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Health & Fitness

Coronavirus: When should I be tested?

A health professional holds a swab test for the
A health professional holds a swab test for the Covid-19 at a drive through testing site outside the Lancet Laboratories facilities in Johannesburg, South Africa on March 19, 2020. PHOTO | MARCO LONGARI | AFP  

As Covid-19 continues spreading globally, an infectious disease specialist talks to BDLife about the symptoms, testing and social distancing.

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SYMPTOMS

What body temperature is normal?

A normal body temperature ranges between 36 and 37 degrees Celsius depending on the time of day. If a person has Covid-19 infection, the temperature can be as high as 39 degrees Celsius. However, even temperatures of 37.8 degrees Celsius can signal coronavirus infection.

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How do I know that I have shortness of breath?

Shortness of breath does not mean that you experience difficulty in breathing like when one has a stuffy nose. It means that you can breathe normally through the mouth, but you experience shortness of breath when walking up a flight of steps, yet previously this was not the case.

If I have symptoms should I walk into a hospital or call?

No, unless you are very sick that you need to be hospitalised. If not, let them know ahead of time. Some hospitals, including Aga Khan will have a special place for evaluation that allows other patients and staff to be kept safe and calling ahead of time helps them accomplish that.

Is it true that four out of five people spread Covid-19 when they don't have symptoms?

This is a myth. The first case of asymptomatic transmission in Germany turned out to be wrong and that patient was symptomatic.

In China, transmission was mainly from symptomatic patients who cough it up and have high viral quantities. Thus, although asymptomatic transmission occurs, it is not a major driver in the epidemic.

QUARANTINE AND ISOLATION

What is physical/social distancing?

The concept of social distancing was borrowed from other outbreaks such as the 1918 influenza pandemic. Cities which limited large gatherings had fewer influenza cases.

Since Covid-19 spreads in a manner similar to that of influenza, the same strategy might work. It is because the virus is spread primarily by respiratory droplets that are produced when coughing. The droplets quickly drop to the ground or surface or on another person so a one-meter distance is sufficient to protect yourself.

Which activities should physical distancing apply to?

This typically refers to public settings, especially in closed spaces. The risk should be minimal when outside and walking. Within households, physical distancing is appropriate when one person is infected and trying to prevent transmission within the house. This may be hard to do but should still be done when there are elderly people or those with pre-existing conditions such as heart disease, lung disease and kidney disease.

How far should I be from someone?

One metre apart.

What is self-quarantine?

This means separating yourself from others even when one has no symptoms, but have been exposed and are at risk. Right now, the Ministry of Health, has asked all those who have travelled or come into contact with an infected person to self-quarantine for 14 days.

What practical steps should I take when on self-quarantine at home?

If watching TV all day bores you, start a new book you have been waiting to read. Otherwise, watch for symptoms and if mild, continue staying away from others until three days after recovery. If you are very sick, go to the hospital but let the Accident and Emergency team know you are coming . Also wear a mask.

What is isolation?

Isolation refers to separating yourself from others when you have symptoms that may be due to Covid-19. This may be done at home when the symptoms are mild or at a health facility when severe.

COVID-19 TESTING:

Who should be tested for coronavirus?

Priority is given to patients with severe symptoms such as high fever and persistent coughs, older people and those with heart, kidney and lung disease. Others include those who have been exposed to Covid-19 such as healthcare workers.

I travelled back into the country this month, do I need to be tested for coronavirus now?

Only if you have symptoms. Even then, there is no medical reason if you are mildly ill.

My children are coming for holidays, should they be tested?

Testing should be done after symptoms develop. In addition, Covid-19 is commonly mild in children so there is no medical reason why most should be tested.

I have a cough, should I be tested?

If mild, just stay home and wait until recovered.

Should I be tested if I am on self-quarantine?

Only if symptomatic. The test is usually negative when people are asymptomatic and incubating the infection, so wait until symptoms develop.

Prof Adam is the chair of infection control task force at Aga Khan University Hospital


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