Dr. Stephanie Stuart, Emergency Doctor and Medical Director of Adventist Health Sonora and its outpatient departments, is one of the medical professionals treating approximately 100 patients a day in the hospital’s emergency department.
Stuart estimates that around a third of daily emergency room patients during the recent surge in the highly contagious Delta variant are potential COVID-19 cases.
She and her colleagues in the emergency room see so many unvaccinated people infected with COVID-19 and patients eventually dying from COVID-19, dispelling myths about home remedies portrayed as miracle cures to prevent or cure the coronavirus.
COVID-19 had contributed to the deaths of 96 people in Tuolumne County on Thursday morning. That total includes at least 23 coronavirus deaths since August 1, with people aged 20, 30, and 40 among those who died. Two of the 96 people who died from Covid-19 were vaccinated. The other 94 were not vaccinated.
“Vaccination is the only safe way, the only proven way to prevent infection with severe COVID,” said Stuart on Thursday morning in front of an emergency room entrance reserved for ambulance crews and their patients. “Ninety-five percent of our medical staff get vaccinated here because we believe it’s safe, effective, and it works.”
Stuart estimates that she and her colleagues in the emergency room see 30 or more potential COVID-19 patients every day. Most of them show respiratory symptoms, difficulty breathing, cough, or low oxygen levels. You and other emergency doctors work 10-hour shifts. A doctor is assigned to the emergency room for part of the day. Three doctors are on emergency duty during the afternoon and evening rush hours.
Before 11 a.m. on Thursday, Stuart introduced two colleagues from the emergency room, Dr. Joe Protacio and Dr. Steve Wang. Wang wore full personal protective equipment including a gown, gloves, mask and face shield because, like all emergency room workers, he sometimes has to attend to COVID-19 patients.
“We care because we see the consequences of people who are not vaccinated and get seriously ill and then some of them die,” said Stuart. “We see younger and older people who are otherwise perfectly healthy and also die. It’s not just people with comorbidities. That’s another excuse people use online, an excuse not to get vaccinated. That COVID only kills people with comorbidities. That is not true.”
Much misinformation about COVID-19, vaccines, masks, and home remedies has been created, pumped up, and exponentially amplified through social media and other online platforms.
Last year, the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine was touted as a miracle cure for preventing and curing COVID-19. Scientific studies have shown that there is no evidence that taking hydroxychloroquine is effective in preventing a person from contracting the coronavirus or developing COVID-19.
A primary myth Stuart hopes to dump these days is ivermectin.
“Ivermectin is a drug that is approved to treat parasitic infections,” said Stuart. “The interest in ivermectin came from a laboratory where some scientists noted that it might have properties that might make it effective at treating viruses. When it comes to treating humans, what works in the laboratory doesn’t always work for humans. “
There have been theories that ivermectin could work against the coronavirus, Stuart said. Researchers began testing people in early 2020 to see if this could help with COVID-19. An article was published in Chest magazine. The researchers had a patient pool. They gave the patients several drugs. Some of the patients were given ivermectin.
One of the groups of patients who received ivermectin did better against COVID-19 and was less likely to die, Stuart said, but it’s important to note that the same group of patients also received steroids.
“We now know that steroids reduce the risk of dying from COVID,” she said. “It’s part of the treatment that we do here in this hospital and in hospitals around the world. Everyone uses steroids to treat patients with COVID pneumonia, COVID patients in need of oxygen therapy. These are moderate to severe COVID patients, a step before they need to go on ventilators. “
Patients with more severe COVID-19 could need much more oxygen via oxygen therapy or be connected to a ventilator, Stuart said.
The problem with ivermectin is all of the false claims and exaggerations on the internet. Poison control centers across the country have seen an exponential increase in calls from hospitals asking about patients who have overdosed ivermectin, Stuart said.
“People get it from Tractor Supply, from feed stores,” she said. “Ivermectin is mainly used to deworm farm animals. Sheep, cows, horses. In humans we use it to treat lice. “
Stuart said there have been a few patients in the past few weeks who have come to the emergency room with liver injuries from taking ivermectin.
Over the past year, more researchers have been scrutinizing ivermectin and focusing on more rigorous, randomized clinical trial methods, Stuart said. This more rigorous research included the use of ivermectin and placebo sugar pills.
“They found that ivermectin made no difference in COVID patients,” said Stuart. “That study was in Colombia.”
Despite scientific research showing that ivermectin is useless against COVID-19, people are still taking it because they mistakenly believe that it reduces the chance of contracting COVID-19 and is useful in treating the virus once they get it. No rigorous scientific studies show ivermectin works for either purpose, Stuart said.
“It won’t reduce the chance of contracting COVID,” she said, “and it won’t make you better any faster. Ivermectin can hurt people. It can lead to liver inflammation and liver failure. That is the main thing that worries us. It is toxic to the liver, especially in high doses. “
Hydroxychloroquine was popular last year, but it has been debunked to the point that demand for it has slowed.
“We’ve heard anecdotal stories about people here in Tuolumne County, but we’ve never had anyone with a toxic reaction to hydroxychloroquine here in this emergency room,” said Stuart.
Another popular myth that Stuart raised is that the coronavirus vaccines were being enforced and approved too quickly. She said thatThe truth is that medical professionals and laboratory researchers and scientists spent years testing vaccines similar to the COVID vaccines before COVID-19 emerged.
In addition, the Trump administration has cut a lot of red tape in drug approval, said Stuart. This helped speed up the process of making vaccines that work. Vaccines, which she stressed, are definitely the best way to avoid dying from COVID-19.
When asked about monoclonal antibody treatments, Stuart said they showed promise in select groups of patients already suffering from COVID-19. She stressed that monoclonal antibody treatments are not a magic wand or a magic bullet.
“We want patients to do the things that work and don’t hurt them,” she said. “We’re all on the same team. We want COVID to be gone and life to go back to normal, just like everyone else. Our doctors are not part of any state conspiracy or big hidden agenda. We have all trained and learned how to interpret and use scientific research clinically to save lives for at least 11 years. “
Stuart, 40, was born in Sonora, graduated from Winnemucca, Nevada high school, majored in biology at the University of Nevada, Reno, and graduated top of the class to study at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine for four more years. She made her residency at Texas A&M and returned to Sonora with her husband in 2011.
She has been with Adventist Health Sonora and the Sonora Regional Medical Center for the past 10 years. As the medical director of Adventist Health Sonora, she helps run more than 285 professionals in the hospital and its outpatient departments.
Contact Guy McCarthy at [email protected]rat.net or 770-0405. Follow him on Twitter at @GuyMcCarthy.