As the newspapers, airwaves and social media are flooded with reports and announcements about the global COVID-19 pandemic, it can be hard to know what to do if you experience symptoms, and what to expect if you require quarantine and treatment. Mada Masr has put together a guide to help readers navigate the pandemic in Egypt.
Have you contracted the coronavirus?
First, take your temperature with a thermometer. If your temperature is 38 degrees Celsius or above, and you are exhibiting other symptoms such as a dry cough, headache, fatigue and shortness of breath, this is an indication that you may have regular influenza or that you have contracted the virus that causes the COVID-19 disease.
If you have returned from a country with confirmed coronavirus cases or have come into contact with anyone who has tested positive for the coronavirus, there is a chance you may have contracted the virus. However, it is still possible that you are suffering from a common cold, the flu or seasonal allergies.
What should someone do if they think they have contracted the coronavirus?
Call one of the hotlines set up by the Health Ministry: 105 or 15335. A specialist will ask about your symptoms and when they began, your medical history and whether or not you have recently visited a place with confirmed cases, or came into contact with someone who has tested positive for the virus.
After answering all of these questions, the specialist will determine whether you are suspected to have contracted the virus and should self-quarantine at home for 14 days, or if you are suspected to have contracted the virus and need to go to the hospital for testing. In the latter case, the Health Ministry will send you an ambulance with a medical team to accompany you to a designated hospital for diagnosis where samples will be collected to conduct the coronavirus test while your family stays at home until you get the results.
What hospitals are designated to quarantine suspected cases?
The Health Ministry has designated the following hospitals for coronavirus referrals, diagnosis, sample collection and results. These differ from the four hospitals that are designated for quarantining patients who have tested positive for the virus.
|#||Governorate||Hospital||In-patient beds||ICU beds||Pediatric ICU beds|
|3||Cairo||15th of May Hospital||100||20||0|
|4||South Sinai||Taba Hospital||12||2||0|
|7||Port Said||Port Fouad Hospital||36||9||3|
|8||North Sinai||Bir al-Abd Hospital||80||25||4|
|9||Suez||Suez Health Insurance Hospital||93||8||4|
|10||Ismailia||Abou Khalifa Hospital||98||13||0|
|11||Red Sea||Qusair Hospital||64||10||0|
|12||Damietta||Ras al-Bar One Day Hospital||12||5||0|
|13||Daqhalia||Timay al-Imdid Hospital||160||10||4|
|14||Assiut||Abou Tig Hospital||110||18||8|
|15||Kafr al-Sheikh||Baltim Hospital||113||18||0|
|16||Sohag||Sohag Educational Hospital||129||9||0|
|17||Gharbiya||Zefta Hospital||195||39 (plus 4 for burns)||9 (plus 2 incubators)|
|18||New Valley||Kharga Hospital||70||11||0|
|19||Monufiya||Ashmoun One Day Hospital||56||4||0|
|20||Sharqiya||Faqous Emergency Hospital||27||16||0|
|22||Qena||Qena Health Insurance Hospital||44||5||0|
|23||Beheira||Damanhour Respiratory Hospital||160||17||0|
|24||Beni Suef||Beni Suef Specialized Hospital||190||38||7|
|26||Aswan||Aswan Specialized Hospital||121||24||0|
What do coronavirus tests involve? How can you get one?
Testing for the virus requires nose and throat swabs, in addition to a blood sample. The three samples are then analyzed with polymerase chain reaction (PCR) technology, which reveals whether or not the virus is present in the blood and calculates its viral load and activity.
PCR is a well-known technology used on hepatitis C patients to measure the viral load in the bloodstream and track it throughout the course of treatment.
The difference between the hepatitis C and coronavirus tests is the chemical that is added to the blood, nose and throat samples. This chemical is currently only available in central labs overseen by the Health Ministry. Patients with symptoms who are elderly, suffer from chronic diseases, in critical condition, or have been in contact with someone who has tested positive all receive priority for testing.
Why doesn’t the state test people who aren’t showing symptoms?
Government hospitals and the Health Ministry’s central labs have refused to conduct tests on anyone not showing symptoms in order to conserve stocks of the chemical needed for the test, officials have said.
There are five main steps you can take to avoid contracting the virus:
What happens if you test positive for the coronavirus?
It takes between 12 and 24 hours to determine via PCR technology whether a patient has contracted the virus. This could be delayed for an additional 48 hours for patients in governorates far from Cairo, where the Health Ministry’s central labs are located.
If test results come back positive, do not worry — your treatment will be directly monitored by state agencies as well as the World Health Organization (WHO). Moreover, all details related to how you contracted the virus, your symptoms and how well you are responding to the treatment protocol will be monitored by scientists and researchers who are working to find a cure for the virus.
This might seem overly upbeat for somehow who has just contracted a virus that has no cure. But doctors treating patients in China monitored the effectiveness of certain medications in treating the virus, and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends these medications to treat patients until a specific drug is found. These medications – or the treatment protocol, as it is known – have contributed to the recovery of over 60,000 patients worldwide.
Where can you get these medications?
As soon as test results come back positive, patients are transferred — based on proximity — to one of four quarantine hospitals designated by the Health Ministry for coronavirus patients across the country. The four hospitals are: Nagila in Marsa Matrouh, Abu Khalifa in Ismailia, Isna in Luxor and Agami in Alexandria. Once at the hospital, the severity of the symptoms will determine the type of treatment that is administered.
If symptoms of COVID-19 are limited to a high fever and dry cough, 10 days of treatment under doctor supervision at the quarantine hospital is required. The treatment includes chloroquine, an anti-malarial drug, along with Tamiflu, an antiviral drug used to treat several types of influenza, with the dosage determined by a physician.
But if symptoms are more severe, such as pneumonia or shortness of breath, three types of treatments — malaria and influenza medication, as well as a cortisone treatment —are administered over the course of 25 days.
What happens after a patient finishes treatment?
After receiving the appropriate treatment for your condition, you will undergo another round of testing. Additional blood samples and swabs from the nose and throat are collected and tested. If the results keep coming back positive, you get retested every three days until the results are negative.
However, a negative test result does not mean you are immediately allowed to leave the quarantine hospital. In order to leave quarantine, patients must test negative at least two consecutive times 48-hours apart. This is why the Health Ministry’s daily count includes a column for “cases that went from positive to negative” and another for “recovered cases that have left the hospital.”
What groups are most at risk?
According to the CDC, the elderly are most at risk from the coronavirus.
The death rate among people over 80 years old in China who tested positive for the coronavirus so far is 15 percent. By contrast, the death rate among people under 50 years old is less than one percent.
While there is no evidence that the elderly are more susceptible to contracting the COVID-19 virus than younger people, health experts believe that contracting the virus is a life-threatening risk for those 60 and above. The risk increases with the presence of other health complications, which are attributed to immune systems weakening with age, according to The New York Times.
Other people at risk include those who suffer from chronic conditions, such as heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and lung disease, as well as pregnant women.
How does the state handle the bodies of patients who die after contracting COVID-19?
In order to prevent transmission of the virus, patients who die at the quarantine hospital are not buried in accordance with Islamic or Christian religious rituals. Bodies are placed in a leather shroud, then wrapped in two layers of cloth and placed inside a sterilized box in an ambulance. Only one family member is allowed to attend the burial, and funerals are not allowed at cemeteries in order to prevent further transmission.
There is no need to panic. The coronavirus death rate may be less than one percent. While the WHO puts it at 3.4 percent, they calculate this figure simply by dividing the number of deaths by the number of confirmed cases. But in all likelihood, there are many cases that go undiagnosed, which would make the death rate less than the official number.
We put together this guide to help readers sort through the confusion and to clarify that recovery chances are much higher than the probability of death. So, once again, do not panic. Stick to the preventive measures — stay home as much as you can, and enjoy reading, watching some movies or TV series in the meantime.