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Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Does Covid-19 still exist in The Gambia?

By Alfusainey Ceesay 4th year medical student

Does corona virus still exist in the country? Is the corona virus a cause for concern in The Gambia? If corona virus exists in the country, why has it not taken its toll on our population like elsewhere?

The novel corona virus which was first identified in December 2019 in China was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization in March 2020. Since then, the virus eluded all border checks as it transverses all over the world infecting as many people as it could. The Gambia registered its first Covid-19 case on the 17th March 2020. It was greeted with dysphoria as fear of it overwhelming our healthcare system heightened with every day that passes, but fortunately for our healthcare system, at that time, the population believed in the existence of the corona virus in the country and their response was a total compliance to the Covid-19 preventive guidelines. But few months down the line, at the brink of a second wave of infection, compliance levels have plummeted from the closure of places of worship to the throwing of concerts and political rallies. Many people have begun to develop comfort in the midst of the pandemic; they began to let their guards down and doubting the existence of the corona virus in the country in the first place, let alone, the mortalities it reportedly caused. The assumption that the corona virus killed only westerners began growing among the masses and they backed their theories with questions like: Why isn’t Covid-19 taking its toll on population like in the west?

The very fact that the existence of Covid-19 still remains disputed among a number of Gambians leaves much to be desired as a second wave of Covid-19 infection sets into motion. It is widely known that for Covid-19 to be defeated, concerted efforts including the full participation of the general public is required. For this reason, this piece summarily goes through the course of progression of the disease and brings forth reasons why you should believe corona virus is real.

How does one get Covid-19?

?          Covid-19 is spread from person to person mainly through coughing, sneezing, talking and breathing.

?          It could also be transmitted via droplets; respiratory secretions from coughing or sneezing that land on surfaces. Coming into contact with such surface, and touching your nose or mouth may lead to an infection.

?          Another way through which covid-19 is transmitted is tiny suspended liquid droplet called aerosol containing the virus.

Wearing a nose mask or face shield reduces the risk of contracting the virus or prevents you from infecting your close ones if you are infected.

Symptoms

It takes 2 to 14 days from an exposure to the corona virus to the manifestation of the symptoms.

?          Common Symptoms include: fever, headache, inability to smell and taste, dry cough, sore throat, pneumonia, respiratory distress syndrome, poor appetite, diarrhoea, etc etc.

?          Severe symptoms include: difficulty breathing or shortness of breath, persistent pressure or pain in the chest, bluish lips or face. 

Although most symptoms are mild and self limiting, severe symptoms require immediate medical attention.

Do symptoms always show?

No. The term asymptomatic is used to describe such patients. Despite testing positive to the virus, asymptomatic patients do not exhibit symptoms and even though, they remain contagious and capable of spreading the disease and causing severe complications to other people.

At this point, people with little or no knowledge of disease processes may argue that they aren’t sick and speculate that the corona virus is propaganda by the authorities to attract funds. Of course, you aren’t sick, but you are a risk to those around you as you are a potential spreader of the Covid-19 virus. Hence the need to be withdrawn from the public till the virus is cleared from your body.

The most probably reasons why some people are asymptomatic include:

?          The innate ability of their immune system to engage and clear out the virus before it takes a grip on your body. People with competent immune system and no underlying disease conditions are less likely to develop severe complications from a covid-19 infection. Contrary, immunosuppressed and or patients with underlying disease conditions are at a high risk of developing very severe complications from a Covid-19 infection; the virus may exacerbate an already existing chronic condition and possibly leading to the death of the person.

?          Viral load: if the exposure to the virus is a small dose or small amount, it is easier for the immune system to neutralize a small volume of virus quickly and efficiently before the virus goes on to replicate man copies of itself. It is synonymous to giving the immune system a head start and gives it an edge.

Some other complications of the corona virus

Compared to other viruses, our body reacts differently to the corona virus. An exaggerated response of our immune system is observed in a good number of Covid-19 patients. There is what is called a cytokine storm; cytokines are mediators in the immune system and an over production of those leads to a cytokine storm which leads to collateral damages such as very severe fever fatigue, joint pain and  scarring of the lungs which could lead to long-term breathing problems.

Why are our Covid-19 figures lower?

?          During the first wave of infections, there was an unquestionable high level of public commitment to flattening the curve and of course it did pay off. So it could be said that concerted public efforts did prevent the infections from going out of control.

?          Age distribution: Covid-19 has a well documented severe complications in old age folks (65), young folks have a better ability of fighting off the virus. Gambia has a youthful population with about two thirds of the population under 30. A lower covid19 complication figures would certainly not be unexpected.

?          According to the BBC, a study conducted by researchers in the University of Maryland in the US found a correlation between temperature, humidity and latitude, and the spread of covid-19. The lead researcher Mohammad Sajadi said that the virus spreads better when temperature and humidity drops. This could also account for the low covid-19 figures in The Gambia has a sub-tropical climate with all year-round sunshine and temperature range of 29*C to 35*C.

Prevention

?          Wear a mask.

?          Frequent washing of hand with chlorine water, water and soap or alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

?          Avoid touching your nose.

?          Cough or sneeze into your elbow or tissue paper and discard it appropriately

?          Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces such as phones, doors etc.

?          Avoid being in crowds.

?          Vaccination

Conclusion

The development of effective vaccines in recent months has been a big game changer in the fight against Covid-19. Vaccines are the most effective way to prevent an infectious disease as the body acquires resistance against the virus through vaccination. Vaccines prep our immune cells to recognize, react appropriately and efficiently against the virus. The Gambia recently rolled out its vaccination campaign, the vaccines have been declared safe and effect by the world health organization so please do not hesitate to be inoculated. With everyone vaccinated and immune to the corona virus, the pandemic would be history.

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