Georgia man says controversial malaria drug helped him beat COVID-19
ATLANTA - Charles Dixon jokes he has been in "solitary confinement" in his Rex, Georgia, bedroom for 20 days and counting.
The 67-year-old security company owner is being cared for by his 13-year-old-daughter and his mother, who are keeping their distance.
It's been 3 weeks since COVID-19 hit him hard.
"Before I got sick, I was that guy: multivitamin, B-complex, Vitamin C, every day for the last 10 years," Dixon says.
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He awoke one morning feeling like he'd been hit by a truck: with a fever and body aches that soon turned into a bad cough.
A few days later, he started experiencing severe shortness of breath.
"I told my daughter’s mother, 'Dial 911; I’ve gotta go," Dixon says. "You couldn't even take a half a breath.
Hospitalized for two days at Piedmont Henry Medical Center, diagnosed with pneumonia, Dixon was sent home with a prescription for an antibiotic and a 7-day course of the drug hydroxychloroquine.
"And, I started feeling better right away," Dixon says.
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Hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine have been around for years.
First approved to treat malaria, they're also prescribed to help patients with inflammatory diseases like rheumatoid arthritis and lupus.
Piedmont Healthcare pulmonary and critical care specialist Dr. Amy Case says hydroxychloroquine is getting a lot of renewed attention these days, after early, small studies, and case reports in other countries, show the drug may offer some benefit to COVID-19 patients, struggling with severe complications of the virus.
"Unfortunately, the data isn't there yet," Dr. Case says. "We don't know if this is going to work or not."
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Hydroxychloroquine is generally considered safe, but the drug can cause complications, like a fatal heart rhythm.
Until they know more about the potential risks and the benefits, Dr. Case says, Piedmont Healthcare is taking a conservative approach.
Dr. Case says the Atlanta-based hospital system issued guidance, advising its providers to use a short 5-day dose of hydroxychloroquine only in a hospital setting, with patients considered low-risk for side effects, but high-risk for more severe complications of the virus.
Case says Piedmont Healthcare does not recommend using the drug with outpatients because of the risks, but says the decision to prescribe the drug outside of a medical setting is ultimately the doctor's call.
"I do think we need to look at the risk versus the benefit," she says. "The vast majority of people who develop COVID-19 are going to get better and are going to be okay."
She recommends rest, staying home and letting the virus run its course.
If you develop complications such as difficulty breathing or a worsening of symptoms, seek medical care.
SEE ALSO: Kemp extending Georgia's shelter-in-place order until April 30
Ten days after he left the hospital, Charles Dixon was notified he had tested positive for COVID-19.
Dixon, who will be able to finally leave his bedroom Friday after 21 days, says he is
grateful for the drug he says helped him fight off this virus.
"Everybody is different," Dixon says. "What worked for me may not work for someone else. But it definitely worked for me. I felt better every day."
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Best prevention measures:
- Wash your hands often with soap and warm water for at least twenty seconds.
- If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Stay home when you are sick.
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces
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