By Dr. John B.Niwagaba
COVID-19 has brought the world to a sudden standstill.Our President has announced restrictions and directives.Ugandans are doing everything they can to stop the pandemic. However in the process, a lot of myths, misinformation, misrepresentation, exergerations and outright lies have been spread by overenthusiastic and sometimes naive persons in the name of following medical guidelines against Corona virus.
As a doctor, I wish to highlight 10 subtle corrections that may improve our ability to fight this grave disease.
1. First, the case definitions for a suspect of COVID-19 is a person who presents with fever and acute respiratory symptoms (Cough, flu and difficulty in breathing),not explained by any other disease or a person who has recently travelled , in the last 14 days to a high risk country or a person who has been in contact with a suspected or confirmed case. If you don’t fit this criteria, keep your peace, follow the guidelines and avoid crowds; You are safe.
2.Hand washing is the cornerstone of this fight however, please do it right. Using soap and flowing water, wash your hands, including between the finger webs for at least 30seconds. To estimate 30 seconds, hum away a stanza of a popular song like “Happy birthday to you” or “Kyarenga” or “Mpenkoni”(they are after all presidential directives!)
3.Companies that have put temperature screening outside your offices, thank you. However please teach those “Askaris” to do it right. The temperature gun should be aimed to the forehead at a distance between 3 to 15 cm. If a person has been running or during hot weather please ask him/her to wipe the forehead and wait atleast 3 minutes before taking temperature. Persons wearings hats hijabs and turbans should remove them before measuring their temperature. Incase the reading is high, ask the person to sit for 3 -5 minutes and measure it again. If it’s persistently high,take risk history (recent travel,cough,flu) and if suspicious,call Ministry of Heath hotlines to report a case. The ritual of measuring temperature without plan on what to do in case it’s high, should stop.
4.There is currently no drug licenced for managing or prophylaxis against COVID 19.Chloroquine and some ARVs are being tested to see if they may have a role. Those of you who are buying and taking Chloroquine are doing it in error. Remember these drugs have other effects and we are not yet sure how effective they are in treating or preventing this menace of a virus. Some people are consuming high doses of Vitamin C and multivitamins. Please stop this self-medication with no proven benefits.
5. Standard medical face masks contain a layer that “arrests” bacteria and viruses as you breath in and out. They purify your air of most air borne disease causing germs. While any form of barrier for mouth and nose may be a good try ,use of bandanas and handkerchiefs may offer little benefit against microorganisms.
6. Alcohol hand rubs contain very high alcohol levels (60-80 percent) that can kill microorganisms on contact. Regular gin ,waragi,whisky and perfumes have less concentrations and may not work well. Drinking them also does not prevent Corona virus from entering your body if you get exposed to it.
7. Disposable gloves should be used by persons who handle potentially contaminated surfaces or substances. Wearing disposable gloves all day as you touch yourself and touch everything may be of little help. Stick to hand washing or using alcohol rubs. Also remember gloves are non biodegradable and should be carefully disposed off in a medical facility for incineration.
8.While staying at home is good catch-up family time for some people, to others it’s causes significant loneliness, anguish and depression. Remember to call your friends, talk to your religious leaders, parents, doctors or counsellors. In case you are starting to feel overwhelmed, and you have no one to talk to, you can talk to me (Inbox for telephone number).Never know it could save a soul. Suicide rates after such lockdowns tend to go high.
9. During this time don’t forget to exercise, eat healthy, avoid excess alcohol consumption, reduce TV time especially stressful news on COVID-19 related deaths etc
10.Please stick by the presidential directives and stay at home if you can.Its a stressful time in our “Kaveera ” economy but a living dog is better than a dead lion. It will soon pass and we will return to normalcy. We don’t want to lose you and you don’t want to become a “vector” spreading disease to loved ones and strangers. Keep your distance.
Together we will overcome this monster of a virus.