PVA's Medical Services team plays a crucial part in making sure the Veterans we serve receive excellence in healthcare. The team routinely surveys all VA Spinal Cord Injury Units and Long Term Care Centers across the United States, and collaborates with each site's SCI/D Team and the VA Central Office Spinal Cord Injury and Disease (SCI/D) Program to advance program development and provide advocacy. The team is especially vigilant to safety precautions and restrictions imposed during the COVID-19 pandemic, as people living with SCI/D experience increased risk from the virus and are therefore more vulnerable to complications and severe illness.
PVA is issuing the following information and guidance related to ongoing precautions for COVID-19. Read more below, and get information about the Medical Services Team on our website.
The VA Healthcare System strongly recommends that Veterans, as well as their family members and caregivers, get vaccinated and receive boosters when eligible. Men and women with SCI/D are at increased risk of developing severe symptoms from COVID-19, especially those with decreased lung capacity. Additional risk factors for poor outcomes from COVID-19 include obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.
A COVID-19 vaccine helps prevent you from getting COVID-19 or becoming seriously ill from the infection. The vaccination also helps reduce the chance of spreading the virus to others. Family members can help keep their loved one with SCI/D safe from severe COVID complications by getting vaccinated.
A vaccinated person still has some risk for contracting COVID-19.
Symptoms of COVID-19 can appear 2-14 days after virus exposure. They may range from mild to severe. The most common symptoms include, but are not limited to:
- Fever or chills
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Muscle or body aches
- New loss of taste or smell
- Sore throat
- Congestion or runny nose
- Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
The most common therapies for COVID-19 are those that treat the type and severity of the symptoms. There are other treatments available through the VA and community sources, including Monoclonal Antibody (mAb) infusions. If you test positive for COVID-19, mAb infusions can reduce your risk of becoming severely ill from the infection. The mAb treatment reduces viral load, or the amount of virus in a person’s system. A lower viral load produces milder symptoms from the infection and decreases the chances of being hospitalized due to the infection.
Higher risk people with SCI/D or other conditions should ask their physician about mAb treatment if they have a positive COVID-19 test and have had symptoms for less than 10 days. Early treatment with mAb is most effective.
Both Pfizer and Merck have sought approval from the US FDA for oral-antiviral medication to treat COVID-19. These medications have already been approved in Europe and India, and have been shown in studies to reduce the risk of hospitalization from the illness, even in high-risk individuals. Look for Pfizer’s Paxlovid and Merck’s Molnupiravir to be approved soon.
If you have signs and symptoms of COVID-19, contact your physician, and arrange to be tested as soon as possible. Early treatment is most effective in minimizing the severity of the illness. COVID tests are available at all hospitals, most clinics, and most drug stores. If you suspect you may have contracted the virus, you should get a COVID-19 test to confirm, and isolate yourself to reduce the spread of the infection to others until you can ensure that you do not have or no longer have the virus.