COVID-19 second wave: How we can reduce deaths in Zim

guest column:Johannes Marisa

THE second wave of COVID-19 has seen more misery and tribulation for many people in the world.

The world continues to quiver with the United States of America still topping the list of both morbidity and mortality. European countries like United Kingdom, Italy, Germany are under serious attack with daily deaths of more than 1 000 apiece.

Africa seems to have been spared to a greater extent although South Africa is under serious attack with average daily deaths of more than 500 people in the last 5 days. Zimbabwe, like Zambia and Mozambique, has seen a stead rise in cases and deaths during the past week with Monday and Tuesday recording a total of 117 deaths.

Everyone agrees with me that the second wave is more nocuous than the first one.

The wave is characterised by quicker complications, a higher number of hospital admissions, higher demand for oxygen, sky-rocketing cases and higher mortality. There is no cure for COVID-19 and in many instances, death arises from the secondary effects of the virus.

Questions are being asked if there is anything that can be done in order to reduce mortality. The medical professionals, who are the foot soldiers in the COVID-19 fight, have noted with concern that many people who have succumbed to the virus in the last few days in Zimbabwe have more or less the same presentations.

The following should be noted seriously if we are to reduce mortality in the country:

• The second wave of COVID-19 calls for further action beyond self-isolation. While it was easier to self-isolate during the first wave, there is need to have intermittent medical checks especially during the first two weeks of illness.

It is thus imperative that patients be checked by medical professionals for sugar levels, blood pressure, pulse, hydration status.

If there are problems, then corrective action will be taken early in order to avoid complications.

Low-resource countries like Zimbabwe should advocate for a cheaper treatment model, “treat-early-to-avoid-complications” that seeks to treat patients early to avoid complications.

Many Western countries have employed the attend-the-complicated-cases model which seems to have proven to be futile.

The chances of survival with desaturations of less than 50% on oxygen therapy alone are very slim. Silent hypoxia has been one serious problem which is detected on routine oximetry.

For those who can afford to get pulse oximeters, make sure your saturations are more than 90% on free air.

Consult your clinicians if you witness bizarre saturation levels.

Advise even friends and relatives to seek professional medical care to avert disaster.

• Early treatment based on the available treatment guidelines seems to bring about very good prognosis. Attending to COVID-19 within 7 days of presentation has seen a lot of patients recovering without complications.

Those that I have seen with a respiratory distress syndrome and were in need of either oxygen therapy or ventilation, reported to have been exhibiting symptoms for more than 10 days while they were at home.

Although home-based therapies are cheaper and easier, so many complications have been traced to such therapies if medical intervention is not taken.

Some patients have sustained inhalational burns from prolonged steaming.

There is another cheap talk of snuff or bute which is said to clear blocked airways. Such social media talk is not only detrimental to health but also suicidal. The nation requires responsible talk during this difficult time of the COVID-19 attack.

The medical professionals, both public and private, are trying their best to contain and mitigate against the virus.

•Disinformation should be curbed. Many people have been forced to believe that once you have COVID-19 infection, then no one will want to attend to you.

Many hospitals have been painted black yet they are providing service. I have noted the negative perception about our public hospitals and it is not a secret that both Parirenyatwa and Sally Mugabe Central hospitals are taking in COVID-19 patients.

Although sometimes the staff may be naturally overwhelmed as the hospitals are national referral centres, many people are being served and discharged.

Whoever peddles lies that medical professionals are not doing their best in Zimbabwe is surely a liar. Everyone is on their feet as we try to contain the virus.

• More health education should be availed to the people as there are some communities that are still ignorant of the obvious symptoms of COVID-19 infections.

I have witnessed funerals in some rural areas where it is a taboo to wear masks, where hand shakes are still the norm.

We do not want this stubborn virus to visit our rural people as many of them stay in places far away from health institutions.

With many areas now reporting flooding, accessibility to health institutions becomes a challenge. Protect our mothers and fathers please.

Prevention is better than cure. Spread the correct message.

Your health begins and ends with you. Let us all do what we can to curb the spread of this virus. Low-resource countries like ours call for a treat-early-to-avoid-complications model.

This seems to work better than the treat-the-complicated-cases model. Together, we will fight COVID-19. We will never surrender as medical professionals!

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