FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) – More North Texans are turning to monoclonal antibodies to prevent severe cases of COVID-19.

MedStar recently opened up an infusion center at its headquarters in Fort Worth to meet the growing demand.

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“I’m hopeful,” said Larry Swartz, while getting the treatment at MedStar on Wednesday, Sept. 8.

He tested positive for COVID-19 on Tuesday.

“Fatigue, loss of sense of taste and smell, shortness of breath on exertion, muscle aches and pains,” he said.

Larry Swartz receives monoclonal antibody infusion. (CBS 11)

With those mild symptoms and a higher risk for developing severe illness from the virus, Swartz qualified for the treatment. It requires an IV and typically takes about 20 minutes.

“Once the infusion is completed, then we monitor the patient for an additional hour afterwards and then we discharge them,” said Jessica Widener, a paramedic with MedStar.

MedStar initially set up the infusion clinic for first responders, but began treating people in the community who have a referral from the hospital or from their doctor once they saw the need.

Health experts say monoclonal antibody therapy is a game changer in the fight against COVID-19.

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“It is wonderful to know that we have therapeutic weapons in our arsenal that can be used to help those who have become infected in the early stages of the disease,” said Dr. Jon Weidanz, an immunologist and associate vice president for research at UT Arlington.

Monoclonal antibodies are laboratory-made proteins designed to mimic the body’s ability to fight off viruses and pathogens.

Dr. Weidanz says this type of therapy has been around for decades and used to treat cancer, autoimmune diseases, and other viruses.

Clinical trials have shown the treatment can reduce the severity of COVID-19 and the need for hospitalization.

“Mostly everyone seems to be doing pretty well about halfway through the infusion,” Widener said. “Other people have been letting us know that they’ve been feeling a relief of symptoms about 24 hours afterwards, sometimes as early as the evening they go home or the next morning.”

The infusion is only effective if COVID-19 patients get it within 10 days of the start of their symptoms. For those in the hospital, it’s often too late to be of any help.

If you’ve been exposed to or diagnosed with COVID-19 and think you may benefit from an infusion, contact your doctor to see if you qualify.

“If you’re going down this path, you need to seek monoclonal antibody therapy immediately and not delay,” said Dr. Weidanz.

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Health experts do say this treatment should not be relied on in place of the vaccine, which is still the most effective way to prevent severe illness and hospitalization.

Caroline Vandergriff