CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (WTVD) -- As COVID-19 cases surge and ICU beds in hospitals across the state fill because of the highly contagious Delta variant, healthcare professionals are working to get the word out about an alternative treatment.
Monoclonal antibodies are meant to help keep COVID-positive patients out of the hospital and are most effective when given early after symptoms begin.
All high-risk adults and high-risk youth ages 12 and older who weigh at least 88 pounds may be eligible for treatment of monoclonal antibodies. NCDHHS Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen said.
"If anything, we have seen low usage of the monoclonal antibodies," Cohen said. "We want to make sure folks know that it is available. I want to make sure folks who do have symptoms of COVID get tested right away because monoclonal antibodies have to be used in the first 10 days of you having symptoms and the earlier you use it the better."
The treatment has been authorized for emergency use by the FDA since November but is now much more widely available. Regeneron and GlaxoSmithKline are some of the companies that make the monoclonal antibodies. They are produced in a lab and can be given by an iv infusion or a subcutaneous shot to help fight the infection.
UNC Professor and infectious disease expert Dr. David Wohl said they are using Regeneron because it works against the Delta variant and some other variants.
Wohl said early evidence shows the treatment can help reduce the virus or viral load in a person's body. Having a lower viral load means you may have milder symptoms, which decreases the likelihood of hospitalization.
"This is the big message," Wohl said. "If you get diagnosed with COVID-19, and you have symptoms, it doesn't have to be severe; if you've lost your sense of smell if you have the sniffles, sore throat, fever, any shortness of breath, you're having symptoms. So, we want everyone who's diagnosed with COVID-19, who has symptoms to ask their provider about 'should I get a monoclonal antibody?' Unfortunately, a lot of providers don't know about this. So you might have to do your own little sleuthing."
WATCH: Full interview with Dr. David Wohl