What Do You Do If You Are Diagnosed with COVID-19?

COVID-19, short for Coronavirus Disease 2019, is an infectious disease caused by a novel virus first detected in Wuhan, China back in December 2019. The novel virus designated as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) comes from the same family of coronaviruses that once caused outbreaks of SARS and MERS in 2002 and 2012 respectively. Although COVID-19 has much lower fatality rates (3.4%) than SARS (9.6%) and MERS (34.3%), it is significantly more infectious and spreads easily. Just in a few months, the pandemic of COVID-19 has caused more than five million confirmed cases globally. In order to flatten the curve of infection, countries began to increase the number of COVID-19 screening tests and impose strict quarantine nationwide. As an individual, we have a responsibility to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 too, especially when we are diagnosed with it or suspected with it.

If you have symptoms commonly related to COVID-19 such as fever, dry cough, fatigue, sore throat, headache, lack of smell or taste sensation, or diarrhoea, you should call your doctors or nurses first before heading to the clinic. For Malaysia, you can dial 999 and get it directed to the health services. The doctors or medical assistants on the phone will decide whether it is necessary for you to visit a clinic or hospital. Decisions are made based on the symptoms, history of any recent travelling or any close contact with COVID-19 patients. Generally, people with mild symptoms of COVID-19 or whose history is unlikely to be COVID-19-related do not need to visit the clinic or hospital. Mild symptoms mean there is no breathing difficulty. People with mild COVID-19 illness are usually encouraged to stay at home for self-isolation. Self-isolation means to stay apart from other people, even the people you live with. This is because people with mild COVID-19 illnesses typically recover within two weeks without any hospital care. By staying at home, one can also help to stop the spread of COVID-19. The decision to end self-isolation will depend on the cessation of symptoms, or when one is tested negative for COVID-19. Beside self-isolation, one should stay hydrated and get adequate rest. Consult your doctors if you wish to take any supplements that can boost the immune system.

Regardless of staying home or going out, everyone is advised to practise regular hand washing as it is an important and effective way to reduce COVID-19 spread. Experts recommend washing hands thoroughly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. This ensures that all the creases and surfaces of the fingers and hands are cleaned. The duration of 20 seconds is the minimum time taken for the soap to break down the outer layer of the virus. Try to reduce the habit of touching your face frequently as it carries a risk of transferring the virus from your hands to the eyes, nose and mouth. This may be easier said than done since studies revealed that, on average, we touch our faces 23 times per hour. Interestingly, wearing a face mask can help to lessen face touching. If you have COVID-19, face masks are essential when in contact with other people as it is effective in reducing the spread of virus. Tiny water droplets containing viral particles can be trapped in the face mask while talking, coughing or sneezing. However, the necessity and effectiveness of face masks for healthy individuals remain debatable. Nevertheless, it is mostly considered a good practice during this pandemic especially when one goes outside.

If you have severe symptoms of COVID-19 such as breathing difficulties, bluish lips or face, persistent chest pain, confusion, or drowsiness, go to a hospital immediately. Elderly people or those with underlying medical conditions like diabetes are more vulnerable to develop severe COVID-19 disease than their healthier counterparts. Oftentimes, ventilation support and admission to ICU is necessary. There are also cases where patients are put into a state of induced coma in order to increase the chance of survival.

In short, if you are diagnosed with COVID-19, remain calm and follow the instructions from your doctor. This can help to save yourself and your loves.