The sickest COVID-19 patients in Natrona County will soon be treated with the plasma of recovered patients, Casper-Natrona County Health Department spokesperson Hailey Bloom said in a Wednesday press conference.
“Nationally, there has been a lot of discussion around using the plasma from those that are COVID positive who have now recovered to treat those who are very ill,” Bloom said.
The plasma from recovered patients carries antibodies that fight the virus, she explained.
Community members who have recovered from the illness donated the plasma that will be used for the treatments. The treatments will be conducted at Wyoming Medical Center.
Bloom could not say how much plasma is available locally for these treatments.
The practice is a part of trials in various parts of the country and elsewhere in the world. The U.K. and India have approved a trial of the treatment. Doctors in India have reported some early success, according to reports from the BBC.
The U.S. is also pushing plasma donations. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has a recently created webpage soliciting plasma donations from recovered patients.
As epidemiologists learn more about the novel coronavirus, new ideas for how to treat the illness continue to emerge, as do ideas for how to test for it.
One such proposal is antibody testing, which has been floated as a potential means to test a larger swath of the population, but the idea is still in its trial phases.
Bloom said Natrona County officials have decided not to adopt antibody testing for the time being.
“Those tests have not been FDA validated or approved,” she said, though she added as research progresses, the county may be able to offer it in the future.
Bloom also issued a warning: Just because someone feels better, doesn’t mean they’re clear of the virus.
“Many of our positive cases that first tested positive and were reported back in early and mid-March are still testing positive for COVID-19 over a month later,” she said.
She said even though those patients felt better and met the criteria for being considered recovered, “they could still potentially expose others.”
She urged the use of face masks when out in public, which Natrona County health officer Dr. Mark Dowell has previously recommended.
As of Wednesday, there have been 39 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Natrona County. It’s been a week since the last confirmed case, though health officials say the case number does not reflect the prevalence of disease in the community because of the relative lack of testing.
Follow local government reporter Morgan Hughes on Twitter @morganhwrites