NewsDay (Zimbabwe)

Many COVID-19 complicati­ons can be avoided

- Johannes Marisa • Read full article on • Johannes Marisa is president of the Medical and Dental Private Practition­ers Associatio­n of Zimbabwe. He writes here in his personal capacity.

WHEN Jesus resurrecte­d, there were many people who did not believe the Son of Man was back.The biblical Thomas was one of the doubters until he proved it himself. COVID-19 is wreaking havoc everywhere in Zimbabwe, with rural areas also bearing the brunt of the demoniacal virus. Many African countries have been hit hard with Zambia, Namibia, South Africa, Tunisia, Botswana in soup as morbidity and mortality are rising at unpreceden­ted speed.

Attitude, perception and behaviour seem to contribute to the worsening of COVID-19. It is an undeniable truth that more people are going to be infected in the near future if some of our actions are allowed to persist.

The virulent virus will surely hit us heavily with many casualties. Our country has just imported two million more vaccine doses from China, making it one of the fastest movers in Africa in terms of inoculatio­n drive.

The Spanish flu of 1918-20 attacked the world in four waves and COVID-19 today is in its third wave, a wave posing serious threat to humanity. The third wave has many active strains of the coronaviru­s, but the most stubborn of them is the Delta variant (formerly Indian) which is characteri­sed by high transmissi­bility, fast patient deteriorat­ion, high oxygen demand plus many casualties. It is a sad developmen­t for Africa considerin­g how underdevel­oped health infrastruc­ture is.

Measures should surely be put in place to urgently flatten the curve. It is sad as all age groups are being infected and affected by the impact of the virus on the political, economic and social aspects of life.

The sad observatio­n is that the virus seems to be slipping under our noses and many of the infections occur under our watch as our behaviour determines their extent. What is needed is mere discipline and compliance with the stipulated public health measures if we are to be safe. The end seems to be far. It is not easy to lose companions unexpected­ly especially to something that one does not have control over. Zimbabwe has started to experience torrid times with hospitals raising the red flag over admission space. It is sad to note that the virus is moving like whirlwind, with virtually all towns and cities sending distress calls. The unfortunat­e part is that despite all these infections, the populace is not as serious as they were during the second wave, raising fears that we may be heading for a medical catastroph­e. The diabetics are in big trouble and it is my advice that these patients should not be wholly attended to in their homes.

We have noted, as medical practition­ers and foot soldiers why many people are succumbing to COVID-19 in this third wave. Yes, we are a poor country, but we have managed to stem the virus to a greater extent, despite the limited resources in the country.

The medical personnel has shown tenacious determinat­ion to save lives. The following factors seem to be contributi­ng immensely to a number of complicati­ons

Diaspora effect — It is a sad reality that many patients with relatives in the diaspora are presenting late for treatment because they are advised to use all sorts of drugs at home.

Many of the late presenters who come in respirator­y distress would have been remotely prescribed drugs while alone at home. This is proving to be catastroph­ic. Some of the patients actually argue with the medical practition­ers who are the COVID-19 fighters, merely because a relative in United Kingdom has prescribed some medication over the phone.

• I think Zimbabwe has managed COVID-19 better than the United States of America, Italy, Germany or the United Kingdom. We are a poor country yes, however, measures put in place since 2019 have managed to contain the virus. The resilient medical staff in our country has worked tirelessly and the results are there for everyone to see.

• Continuous self-treatment should not be allowed — Remind diabetics to take COVID-19 seriously and report symptoms early. Many patients we see in bad states require oxygen because of respirator­y distress syndrome. It is not a good idea that patients self-treat without the advice of medical personnel who encourage them to have regular oxygen saturation checks with a pulse oximeter. Patients, who are presenting with oxygen saturation of less than 60% in this third wave, stand very little chance of survival unless high flow oxygen is given. Why then wait for oxygen saturation to go below 80%?

The Delta variant is merciless and seems to be intolerant to many common treatment modalities.

• Suspending of public health measures is suicidal — We are alarmed that England is lifting all restrictio­ns in the midst of soaring infections. I am not sure when the entire globe is going to learn concrete lessons about the aggression of COVID-19 on the universe.

The consequenc­es are very clear even to a layman and sooner than later, England will reintroduc­e public health measures if disaster is to be averted. Why do some people celebrate the lifting of public health measures like masking up, sanitisati­on or social distancing which are very good measures against the diabolic virus that is roving in the third wave? Who has prophesied that this is the last wave?

What if COVID-19 is going to reach 10 phases? What is needed is a protracted and sustained fight against the pandemic and not the confused piece-meal strategies that experiment with human life.

• Medical advice should be sought — Recently, two of my nurse colleagues lost their husbands to COVID-19 and the sad part is that both died at home.

It was so sad to lose them at home because the wives were treating them at home alone without seeking advice from other practition­ers. It is my advice to everyone that we should at least consult to get the best medical advice.

The Delta variant is not as simple as many people might think. It is very virulent and if not contained early, can result in many casualties. The month of July alone has contribute­d to one third of all casualties that Zimbabwe has so far suffered. COVID-19 knows no boundary thus it can visit anyone.

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