When Mike Burton came down with a breakthrough case of covid-19 earlier this month, the infection posed a double threat to his family. At 73, the retired surgeon faced elevated risk of serious illness. His wife, Linda, has a suppressed immune system, the result of drugs she takes after two liver transplants that put her in greater danger of life-threatening illness.
The Burtons, both vaccinated, moved to separate parts of their Mt. Sterling, Ky., home, masked up and hoped for the best.
Then a friend called and insisted they ask their doctors about monoclonal antibodies – an effective, widely available covid-19 therapy that few people are receiving.
The drugs often prevent severe disease, keeping people like Mike Burton out of the hospital if taken within seven to 10 days after symptoms begin. And since last month, they can be given prophylactically to millions of people like Linda Burton who have been exposed to the coronavirus and are at high risk of serious consequences.
Monoclonal antibodies are free to patients and there have been almost no side effects. They are accessible on an outpatient basis, via a single infusion or four injections. Hospitals, urgent care centers and even private doctors are authorized to dispense them.
Mike Burton, the Kentucky surgeon, experienced a turnaround after he received his infusion of monoclonal antibodies last week. He went to bed that night still plagued by fever, chills, a bad cough, clogged sinuses and fatigue. He woke up the next morning without any of the symptoms except fatigue and a milder cough, Linda Burton said. She did not become infected.
It’s impossible to know how Burton might have fared without the drug, but his wife credits it and prayer for their protection. “I just knew I didn’t want to get sick like he got sick,” she said. “I would’ve gotten sicker and I would not have recovered as well.”