I won’t lie, I am frightened. I am frightened because Kenya now has 4 confirmed cases of COVID-19. I am more frightened because I do not know how many more people have contracted it that haven’t presented themselves to hospitals. Initially, it seemed like an ‘outside Africa’ problem – how inaccurate a thought! The virus silently crawled into the continent and welcomed itself. As I write this blog, the world has 195 countries, 163 of which have confirmed cases of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). This new strain of the coronavirus family (which includes common cold) has spread to 84% of the world, killing more than 7,500 people and infecting almost 185,000 according to the WHO. That, my readers, is appalling!
How COVID-19 spreads.
Perhaps what is more frightening is the way (method) the virus spreads and the speed at which it spreads. According to the CDC, the virus is “thought to spread mainly from person-to-person ie:-
- Between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet).
- Through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.”
When we talk, laugh, sneeze or cough, itsy-bitsy droplets of either mucus or saliva are released into the air, where they disperse and/or settle where they please. They could land onto other people’s mouths or noses, or even onto surfaces that other people are likely to touch every so often eg, door handles of cars.
Now, lets say an infected person does any of the above mentioned actions while seated in an overcrowded matatu. He coughs once without covering his mouth. Droplets spread far and wide. He coughs twice, this time covering his mouth with the palms of his hands. Then the conductor asks for money. He gives a note. The conductor receives the note, then she gives it to another passenger because it fits their change. The conductor then licks the tip of her finger to count more notes and hands them to several other passengers. Remember our coughing guy, he alights at the next stop – so he stands, holds on to the headrest of his neighbour’s seat with one hand, then balances himself by holding on to the metal bar that’s usually in the aisle using the other hand. He walks away. Every point of contact made by that guy is a point of transmission. Insert other scenarios and realise how disaster brews!
Although not scientifically confirmed, it is thought that the virus can be transmitted within its incubation period. If this is true, containing the disease will be close to impossible because we won’t know who is infected and who is not.
All hope is not lost for Kenya.
Some of the worst hit countries include China, Italy, Iran and Spain. When the 1st cases were reported in these (and other) countries, no one thought it would take just 2 weeks for the situation to come from just bad to a very extreme version of worst.
In my view, Kenya’s response to the threats posed by the virus has been good. But it could have been better. I feel like GOK acted a little bit too late. Having already confirmed 4 cases, the next two weeks will be very important for the country. With our systems the way we know them, it is up to each one of us to protect our lives and our country.
Currently, the best way to ensure that you don’t contract the virus is by STAYING AT HOME. Staying at home has a number of benefits like:-
- It minimises the risk of exposure to the virus. It is for this reason that foreigners are not being allowed to come into Kenya. It is why you are being advised not to travel to other countries. It is why schools were closed. It is why religious gatherings and traditional ceremonies that bring many people together were banned indefinitely. If you are not an essential service provider like nurses, doctors, police, army etc, STAY AT HOME. If you absolutely must go out, like in the case of casual labourers, please limit your movement and take extra precautionary measures to protect yourself and your families.
- When the virus isn’t spreading because you have STAYED AT HOME, health workers strain less, and their capacity to focus on the already confirmed cases without getting overwhelmed increases. Consequently, the chances of patient survival also increase.
While contracting COVID-19 is far from a death sentence with about 81,000 total recoveries, no one should take the virus casually. Prevention is better than cure. It is wrong to assume that it will not get to you. To think that just because you have sanitised your hands you are safe. It could take your Grandma, or Grandpa, or Mom, Or Dad. Your kids could be infected, or even yourself. You could ‘bounce‘. I am pretty sure you don’t want that.
Finally, if you are not sure about information you want to share, kindly, the world beseeches you, DO NOT SHARE IT. VERIFY EVERYTHING. Sharing unverified information may cause people to panic. It may also mislead people into engaging in activities that may cause them to contract the virus even more.
If there has ever been a time when you were required to be a responsible citizen, it is this one.