COVID: 6 Steps To Take If You Suspect You Are Infected

The advancement of the omicron variant in several countries has caused an increase in the number of covid-19 cases diagnosed in recent weeks.

On January 4, the world broke the record for newly diagnosed infections: more than 2.4 million people tested positive in 24 hours.

But what to do if you have the typical symptoms of the disease?

Here are six basic guidelines to protect your health and that of the surrounding community.

1. Find the diagnosis

The doctor José David Urbaez Brito, president of the Brazilian Society of Infectious Diseases (SBI) of the Federal District of that country, highlights the importance of tests to adequately detect covid.

“Whenever symptoms of respiratory infection occur, such as cough, runny nose, sore throat, among others, it is essential to seek the correct diagnosis“, emphasizes.

In this case, the ideal is to undergo a test capable of detecting the coronavirus (or parts of it, as genetic material), such as antigen tests or the RT-PCR test.

These methods are also indicated if you have had contact with someone who suspects or has been diagnosed with covid in the last 14 days.

Antigen tests are available at a very low price (or for free) in many countries around the world. GETTY IMAGES

According to the website of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) of the United States, these tests still allow you to travel by plane and enter some establishments, in addition to being used in population studies and help control infections in places like schools and jobs.

Antigen tests are slightly less accurate, but generally give results in 15 to 30 minutes.

The RT-PCR test, on the other hand, is considered the gold standard for detecting the disease, although the report takes a few days to obtain, according to the US CDC.

If the result is negative (that is, you do not have covid), it is possible to resume your activities, following the basic precautions, such as wearing masks, avoiding crowds and getting vaccinated (if you have not completed two or three doses).

If the result is positive (which means you have covid), it is important to follow the basic guidelines detailed below.

2. You must isolate yourself

The transmission of the coronavirus occurs through droplets and aerosols of saliva that come out of the nose and mouth of an infected person and invade the organism of those who are in the same environment.

The best way to protect other people, therefore, is to avoid contact with them.

If you share a house with family and friends it is important that everyone wears good quality masks, especially when you are near them or in the same room.

If possible, try to stay away from other residents and do not share the same bathroom or personal effects such as cutlery, glasses, and towels.

Ideally, the sick person should stay in a room that they do not share with anyone else. GETTY IMAGES

There is currently controversy about how long this period of isolation should last among infected people.

On December 27, the US CDC changed its guidance to require that people with covid be isolated for just five days.

In other countries, such as the United Kingdom and Australia, the isolation period varies between seven and ten days, counted from the positive result of a test or the appearance of symptoms.

Dr. Sylvia Lemos Hinrichsen, SBI biosafety consultant, believed that the current situation requires some caution.

“With the advance of omicron and the increase in cases, it seems prudent to continue respecting this period of seven to 10 days,” he said.

Urbaez Brito agrees. “The recommendation to remain isolated for up to 10 days remains in force, as long as the person has no more symptoms on the ninth day.”

As the name suggests, isolation means not leaving the home at all; the only exception is doctor’s appointments or visits to hospital emergency care, if necessary.

3. Notify your close contacts

The third step is to call or text the people you have interacted with in the 14 days prior to your positive covid diagnosis.

Most likely, you were already infected before the initial symptoms (such as cough, sore throat, fever, malaise, and body aches).

Therefore, there is a non-negligible risk that you may have transmitted the coronavirus to these close contacts.

Students and teachers must be notified if any student has covid. GETTY IMAGES

When you let them know that you have covid, they can be more aware of the symptoms and get tested. If they also have the disease, they must be isolated, which prevents the creation of new chains of transmission in the community.

If you have children or are the tutor of a child or adolescent who is with covid, notify the school (if they attend face-to-face classes) so that the rest of the class, teachers and staff are also aware and take care of themselves.

It is also important to notify your bosses and the human resources department of the company where you work, especially if you had contact with another employee in the days before the diagnosis.

“In the midst of a pandemic, informing close contacts after testing positive is a responsible and ethical attitude, because it allows people to plan and be more attentive to their own health,” Hinrichsen said.

4. Control the symptoms

Most of the time, the initial complaints of covid, such as fever, cough, tiredness, sore throat, malaise, and diarrhea, tend to improve over time.

You should be aware of all symptoms during the period of isolation and seek professional help if they worsen (or new and unexpected manifestations develop).

“This care is essential, especially in the case of the elderly or patients with comorbidities,” Hinrichsen advised.

“An individual older than 60 years with diarrhea, for example, can become dehydrated or develop pneumonia due to accumulation of secretions in the lungs very quickly,” added the doctor.

If possible, the SBI consultant suggests that infected people have an oximeter at home.

The oxygen saturation must always be above 95%. GETTY IMAGES

This small device measures the amount (or saturation) of oxygen in the blood and can sound the early alarm of a lung complication before more serious COVID symptoms appear, such as shortness of breath.

“The oxygen saturation must be above 95%. If the person sees that this number is at 98% and begins to drop to 97%, 96%, 95% and 94%, this is already a warning to seek a health service“, he pointed.

“In addition to performing oximetry twice a day, it is necessary to go immediately to the emergency room if the patient with covid presents fever and severe muscle pain, especially after the sixth or seventh day of onset of symptoms,” added Urbaez Brito.

“In these cases, it is possible to perform an intervention with oxygen and some drugs, such as anti-inflammatories and anti-thrombosis therapies, which reduce the fatality rate,” added the infectologist.

5. Rest and don’t forget to hydrate

The specialists consulted by BBC News Brazil also advise caution in the face of advertisements for treatments and homemade recipes to “cure” covid.

The vast majority of these interventions have not even been evaluated in scientific studies and are not recommended by national and international health agencies.

Some drugs that rose to prominence since the start of the pandemic as so-called “early treatments”, such as hydroxychloroquine, ivermectin and nitazoxanide, have even been investigated but have not shown any efficacy against the coronavirus.

Currently there are antiviral drugs against COVID approved in some nations, but they are not available in most.

Staying well hydrated is one of the top recommended precautions for mild cases of covid. GETTY IMAGES

Faced with this scenario, The recommendation for anyone who has tested positive in the past few days and has mild symptoms is to rest and drink plenty of water.

“Intense hydration helps dilute cytokines (inflammatory molecules) and eliminate them via the kidneys,” Urbaez Brito explained.

If you have a fever, body ache, or headache, You can use over-the-counter medications to alleviate these discomforts, as long as you don’t have contraindications.

“The most common are paracetamol or dipyrone,” exemplified the infectologist.

But it is imperative to consult a doctor if these symptoms persist or worsen.

6. Get vaccinated after recovery

Vaccines are indicated even for those who have had covid, since they are a safe and effective way to stimulate the immune system and increase the level of antibodies.

But the application of the vaccine should not be done in people who have recently tested positive. In Brazil, for example, the guidance of the Ministry of Health is to count 30 days from the date of onset of symptoms (or the positive test result) to receive the dose at that time.

Vaccination is indicated even for those who have had covid. GETTY IMAGES

“If I have the coronavirus, my immune system is working to get rid of that infection. Because of that it will not be as effective in producing antibodies after vaccination. That is why it is important to respect this interval of one month.Hinrichsen explained.

Waiting this time is just an additional care to maximize the response of the immune system and ensure maximum protection against new covid pictures in the future.

And this recommendation applies to any stage of the vaccination schedule.

If the date has arrived for you to receive the first, second or third dose and you have covid, wait the recommended time before going to the health center.

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