By L. Nwoke
Angela J. woke up on Thursday morning feeling some tightness in the chest area; gradually, she felt herself feeling smothered and noticed that her breathing became labored. She also felt aches in her joints and muscles, and she just generally felt tired and unwell. These feelings started approximately two days ago. At first, she thought it must be the jet lag setting in from the round trip she made just over three days ago from the trip to Europe, but with the onset of difficulty swallowing, pain in the throat, and sneezing, A.J. concluded that things were gradually getting worse. She quickly called up a friend, and they drove to the Emergency Center since she didn’t feel coordinated enough to drive down. While in the car, she had a sneezing episode, with intermittent coughs. She responded to the doctor’s query about her medical history, which was relatively good even though she had a slight fever. She was not taking any regular medication and only smoked occasionally, felt lethargic, had nasal discharge, heart palpitation, couldn’t breathe well, and her muscles hurt. While the doctor was conducting the physical examination and running necessary tests, including requests for laboratory tests, including x-ray, Angela couldn’t help but worry about the test result. Could it be the flu, or maybe pneumonia or even Coronavirus, she wondered.
There were a lot of buzzes lately about the Coronavirus, having traveled so much in the past month, could she have been exposed to someone who had the virus, she mused? As she gradually came out of her deep thoughts, she became more aware of her surroundings, between the sneezes and the occasional cough, her eyes focused on the news headlines and the discussions. It was a discussion on Coronavirus, and the breaking news about new incidents of people dying, implying that it is deadly. Her pounding head didn’t allow her to separate the analysis of facts from the misinformation and conspiracy theories pushed by a few media outlets. One of the theories is that the coronavirus outbreak might be a biological weapon testing that went wrong; such thoughts were only increasing the feelings of panic. However, could it also be a pandemic flu outbreak, A.J. wondered. She recalled reading that the Coronavirus presents similar symptoms to the common cold or flu this episode of Coronavirus as Convid 19 is the third. Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) are all forms of Coronavirus that affected a lot of people,
The Center for Disease Control describes a Pandemic as a medical situation that happens when a new cold virus A appears, and it can easily contaminate people and move from one person to another in an organized and constant way. As a new strain, there is no effective treatment. Secondly, the human body will require time to grow a resistance, thus having the potential of affecting a wide range of people quickly. Factors like the appearance of the new virus, level of bodily protection, age, and the patient’s state of health increase the severity.
The doctor walked in to inform A.J. of the test result and the news that she will need to be kept in the hospital for a while to treat the difficulty in breathing symptoms and some indications of pneumonia seen in her x-ray result, and she also has influenza. A.J. felt relieved but worried at the same time because of what she knew about the flu. So far, there have been reports that in the U.S. alone, more than 17 million people have suffered from flu-related illnesses, with over 150,000 people hospitalized and 10,000 deaths within the season. The most at-risk group usually include people with weak immunity caused by an underlying disease such as a chronic disease, the elderly, pregnant women and young children especially those under the age of 5 as well as caregivers who are often in the frontline and in constant contact with those that are sick. Medical experts have identified diagnosis as one of the significant challenges against curtailing the flu disease because of the duration and type of tests required before commencing treatment.
Difference between seasonal flu and pandemic flu
One common factor among the different types of influenza, which can be annually or once in a decade or century, is that they affect the respiratory system, contagious in nature, and similar in symptoms. However, while the seasonal flu is well understood and managed, a pandemic flu takes time for a trend and body of knowledge to be gathered about the disease, and this often has dire consequences. While the Coronavirus has specific characteristics that are similar to pandemic flu, it lacks other traits that could make it qualify as a pandemic within the U.S. However, WHO had declared it a public health issue of international concern in January 2020.
Methods of Prevention
There is no known vaccine for the treatment of Coronavirus yet, in contrast, there is an approved vaccine against seasonal flu, which is readily available every year. Experts such as Dr. Syra Madad, Senior Director, System-wide Special Pathogens Program, NYC Health & Hospitals strongly advocates practicing good personal hygiene like hand washing. Dr. Mahad recently spoke at a panel discussion aimed at briefing the media on the virus threat and the state of city hospitals, among other issues, organized by the Center for Community Media (CCM) at the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY.
Other preventive measures from various sources include care of one’s health by getting the flu shot during the season,( especially among those that are most at risk), and eating nutritious meals. Specifically:
- Rest the body by getting enough sleep. Sleep deprivation often increases the body’s inability to build enough defenses against any intruder, which comes in the form of diseases.
- Reduce stress, seek information on how to manage stressful situations and cope with the various daily life challenges
Personal Hygiene-Hand washing
- Make hand washing a regular habit within the day
- When washing the hands, spend at least 20 seconds
- Use soap and rinse under running water
- While your hands are unwashed, avoid touching your eyes, mouth, and nose
- Use sanitizers when you can’t find anywhere to wash your hands
- Guard against close contact with people who are sneezing, coughing or generally sick;
- Avoid public places when you are sick, stay home and practice self- quarantine
- Regularly disinfect and clean any frequently touched objects and surfaces like doorknobs, keys
Nutritionists and dieticians have confirmed the importance of eating the right kind of meals and the role this plays, especially in building the bodies’ immunity against diseases. To nurture a healthy immune system, one must practice eating meals with the right amount of protein, calories, and reduce the consumption of processed foods that often lack the necessary minerals or vitamins the body requires. A Professional organization like the American Dietetic Association opines that healthy eating is a great way to boost immunity and prevent flu. Mainly, regimens that are high in vegetables, fruits, lean protein, whole grains, and contains low-fat dairy and more are more likely to supply the body with the right nutrients and other minerals required for a healthy functioning immune system. Other factors like age, lifestyle, existing medical conditions often lead to complications and need seeking professional advice in making the right dietary decision.
In conclusion, living a healthy life depends on having the right information and a willingness to adopt life-changing positive behaviors. At the same time, we await safe vaccines to prevent or treat various diseases, including the Coronavirus; the best approach is to take care of the controllable things. We urge persons to seek medical services despite your immigration status if you experience coronavirus-like symptoms. In New York over eleven cases have been identified.
Given the war on immigrants by the Trump Administration, immigrants are under tremendous stress and living in fear. That fear is real and can prevent persons, especially the undocumented from seeking medical attention. Undocumented individuals, fearful of being discovered and deported, may avoid diagnosis and care. According to Attorney Brian Figeroux of the Law Firm Figeroux & Associates, on the radio program called ‘Ask The Lawyer,’ he strongly recommends that “even if you are undocumented, you still need to go to the doctor or the hospital.” As the famous idiom goes, “A Stitch in Time Saves Nine.”