With all the reports, opinion pieces, rumors, and memes propagating on the different social media platforms about the coronavirus pandemic, one can easily get lost in and confused by this influx of information. All over the internet, people are asking: “What should I do if I experience the symptoms?”, and although the answer could differ from one country to another here in the MENA, there are broad, general guidelines that should be followed.
Here, we will try to put together a guide that would help readers understand symptoms, quarantine procedures, as well as eventual treatment.
What are the symptoms of the coronavirus?
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the most common symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, tiredness, and dry cough. Some patients experience aches and pains, nasal congestion, runny nose, sore throat or diarrhea.
Some people who are infected do not express any symptoms whatsoever; however, for the majority, the symptoms are usually mild and are similar to those of common influenza. Unfortunately, one out of every six people who contract the virus get seriously ill.
Older people with underlying medical issues such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart problems, as well as those who are immunocompromised or are suffering from chronic diseases are at special risk.
How about the incubation period of the virus?
Most estimates put the incubation period of the coronavirus between one and 14 days, with most patients notice symptoms around the fifth day. The “incubation period” is the time between getting the virus and beginning to show symptoms of the disease.
Since the most common symptoms are similar to those of common cold, how do I make sure that I have the coronavirus?
Experiencing any of the symptoms mentioned above could indicate that you either have common influenza or that you have the virus responsible for COVID-19 illness.
If you are in a country where the number of patients is relatively high, such as Iran or Iraq, if you returned from a country with a high number of confirmed cases, or if you have come in contact with a person who has tested positive for the virus, this only increases the chances of a COVID-19 infection. However, it is still possible that you are just down with the flu or seasonal allergies.
The only way to be definitively sure is to either call or pay a visit to your local hospital, where specialists will determine if you are suspected to have the coronavirus and should self-quarantine at home for 14 days or need to get tested.
What is the coronavirus definitive testing technique?
The polymerase chain reaction (PCR) technique is used to analyze three samples: nose and throat swap as well as a blood sample. The test then determines if the virus is present in the blood and calculates its viral load and activity.
Unfortunately, in many countries, the chemicals used in this test are not available in surplus; therefore, healthcare professionals are some times required to make difficult decisions on who would get the priority for the testing. Another shortcoming of the PCR testing technology is that it is time-consuming; the results could take up to 24 hours to come back, which could be catastrophic in times of crisis.
In case you test positive for COVID-19, what should your next step be?
Well, first of all, there is no need for panic. Many around the world have recovered from the virus. Healthcare professionals, as well as researchers, will be monitoring the progression of your COVID-19 infection.
Although the virus has no cure at this point, a number of medications have shown promise in helping patients recover. It is worth mentioning that self-administration of any of these drugs is not at all recommended. Incorrect dose determination could lead to major complications.
Usually, 10 days of treatment under doctor supervision at the quarantine hospital are sufficient for the recovery process. Afterward, patients remain in quarantine for some time, wherein they are regularly tested to ensure the infection does not reoccur.
What are the medications used to treat the virus?
The most effective treatment so far includes chloroquine, an anti-malarial drug, along with Tamiflu, an antiviral drug used to treat several types of influenza.
However, if symptoms are more severe, such as pneumonia or shortness of breath, three types of treatments are administered over the course of 25 days; these are malaria and influenza medication, as well as a cortisone treatment.
What should I do If I was advised to self-quarantine at home?
Some times, when the hospitals run out of quarantine spaces or choose to reserve them for patients with more severe symptoms, some carriers are advised to go home and self-quarantine.
In this case, there are some WHO guidelines to be followed to make sure you are not contributing to the spread of the virus.
- Wash your hands regularly with an alcohol-based hand rub or clean them with soap and water.
- Maintain a distance of one meter between yourself and all other people you come in contact with.
- Make sure you, and the people around you, follow good respiratory hygiene. This means covering your mouth and nose with your bent elbow or tissue when you cough or sneeze. Then dispose of the used tissue immediately.
- Stay at home and follow up with a physician until you could undergo another testing.