COVID-19 and Sickle Cell

Covid-19 is short for Coronavirus disease in 2019. It’s an infection caused by a virus known as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-Cov-2). It’s a newly identified virus that has not been previously seen in humans and it is highly contagious. Though it belongs to the same category of viruses as SARS Coronavirus (SARS-CoV) and Influenza Viruses. SARS-CoV-2 is a different strain with its own characteristics.

COVID-19 was first reported in Wuhan, China in December, 2019, and the outbreak has spread quickly across the world, making WHO to declare it a pandemic.

Wahun China (Photo credit: Google)
Dr. Tedros Adhanom, Director general of the World Health Organization.
(Photo Credit: Google)

COVID-19 Statistics

Worldwide- There are about 5.69million cases worldwide. With 2.35million recoveries and 356,000 deaths.

In Nigeria,

According to the NCDC, There are 8,344 confirmed cases with 5,710 active cases. 2,385 people have been discharged and we have had 289 deaths in Nigeria as of 27th of May, 2020. With Lagos having the most number of confirmed cases and deaths amounting to 3756 and 47, respectively.

With all these numbers, I’m sure you’re wondering, how did this many people get this virus? Why is it a Pandemic?

HOW DOES IT SPREAD?

Because it is a new virus, nobody has immunity to it, so everyone that comes in contact with it would get infected. It primarily spreads via respiratory droplets, this is when people cough or sneeze.

The droplets travel at a distance of 0-2meters (6feet). The beautiful thing about this virus is that it can survive outside the cells of the body. So, it can still thrive and be alive for hours to days on surfaces, such as Plastic, steel, wood, door nobs, car steering wheels, and so many other surfaces.

We touch these surfaces with our hands and, thereon, we touch our face, as the average human touches their face, 26times an hour, touching our mouth, eyes, and nose, (MEN), therein infecting ourselves, allowing the virus to gain access into our bodies. Majorly causing respiratory illness.

Who is Vulnerable?

Everyone is vulnerable to having the disease, but individuals over age 60 are also at the highest risk of developing a severe case of COVID-19 and also people living with Chronic Conditions like; Diabetes, Asthma, and other lung problems, Cancer, Hypertension, blood disorders like Sickle Cell e.t.c.

There are currently no reports about how susceptible pregnant women are to COVID-19 or about transmission of the virus through breastmilk.

What are the Symptoms?

Symptoms begin 2-14 days after exposure and most symptoms are mild. About 80% of people who get the virus typically recover without needing any hospital treatment. But, about 1 in 6people become very ill and develop breathing difficulties.

The symptoms include: Dry Cough, fever and tiredness, which are the most common. Other symptoms that are lees common and affect some patients include; body aches, headache, sore throats, recent loss of smell or taste.

More severe symptoms include; breathing difficulties/ shortness of breath, chest pain, abdominal pain, diarrhea, loss of speech, or movement. People that experience these symptoms should seek medical care immediately. (Call NCDC)

SICKLE CELL PATIENTS

Individuals with blood disorders such as Sickle Cell can have an increased risk of developing serious symptoms from COVID-19.

According to the Secured-SCD Registry, As at 22nd, May, 172 people living with Sickle Cell have been affected with COVID-19 with 14 people dead. More females (56.9%) being affected than males (41.86%) and the average age of infection being 29.75years.

What Precautions can be taken?

⁃ Avoid Crowded areas; please don’t go to bars, clubs, churches, or mosques.

⁃ Practice Social Distancing- at least 2 meters apart from the next person

⁃ Avoid going out. If you must, please wear a facemask at all times, even when talking, because people tend to put their facemasks on their chin when they want to talk. Please avoid this as much as possible. 

⁃ If you can, work at home. It is important that you inform your employer about your ailment and request to work from home if it is possible.

⁃ Keep in touch with your friends and loved ones using technology (i.e., your phone, laptops, internet).

Photo Credit: Instagram

Caregivers and Family members of SCD patients should take extra precautions to avoid bringing COVID-19 home.

⁃ They should wear their face masks when going out.

 ⁃ Clean and wash clothes once they get back.

 ⁃ Highly touched surfaces such as doorknobs, bathroom fixtures, and toilets, counters e.t.c. Should be cleaned with disinfecting wipes.

What should sick individuals do?

If symptoms are present and a diagnosis of COVID-19 is made, patients should follow these steps to prevent the spread;

  ⁃  Stay at home in a separate room not shared with others and isolate yourself.

⁃ Avoid public areas.

  ⁃ Avoid sharing personal items.

  ⁃Sanitize hands regularly.

⁃Cough and sneeze with tissues and dispose them properly.

  ⁃ Disinfect surfaces like phones keyboards, toilets, tables.

  ⁃ If symptoms start to get worse, then please call NCDC so that you would be evacuated to an isolation centre and you would be treated by professionals.

⁃ Use a face mask at all times.

Is there a treatment?

Oxygen therapy and is the major treatment intervention for patients with severe disease. And also mechanical ventilation which helps the patient breath when there’s respiratory failure.

Although, there are currently no vaccines available, but vaccine trials are ongoing and showing promising results.

KEEPING HEALTHY

Given the very unusual circumstances that shielding creates, it is important to be aware of ways to keep oneself healthy and fit as much as possible.

-Take fruits, vegetables,

-Do some light exercise (it is important not to be a couch potato). Walk around the house, jogging is also good.

-Keep in touch with loved ones; this helps with your mental health.

Written by: Doctor Becky Solomon

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