Well here we are, Juerg and myself, in self quarantine at home in Switzerland after being infected by one of Juerg’s guiding clients. Today is day 9 of quarantine, things are going well. Switzerland went on lock down 1 week ago and all non-essential businesses shut down or started work from home. As we happen to be living right near a hot spot of virus activity and recorded cases, it was no surprise that we got exposed pretty early on.
Juerg and I fall into the 85% category – that is 85% of people exposed to corona virus aka COVID 19 will have mild illness or even no symptoms. To date, our major symptom has been a slight shortness of breath and a gurgling stomach. For me, I have been paddling three times in the past week and hiking twice – in other words, I felt well and healthy enough to do all those things and I did them alone and away from people. I only noticed the shortness of breath when I was doing sprint drills on the water.
From January to early March, I was in Uganda, watching the corona virus situation unfold. During that time, Emily Jackson came to visit, volunteer with Soft Power Health and paddle! We had a lot of fun and water levels were great. I thoroughly enjoyed my new carbon super small 4.0. Paddling always is a great way to get perspective on the medical work and everything else, and its still so high quality in Uganda – even after the Isimba Dam. But I digress…
Uganda has tons of ongoing commerce with China on a regular basis and the bat species that is the animal host of the virus is native to Uganda. Until very recently, Uganda did not have the ability to test for the virus, and I suspect that corona has already been there for some time. Between the giant swarm of locusts (largest in 70 years) eating their way across east Africa and the spread of corona, Ugandans were not sure what to think. Both seemed far away until the locusts hit Northern Uganda, and as of Saturday night, Uganda has it first recorded case of corona. So Uganda has followed suit and closed all borders and limited all movement, sent all kids home from school and closed non-essential businesses.
The Soft Power Health staff have been prepped and we have an education, prevention and treatment plan for corona in place for the clinic and outreach. The challenge is trying to get correct factual information out to people who need it. There has been a lot of crazy stuff flying around the internet and news which is definitely scaring people unnecessarily. This is one time (among many) that I am really thankful to be a doctor and be able to filter out nonsense from good facts. And I want to share what I have learned!
To that end, I am going to give everyone reading some reassurance, which everyone could use right now. Here goes:
1) 85% of people infected will have a mild illness or no symptoms. Yes, 85% – that’s most people!
2) Once you are infected, it’s like getting a vaccine, you won’t get this strain of corona virus again.
3) A very small percentage of the population is truly at risk but we all have family and friends we are going to worry about. Some may be truly at risk and some not as much.
4) People who are at risk of getting more ill are as follows:
a) Immunocompromised people who have been given that diagnosis by their doctor – not, “I feel like my immune system is not strong right now!”.
b) People on immunosuppressive therapy such as chemo therapy or people who have had organ transplants.
c) People who are elderly and have a poor state of health.
5) Other people that need to be careful are those with COPD on long term steroid therapy and people with cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Heavy smoking is not great either.
The good news about this situation is that prevention methods of hand washing, social distancing, and limiting contact will go a long way to preventing the spread of corona.
There is treatment available too.
In Chinese hospitals, doctors used an old well known antimalarial drug called chloroquine with very good success. People who were really sick with the pneumonia associated with corona got better. Back in February, these results were published in medical journals. Chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine (its sister drug) have been used and very well tolerated for a variety of conditions such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. For the most at risk people, these medicines could be pre-emptively prescribed for them to keep at home just in case – assuming there is no reason that these people can’t take the medicine i.e. a known allergy to the medicine or current cardiac arrhythmia treatment. Once people received a positive test and clearance from their primary care doc, they could treat themselves at home! This would take a big potential burden off our healthcare system and give people a lot of peace of mind – which sure goes a long way at times like this.
I am happy to answer any questions so just send me an email and in the meantime be sure to go outside and enjoy spring – it’s happening every day, no matter what!