Why you should take the Covid-19 pandemic seriously

Covid-19 pandemic

Two days ago, the media reported that the West Midlands became a hotspot for Covid-19 pandemic in the country. I wasn’t much surprised at the news. It’s the second biggest conurbation area in the country, after London. Then, just like it happened across the UK and other countries too, many people just don’t seem to realise how serious this pandemic is.

(featured image found at: https://publichealthmatters.blog.gov.uk/2020/01/23/wuhan-novel-coronavirus-what-you-need-to-know/)

Since I have been out of work very recently, it felt easier for me to take precautions. I had very limited direct contact with the outside world already. When I did go out, I used gloves to push trolleys, open doors and touch products in the shops. Once I got home, I washed plastic and metal packaging for all the foods I bought.

On Tuesday evening (March 17th), my partner and I thought I could make a shopping trip at Essington farm the next day. They sent an email out saying they were fully stocked on meats and vegetables. I could get a few more bits for ourselves, but also for my partner’s father.

How people disregarded social distancing

I drove over the next day and found the car park full. At that point, I considered for a moment whether I should just turn around. But the epidemic here in the UK has not yet reached its peak. That is likely to happen in a few weeks from now. It felt less risky to do some food shopping at that point rather than in the near future.

Essington farm shop staff were asking customers to wait at the door. They were limiting the number of people present inside the shop at any one time. That should have helped, but, unfortunately, customers themselves were not so cautious. Many did not respect the rules of social distancing, queuing very close to each other. At some point, somebody even pushed to get past me and inadvertently rubbed their bag against my jacket.

I felt quite terrified with people’s lack of care in this Covid-19 pandemic.

Despite the fact I took precautions, last night I started having fever, which got better with paracetamol. When I woke up today and later in the afternoon, I again had fever – 38.2 C. And I have also been having a mild dry cough. My partner had very mild cold symptoms throughout the week. What threw us off, in his case, was the lack of fever.

I know that, in my health history, I don’t get fever without a sore throat. When I travelled to Glasgow end of November last year, my first time in Scotland, I suffered badly with the flu. You can hear how hoarse my voice sounded, from a very sore throat, in the vlog I filmed there.

Still, I did not get a fever back then, not even from walking around the city at temperatures below zero.

The tricky part – limited testing for Covid-19

The NHS advises that people with mild symptoms should just stay at home and isolate for seven days. Mild symptoms should improve during this time. More serious cases tend to worsen after the first seven days. If your symptoms worsen, you contact NHS online or call 111. You might be taken to hospital and you will only then get tested. I prefer to hope I will get better and won’t reach that stage.

Under these circumstances though, I might never know if I have Covid-19 or not. Everybody self-isolating at home with mild symptoms is in the same situation. Some people might just have a cold or a flu, and they might still catch the actual coronavirus later. And this is the trickiest part of managing this Covid-19 pandemic.

How can you aim to achieve herd immunity if you do not know how many people had it?
What will and what should people do if they get similar symptoms twice?
In this moment in time, I personally do not know of any valid answer to these two questions.

But I know, from everything I read online these days, that mild symptoms vary a lot. As long as you are not struggling to breath, you have mild symptoms. Some people are asymptomatic. Some have a cough, but not fever, and the other way around.

Therefore, it doesn’t suffice to isolate those with very clear, typical symptoms. Bars, restaurants, cinemas and theatres, all places of public gathering need to be shut. This virus can be so mild that the infected person doesn’t even realise they have it. And that is how they pass it on to more vulnerable people, who are more likely to die of it.

A brief description of personal health history

As a child, I suffered from severe asthma, mostly allergy triggered. I used to get a bronchitis regularly, which hasn’t happened at all in the last ten years. This is the good part of my personal health history. I do not think that, given I have been generally healthy and fit over the last decade, I am at very high risk in this Covid-19 pandemic. Maybe 15 years ago it would have been a different matter.

But I experienced pneumonia at least two times in my life, if not three. My first time being hospitalised with asthma, at 1 year and 10 months, might have been the first occurrence. But I know with certainty I had pneumonia at 12 and 22. The last one nearly killed me, and I only survived due to the inventiveness and bravery of the doctor who saved me.

How pneumonia feels like

I want to tell you the story of my pneumonia at 22 as a warning to people who do not take Covid-19 seriously. Back then, I did not take my springtime bronchitis seriously. I continued to smoke socially, and I did not go to the doctor. Every time my symptoms worsened, I ignored them. I carried on like that for about eight to ten months.

By the time I ended up in hospital, barely breathing, several treatments failed on me. First, I took about a week of injections with antibiotics. My lungs still wheezed, and I remember finding it difficult to climb one flight of stairs. Then one evening my pump did not ease my breath at all. My fingers and lips were turning blue. Mum started crying, she panicked. She called a friend to give us a lift to the nearest hospital.

There, in A&E, they gave me one shot of intravenous antihistamine. It had no effect at all. Then they recommended we rushed to the hospital specialised in lung diseases. On our way there, I remember thinking I would stop breathing any second now. Luckily, we made it there, and the doctor set up a drip with nine doses of antihistamines and three doses of strong bronchodilator medicine. The drip ran for eight hours, releasing this mixture very slowly in my vein. The doctor specifically said the speed of the drip should not be altered, as it risked giving me a cardiac arrest.

I survived, and it took about a year of follow-up treatment to completely recover. For the next six months, I was prescribed a preventative dose of antibiotics for ten days each month, and to use the preventative pump twice a day.

I hope this cautionary story can help other people realise such diseases are to be taken seriously. Even a young person, if they ignore symptoms getting worse, can develop serious issues. I certainly learnt from my big stupid mistake at 22.

Read the poem I wrote about how people’s selfishness peaks under such extreme circumstances as a global Covid-19 pandemic.




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