Infected With COVID-19, Now What?
As predicted by many analysts, Nigeria entered the exponential phase of coronavirus transmission with two hundred and seventy-six currently recorded cases as against twenty-four cases as at the last time we first broached the subject here. That’s a ten-fold increase!
Community transmission is also now accounting for almost half, forty five percent specifically, of all new cases according to the Lagos State Health Commissioner Professor Akin Abayomi. This means almost five of every new ten people contracted the virus within their communities as against the initial scenario where infections were from identifiable contacts of imported cases.
We are now reporting cases with no known source of infection; the really dangerous phase. This is what the state attempted to prevent by the ‘lockdown’ which appears to be ineffective given recent happenings in the news.
Coronavirus (COVID-19) hit close to home in the last few days. My first cousin who lives in New York, the epicentre of the scourge in the United States of America, informed me she had tested positive three days ago.
Nigeria reported over twenty new cases yesterday alone. Yes, the horse has truly bolted. That is a given. But, what happens if one does catch the virus? Can COVID-19 be managed? Is that the end of the world or is it a death sentence? What should you look out for and what should the next steps be? Is it all gloom and doom?
There are tonnes of advisories in the public space as to prevention but not as much information as to management in the event that there is such an eventuality.
A Few Things To Note As Starters Concerning COVID-19
1) There is no cure for coronavirus (COVID-19). Like all other viruses, it is self-limiting, meaning it would run its course and resolve. The concern is the destruction the virus leaves in its trail.
Therefore, the mainstay of treatment involves managing symptoms on an individual basis and not directly curing the virus itself. Thus, treatment plans may vary from patient to patient and even differ at different stages in the same patient.
2) Social media is awash with tonnes of misinformation. Be guided as to what advice you heed. The World Health Organisation and the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control remain the most reliable sources of scientific information concerning the virus. Follow them.
3) It is reported that eight in ten people infected with coronavirus will only develop mild symptoms and are therefore not likely to require hospital admission.
There does not appear to be any demographic predilection as mild to severe cases have been reported in all age groups and races. A five-year-old died in the United Kingdom last week. Recoveries were recorded in nonagenarians in India, Iran, and Italy.
What Happens When You Test Positive to COVID-19
So, a test has come in as positive. You most likely had a few symptoms that prompted taking the test and these may range from fever, cough, runny nose, tiredness, body aches to difficulty breathing. Should these symptoms deteriorate, it is recommended that you present at the hospital for further treatment.
The protocol in Nigeria at the moment is that a confirmed coronavirus positive patient is admitted into the isolation centres across the country where they are monitored to ensure they are not spreading the infection within the community.
However, in places like New York and Bergamo (Italy), both epicentres, where the hospitals are overwhelmed, they will ask mild cases to remain self-isolated at home and only report for further evaluation if their conditions worsen. So Nigeria will admit you now, regardless of the severity of your symptoms.
COVID-19 Management Tips
Do Not Panic
This is very important and as hard as it may be, keeping calm is key. This affords you the clarity of mind and thought you need to plan for the weeks ahead.
Be mindful not to make irrational decisions. Quickly review your habits and daily routine and based on this, draw up a list of items and materials to last for the two-week isolation.
You owe it as a responsibility to your family, friends, colleagues and the general public to remove yourself from circulation immediately.
You may be equipped immunologically to defeat the virus but how do you know any other person is? What underlying medical conditions could they have that could make the virus even more debilitating for them? Again, stay indoors except for medical attention if symptoms worsen.
From your favourite meals to groceries to over the counter medications like paracetamol, lozenges, and expectorants. Fruits and vegetables are an absolute necessity also. You may also get some items to keep yourself occupied like books, movies, and magazines.
A simple digital thermometer will also come in useful to track your symptoms. If you will need any additional items during the isolation period, implore your friends and family to leave such at your doorstep. Avoid direct human contact.
Track Your Symptoms
Write down your temperature readings at least thrice daily. Usually, there may be a mild fever that should respond to paracetamol only. No other antipyretic is advised (Ibuprofen, Advil). Should fever persist over 390C and is unresponsive to paracetamol, consider visiting the hospital.
The normal adult respiratory rate is about twelve to twenty breaths per minute. The most objective means of tracking difficulty with breathing is an increased respiratory rate. There may also be gasping, progressive weakness and reduced mental alertness/wakefulness if breathing becomes even more difficult. All these are pointers to the reduction in circulating systemic oxygen. Seek help if you notice these.
Your immune system will mount a challenge against the virus. You can assist it by getting in as much nutrients as you can. Proteins, fruits, and vegetables are beneficial in this regard.
If you have Nigerian parents, you would probably have received several WhatsApp broadcasts about cocktails of ginger, lime, garlic, honey and lemon as the elixir of choice. The World Health Organization recently debunked the ginger bit.
Medically, no adverse effects are expected as these are relatively safe, routine and traditional condiments in most parts of the world. Ensure they are used in moderation.
Drink as much fluids as you can get. This is really a general rule for most viral illnesses. The human body is approximately sixty percent water so water always improves all our body functions. Water helps your immune system and is especially important in feverish conditions as body water is lost through the skin.
This is a common practice for unclogging nostrils and sinuses in most viral conditions. There is a risk of steam inhalational injury which may then lead to swelling of the airways and may worsen the breathing difficulty. Some schools of thought discourage it for coronavirus but it may help to do it very moderately.
A humidifier also works for this if you have access to one. It is generally important to stay warm but keep an eye on your temperature and ensure to uncover to help any fever dissipate quickly.
What WHO Says
Generally, most mild cases will resolve within fourteen days, according to the World Health Organisation. More severe cases may last between three to six weeks depending on the organs affected. Usually, two negative results within twenty-four or forty-eight hours give an all-clear and a pass back into the community.
During and after isolation, maintain all precautions as advised – social distancing, face masks in public, obsessive/compulsive hand washing, sound cough/sneeze etiquette, avoid handshaking, use alcohol-based hand sanitisers, avoid face touching with unwashed hands and continuously disinfect hard surfaces.
COVID-19 And Your Mental Health
The isolation may take a toll on one’s mental health given that human beings are after all social animals. Technology will surely help in attenuating the loneliness given the myriad video calling applications available now.
Do not hesitate to reach out and talk to someone at any point during the isolation. Should you need more professional help, there are psychologists who are happy to help at any point.
A Positive Mindset
There is also a mental angle to this fight. It is important to keep a positive mindset and will the body and mind to defeat the virus. Stressing over it will affect your immunity anyway.
Focus on recovery rates. Currently, the global numbers show that ninety-six percent of the over one million cases are mild and eighty percent of all cases reported have recovered. That is eight persons in every ten.
Affirmations will help. Continue to affirm that you have the wherewithal to beat it. Focus on the recovery rate!
We all have a responsibility in flattening the curve and the earlier we are able to do so, the better. We have a duty to not stigmatise people who have recovered from the virus. Their success stories should be the light for us all.
We can beat this!