Sep 9, 2020
What to do if you suspect you have COVID-19

By Winnie Osika

A friend jokingly mentioned that she could no longer feel the taste of chilli. A day later, she asked if someone had added water to her favourite drink (Fanta) as she could no longer feel the taste of the soda. The loss of taste graduated to dry throat and constant fatigue. What started as loss of taste in some foods and drinks ended up to be the one thing that has sent the world into a frenzy - Covid-19.

My friend knew about it after going for a test, five days after beginning to feel those symptoms. Like every other worried person, no one wants to think or even imagine that they are Covid-19 positive. So anytime a symptom pops up, we all rush for the common home remedy - lemon water, ginger, honey.

Covid-19 fears have made people avoid medical care thus ignoring hospitals. The fear has been so intense that even critical care management is being overlooked by patients. What is now commonly known as “coronaphobia” has turned into a tall order to both medical practitioners and those seeking their services.

My friend was also a victim of the “coronaphobia”. She experienced different symptoms of COVID-19 for five days, but did not bother to go to hospital for a serious check up for fear of contracting the virus there. Even though it has been said that people with mild symptoms can recover faster from home based care, it is important to seek medical care if you experience more serious symptoms. This includes difficulty in breathing, fever and long consistent coughs.

“If you are beginning to have difficulty in breathing, excessive diarrhea or you seem not to be urinating as well as you should, then you should be taken to hospital. It is important that people do not wait for too long before acting, especially if the patient has a breathing rate of more than 25 breaths per minute,” says Dr. Jeremiah Chakaya - a chest and lung expert affiliated with Doctors for Healthy Living (DHL).

Most infected people will develop mild to moderate illness and recover without hospitalization. The mild symptoms include fever, dry cough and tiredness. Others experience loss of smell and taste.

On average it takes 5–6 days from when someone is infected with the virus for symptoms to show, however it can take up to 14 days depending on the individual’s immunity and health status.

Kenya’s Ministry of Health states that 78% of the infected persons are asymptomatic or have mild symptoms which can be managed at home. In this regard, The Ministry of Health launched the Home-Based Isolation and Care protocols, on 10th June 2020.

Eligible patients for this program must be assessed by a healthcare worker, be confirmed as COVID-19 positive, and also be asymptomatic, or with mild symptoms of the virus. Such patients should be free of any underlying condition.

The Ministry of Health has put up guidelines for home based care treatment which if followed to the letter, recovery rates are expected to go up.

Some of the most critical ones include placing the patient in a well ventilated room, limiting the movement of the patient in the house and minimizing shared space, limiting the number of caregivers- only one to attend to the patient and performing hand hygiene after any type of contact with patients or their immediate environment.

Additionally, household members should stay in a different room or, if that is not possible, maintain a distance of at least 1 m from the ill person (e.g. sleep in a separate bed).

“If you can maintain 2-metre distance all the time with other people, there is minimal risk of transmission. This is, however, on condition that everybody within that space is wearing a mask on a 24-hour basis. An ordinary cloth mask is sufficient to offer the needed protection”. Says Dr. Chakaya

Visitors should not be allowed until the patient has completely recovered and has no signs and symptoms

The Ministry of Health has put up a toll free line, 719 for audio messages and *719# for short messages for people to use in case they are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms or want to report on a suspected case of COVID-19.