What if I told you that you're #Covid19 positive already?

by - March 27, 2020


Update: This article is now available to read at the 'Health News' section of The Times of India website.

___


It is as simple as that. What if I told you that you have the dreaded corona virus infection right now? How would you react?

Would you be scared? In denial? Go home and inform your family? Perhaps, not inform anyone for fear of being ostracized? Go into hiding? Seek alternative medicine healing options?

Let's talk about this very likely possibility.


text discussing corona virus


I can't be COVID-19 positive, doctor. I have no history of meeting anyone who flew in from Italy or China.


Phase 2 of the transmission revolved around a history of contact with someone directly having traveled from an infected country. We doctors have slowly accepted that we are now in Phase 3 - community transmission with no necessity of a foreign travel history. Hospitals and ICUs in India are racing against time to be ready for the rising numbers.

But I haven't even been tested? If it is Phase 3, why are the numbers so less? There are only 700 cases in India as opposed to 75,600 in countries like USA?   


The number of tests India has done is quite low.

text stating official number of corona tests done in India
Source: Reporter @DivyaET 

  • Till 27 March 2020 9 AM, Indian had performed 27,688 tests
  • In comparison, as of 26 March 2020, USA had performed 4,32,655 tests.


Yes, we need to ramp up testing. But until that is possible, right now, if you have any such symptoms, we need to assume that you may already have COVID-19.

What are these symptoms?

Most patients develop non-specific symptoms.
images showing symptoms of corona virus


The three commonest symptoms are fever, a dry cough and shortness of breath. Some develop sore throat and a runny nose while few may have a few episodes of diarrhoea. Most won't need any treatment at all besides isolation.

This sounds like a normal viral fever, not this killer corona.

You're right. It does sound exactly like a regular viral fever. It is a virus, after all. The problem is it transmits from person to person via droplet infection at a very high rate. You may have mild symptoms but you are at a high risk of infecting those around you, whose immunity cannot handle its worst effects.

I have zero/ very mild symptoms.

You start transmitting the virus via droplets (cough, spit) even before you develop any visible symptoms. Think of how scary that sentence is.

I'll take antibiotics & steam inhalation like I usually do when I get a cold. 

Antibiotics don't work against COVID-19... or most viruses, FYI. While several trials are underway all over the world, there is no effective preventive or curative medicine as of today, both in evidence based medicine and alternative medicine.

But you'll unnecessarily put me in quarantine for a cold and I'll contract it from actual patients there. 


For starters, in the absence of adequate testing kits, we can't quarantine every single person with a cold in a hospital. Even in a hospital quarantine, you will be isolated from all other patients.
Since you will actually be staying at home, this is where you need to be responsible, hygienic and isolate yourself properly. And I mean, strict isolation.

So I can sit in the same room as my family, just one meter away from others?


No. Everything you touch directly and indirectly becomes a potential carrier of the novel corona virus. That's why you need to be in strict isolation and not near those you love as you imagine... because your love can kill them if their immunity is not as strong as yours.

So, what do you mean by hygiene and strict isolation?


  • Avoid any form of travel.
  • Regularly wash your hands with 'soap and water for at least 20 seconds' or an alcohol based hand rub.
  • Maintain a minimum of one meter distance between yourself and everyone else.
  • Wear a mask.
  • Cover your mouth and nose while sneezing. Dispose of the tissue immediately.
  • Get someone else to go out and buy essentials for you. Allow them to drop it outside your door and leave before you go to collect it.
  • Separate utensils, bed linen and bathroom for you.
  • Disinfect frequently touched objects.


Is there a risk of things getting worse for me? 

I won't lie. Yes. There is. The risks of things getting really bad were around 3 percent earlier but now estimates have risen to 5 %. Again, you need to be aware and cautious. Alert your doctor or the assigned local healthcare number if you find symptoms like fever or breathlessness getting worse. They will inform you of the next step.

Do not take it lightly and try to treat worsening symptoms at home.

But if things are going to get worse, I prefer having my loved ones beside me.

I understand but these aren't normal circumstances. By demanding they stay beside you when you're ill, you're risking their lives. You may kill them if their immunity is weaker than yours.

They are ready to take the risk for me. 

They may be but you shouldn't allow them to.
The world has literally shut down right now. Millions are out of a job. It is global chaos. Scientists are working round the clock to find a cure. Doctors and nurses are openly weeping as they are forced to choose who gets to live or die with limited ventilators.

All this so that you and the ones nearest to you do not end up being a statistic on the 'Death by Corona Virus' column.

graph of death rate worldwide due to corona
Source: Worldometers
From January to March 19th, the deaths due to Corona were at 10,000.
In 1 week after that, the deaths worldwide have crossed 23,000

I'm scared.

I know you are. I also know that 95 out of a 100 cases of COVID-19 just develop a mild infection like the common cold and it ends there. I ain't much of a gambling man but those are pretty good odds, pal.

But I'll be alone, stuck in a dinghy hospital.

You're not alone. Understand that. There will be doctors and nurses around you all the time. They are giving up their loved ones so that you can go back to your loved ones 2 weeks from now. They are there beside you even when they know you can kill their child's parent.

What?

If you're in the hospital, it is because you're carrying a severe form of a very transmittable disease while being cared for by staff with limited protective gear for themselves, remember.

As an anaesthesiologist working in an intensive care unit, I know that before this battle against the virus is over months from now, my colleagues and I may have contracted COVID-19 ourselves. And I know that, I too will be really scared when I get the news that I have the virus too.

I comfort myself by saying that if I do it right and don't break the rules, the odds are, I can ensure that my loved ones are safe too by the time my disease goes away. And so can you.

Okay, I guess.

We're likely COVID-positive already, you and I. For a change, let's not share THIS positivity with all those around us, eh?    


Author's note:
Tell me how you're handling this unprecedented global lockdown due to the novel corona virus pandemic. How you are feeling?
Talk to me.



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17 comments

  1. well written and straight, no sugar coating. Hope people accept the reality though it is scary.

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  2. Yes! Agree to it whole heartedly!The first thing I will do is try and get into a designated quarantine away from any human contact. Rest - treatment, kismet and genes!

    ReplyDelete
  3. A good informative post. Straight to the heart of the matter. Let's hope people listen to sense.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Informative and bursting myths. We are all in this together, we can go through this phase by social distancing and practicing hygiene.

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  5. Scary if you would tell me that Doc! After all you guys are the experts! Amazing post...Truly something to keep coming back to especially during these times!

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  6. Thanks for putting together this sensible list of Q&A - much needed at this hour. Hope you are taking care Doc and things are good with you.

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  8. Excellently explained. This is how serious we need to be about the virus. The mortality rate of US and Europe is shocking and heartbreaking. As educated and responsible citizens it is our duty to make sure we take precautions such that it doesn't spread.

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So what do you think ?