By Dr. Sonia Nixon
Since January 2020, the world turned upside down when the World Health Organisation (WHO), announced that there was a new Coronavirus that was given the name SARS-CoV-2 which was causing severe respiratory illness and leading to death. This disease which is called COVID19 started in China and by early February had spread to most countries in the world and thus declared a “pandemic” by the WHO. By the end of April, over 200,000 persons died of a very misunderstood disease, which was never seen before.
Coronaviruses have been known enemies to human health for a long time. For example, this group of structures are known to cause the common cold. Viruses are not able to live and multiply on their own so they must find a living organism for those purposes. They attach themselves to sites, on or within the bodies of their hosts, penetrate their cells and use the opportunity to multiply. The host becomes a “copy machine” for the virus and millions of new ones are produced. The virus causing COVID 19 is especially attracted to the respiratory tissues, entering the human body through the nostrils and eyes, in air and droplets from the respiratory systems of already infected people. The presence of large amounts of viruses can cause infection in the bodies of those lacking in the ability to defend themselves. Our senior relatives, people with chronic or long lasting disease like high blood pressure, heart problems, stroke and diabetes, those with cancers and other diseases like HIV/AIDS, often have weakened immune system and fall victim to disease. COVID 19 was virtually unknown until its appearance in Wuhan, China, and caught the health professionals unprepared to deal with the severe clinical situations that presented thereafter.
The majority of people who catch the virus may show NO sign of illness but another group may have fever, cough, headaches, muscle and joint pain, sore throat and fatigue. The worse symptoms occur in people with low resistance to the disease; they develop severe breathing problems like shortness of breath, strokes and heart attacks, kidney and liver problems. We know that being of advanced age and having other chronic diseases like hypertension, diabetes, heart failure and respiratory diseases like asthma, put people at greater risk for contracting the virus and developing severe COVID 19. The older people are, and the more diseases they have, the greater the likelihood of extreme disease and death.
The government took early action to prevent it entering our islands by closing our air and sea ports. Although this was not completely successful and some infected visitors arrived, suspected individuals were sent into quarantine and asked to remain isolated at home while being monitored for any symptom. People are advised to wash their hands thoroughly and to cough into a tissue or their sleeves to avoid spreading the virus to others. Masks are now being worn to prevent inhaling the virus from droplets or from the air and to avoid transmission and infection to unsuspecting, vulnerable people. Social distancing means that people remain at least six feet from each other and preferably within their homes with their families. Further, to prevent social contact and to reduce the potential for the spread of the virus, all activities where large volumes of people shared intimate spaces were suspended. We could no longer attend Mass or funerals. Schools were closed, shopping and entertainment stopped and curfews were imposed to limit our movements. All these measures were implemented for the prevention of the spread of the virus which needs to be housed in a living organism to sustain itself and multiply. In other words, once the virus does not find a living host, it dies. So distancing ourselves from each other, prevents the spread and saves lives.
The Effects of COVID19
Each day, various messages are shared in the media about the health effects of COVID 19. Sadly, we have been bombarded with news of death and despair, of negative outcomes and loss in families and among our friends. We are eager to listen to the update on the positive cases in Grenada, and probably wonder whether there will be severe disease and deaths and if our health system possesses the capacity to manage the potential demand for its services.
Many people have had to change their lifestyles as social isolation eliminated the independence of and support to our elderly, and forced parents to become teachers. Loneliness has become the perilous experience of our seniors and single people who live alone. Daily paid people face significant challenges to provide a livelihood for their families. This is worse in the case of single parents. Our young people have difficulty changing their social habits and often transgress the rules. However, since youth are the ones most likely to have COVID 19 without showing signs of illness, there is a special call to practise responsibility lovingly for the well-being of our susceptible relatives. While those with chronic illnesses still have access to primary care offered at clinics, we may neglect to practise all the behaviours that helped maintain good health in the past. Unavailability of healthy foods may lead to consumption of commodities that are high in salt, refined carbohydrates and simple sugars, as well as trans fats that are easily available and more affordable but cause obesity in our children and loss of control of diabetes and high blood pressure. We must remember that COVID 19 is another disease. We must remember that we must not be distracted by the drama in the media that lead us to forget self-care and suffer from anxiety, stress and depression.
This contributes to:- changes in sleeping and eating habits, confused feelings, poor decision making abilities, sadness and despair, consuming alcohol and other drugs, thoughts of death and unusual tearfulness, and poor coping abilities even in the face of simple challenges.
“We are in this together” are the words echoed daily in this COID19 crisis. It is everywhere and everyone has a battle, but this is also a call to Christian charity and evangelization. We must look out for one another:- for the single unemployed mother or grandmother with many mouths to feed; for the elderly who will always be dependent on the younger and stronger parishioners; for the poor whose need is even greater now; for our priests and religious who live far away from their families; for our young people whose hopes are dimmed by the concern for their academic and personal future; and for those affected in any way by this COVID 19.
Let us remember the frontline workers, political and professional leaders and the many people who only appear to have it together as they reach out selflessly to their needier brothers and sisters.
COVID-19 disease is real and affects everybody. It has brought about unprecedented change and we are unlikely to return to our lives as we have known. We must embrace these life changes with a sense of peace, appreciate this opportunity to reflect quietly and consider the path for our lives while we cope with challenges of this frightening disease. In our journey to hope amid this confusion, we will strive to stay healthy by collaborating with our health care providers, making healthy food and lifestyle choices, and utilizing all the resources available. We must be mindful of the goodness that abounds, and reflect on God’s awesome presence and His promises before we are drawn into psychological and social darkness. Each must seek or offer help where needed so we may emerge whole and wholesome.
But most of all we must protect ourselves, families and communities: practise social distancing, wear a mask, wash hands thoroughly, cough into our covered elbows, practise good nutritional habits, exercise and manage stress, recognise when we are not coping, and keep our spiritual lives intact.