious diseases specialist Dr. Andre Kalil said.

Dr. Kalil is leading the trial that's starting in Nebraska and will hopefully branch out to international hospitals. This is a double-blind study - meaning neither the patient nor the doctor will know who is getting the drug and who is receiving a placebo.

"Nobody's going to know exactly what medication the patient receives, if it's the placebo medication or the active medication. This is really important because in that way there's no bias that's going to be affecting results of this study," Dr. Kalil said.

The drug has been successful treating the Coronavirus in animals, now it's just a question of if it'll work on humans. If this particular drug doesn't work, the trail will move on to another drug, until a treatment is found.

"The way the things are at this point, we should have the results either in a year or maybe even less. At least the preliminary results," Dr. Kalil said.

The patients will receive a daily injection for ten days, then the results will be analyzed. Meanwhile, federal health officials recommend reaching out to your local superintendent or boss to see what their response program will be in case of closings and cancellations if the virus spreads.