ConfrontingCOVID-19: Fact or fiction

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By Dr Tony Monda

IN a world where there is an escalating awareness of health issues increasingly accessible by internet technology (IT), where one has to sift intelligence between news, rumours, gossip and fabrications, it is difficult to separate fact from fiction.

COVID-19 has brought out the worst of society’s gossip.  

It is, however, too grave a pandemic to be clouded in complex medical terms, procedures or hearsay.  

What Zimbabwe and the rest of the world needs right now is readily accessible, proven and tested medical information and up-dated sources of intelligence that are essential to safeguard our citizenry and the rest of humanity from this world pandemic.

Almost all serious consequences of COVID-19 feature pneumonia.  

But what happens to people’s lungs when they get COVID-19?

According to a report in the Guardian, COVID-19 manifested late in 2019 as a cluster of pneumonia cases with an unknown cause.  

The cause of the pneumonia was then found to be a new virus with severe acute respiratory syndrome – COV-2 or SARS-CoV-a.

Now declared a world pandemic by the UN’s World Health Organisation (WHO), the majority of people who contract COVID-19 may suffer only mild cold-like symptoms; ranging from ‘sub-clinical’ – that is, those who have the virus but have no symptoms; those who are infected in the upper respiratory tract and have a fever, cough and milder symptoms like a headache and maybe conjunctivitis.  

These people with ‘milder’ symptoms may not be aware they are infected and can easily transmit the virus.

The common headache is a pain in the head caused by the dilation of cerebral arteries, muscle contraction and insufficient oxygen in the cerebral blood.

The largest group of people infected with COVID-19 are those with the same (but more severe) flu-like symptoms but are unable to work.  

A fourth group will develop severe illness that features pneumonia. 

Lungs that become filled with inflammatory material are unable to get enough oxygen to the bloodstream thus reducing the body’s ability to take in oxygen and expel carbon dioxide – resulting in pneumonia.

Also, according to WHO, about one person in six becomes seriously ill and develops difficulty breathing; nearly 80 percent of people with COVID-19 recover without needing any specialist treatment. 

COVID-19 is a major concern for governments worldwide and should not remain an idiopathic pandemic, but one that we are able to control and mitigate through improved public communication, awareness, research and comprehensive medical intelligence gathering, through well-structured channels of communication.

Ill-advised media information circulating primarily on social media can cause more confusion, loss of lives and even apathy regarding this pandemic.

Fear and ignorance are currently the overriding factors controlling people’s behaviour.

COVID-19 is a volitant air-borne virus that is capable of spreading rapidly amongst human beings.  

It is justifiably a pervasive pandemic causing much fear and speculation, particularly for the uninformed socially vulnerable and poor.  

The immensity and severity of this new pandemic cannot be taken lightly.  

For instance, a rumour circulated that lemons could cure the COVID-19 virus; as a result, lemons sold out at Mbare Musika during the weekend of March 20 and the price of lemons skyrocketed from ZWL$1 for two to ZWL$7 each while at supermarkets they sold at ZWL$9 each!

With Zimbabweans, by and large, traditionally disposed to believing in herbal medicinal cures, rumours that lemons or magaka (wild cucumbers) or mazhanje (wild loquats), prevent and/or cure COVID-19 is dangerously misleading to the public.  The common element in the afore-mentioned fruits is Vitamin C.

The recommendation for the consumption of vitamin-rich fruit and vegetables is not a cure for COVID-19, but may be seen as a deterrent for the flu-like symptoms associated with the virus.

Lemons (citrus limon), widely cultivated in warm tropical regions, produce a yellow oval fruit with juicy acidic flesh rich in vitamin C.  

Grapefruit (citrus paradis), a slightly bitter edible fruit, is similarly rich in citric acid.

Garlic (allium sativum), an Asian alliaceous plant with a strong odor and pungent taste made up of cloves rich in antibiotic properties and vitamins capable of inhibiting or destroying the growth of micro-organisms, especially bacteria, has also been found to inhibit the flu-like symptoms associated with COVID-19.

Vitamins are a group of substances essential for the normal functioning of metabolism in the human body that occur naturally in certain foods; insufficient supply of which results in a deficiency disease.

Economically, the implication of the communication of the virus outbreak on the Zimbabwean agricultural sector will have decisively negative effects, comparable to what occurred in neighbouring South Africa where restrictions on human movement in order to contain the spread of the virus has already led to significant declines in agro-exports to the Asian markets, particularly, China, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore and South Korea.

According to Trade Map, agro section, China, the epicentre of the virus outbreak, commands eight percent of global agricultural inputs that include tobacco from Zimbabwe and agro produce from other Southern African countries.

Japan, the sixth largest importer of agricultural produce from southern Africa, commands four percent of global agricultural imports, has been severely hampered from carrying out agro-trade, due to concerns over COVID-19 outbreak.

Superficial knowledge and unsound medical advice displaying a lack of thoroughness regarding epidemiology and prognostic suppositions can lead to fatal consequences for society if Zimbabwe is not fully aware of the severity and demographic pattern of this deadly virus.

So far, the involuntary shutdown has greatly affected the already ailing Zimbabwean industrial and commercial sectors as well as the public transportation system and the tourism sector which is already functioning below par.

There is no room for conjecture or the speculative conclusions that are currently circulating on social media with unsubstantiated evidence about the number of cases that have tested positive for COVID-19 until such a time that we can ascertain a prognosis of the disease that is approved by the WHO.

Given the air-borne nature of the virus, places of congregation as transitory as shopping centres, public transport, churches, bars, schools, restaurants, nightclubs, sadza vendors, markets and even barbeque stands and pool tables must be considered high-risk areas.

This calls to mind the Latin term: ‘Ignotum perignotius’ – which means an explanation that is more obscure than the subject to be explained – when people try to explain the unknown by means of adding the more unknown to a situation.

An outline covering of the symptoms of COVID-19 that are clearly explained is necessary and can be achieved through media and health conferencing giving accurate information of the virus and its prognosis is already well overdue for Zimbabwe.

COVID-19 manifests flu-like symptoms, such chills and fever, headache and general malaise that debilitate the body rapidly.  

Zimbabwe needs to develop its own resources and disseminate accurate information to counter this deadly pandemic.

Dr Tony Monda holds a PhD in Art Theory and Philosophy and a DBA (Doctorate in Business Administration) and Post-Colonial Heritage Studies. He is a writer, lecturer and a specialist post-colonial scholar, Zimbabwean socio-economic analyst and researcher. 

For views and comments, email: tonym.MONDA@gmail.com

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