With the Coronavirus (COVID-19) epidemic showing little signs of abating in India, there is a great deal of fear and anxiety. Currently undergoing a 21-day lockdown, India is reporting more COVID-19 positive cases with each passing day. But that should not ring further alarm bells because this means more people are getting tested than earlier. The more people we test, the faster we can treat them and become more equipped to battle COVID-19.
Nearly two weeks ago, my friend from college, Kaushik Viswanath, a 30-year-old native of Chennai who has been working in New York City (NYC), USA, for the past few years, was struck by COVID-19. Fully recovered from the illness today, in an email interview from NYC, Kaushik talks about his experience with The Better India.
Edited excerpts from the interview:
1) When did you first notice that you may have symptoms of COVID-19?
I wondered if I was falling sick on Thursday 12 March, when I felt a slight irritation in my throat. On Friday 13 March, I developed a cough, and by the late afternoon, I had a low fever. At that point I knew I was definitely sick and had to keep away from my flatmate, and stay indoors.
2) When were you finally diagnosed with COVID-19? Any idea how you caught it?
On Sunday 15 March, when my fever was showing no sign of abating, I called an urgent care clinic to find out if they would give me the test. I was seen by a doctor, who asked about my symptoms (mild cough and persistent fever), if I had any underlying issues (asthma), and if I had come into contact with anyone who had tested positive for COVID-19 (I had not). He then first tested me for the flu, and when that came back negative, gave me a test for the coronavirus, and told me it would take 2-3 days to get my result. In the meantime, he asked me to keep taking DayQuil (paracetamol with a nasal decongestant and cough suppressant).
On Wednesday 18 March, I got a call from the doctor telling me that I had tested positive.
I’m not sure how I got it. I had been practising social distancing, but there were a few instances in the previous few days when I had been around other people. On Tuesday 10 March, I went out to dinner with some friends to meet a friend and her husband who were in town visiting from India, and the day after that, I went to a rock climbing gym nearby.
Both of these were bad decisions on my part.
3) Were you admitted into a hospital? What and how did your body feel then?
I was lucky not to have to be admitted to a hospital. My symptoms were never very severe. My cough went away after the first 3 days, and I didn’t have any other respiratory symptoms. I just had a fever that fluctuated between 99 and 102 degrees F, and occasional headaches. I have a history of catching respiratory infections and fevers, and this was certainly not as severe as past bouts of illnesses I have had. It was, however, one of the longest continuous bouts of illness I’ve had, lasting a full 10 days.
4) Did you feel scared at any point? What treatment did you receive?
I wasn’t scared, as the symptoms never got too severe. However, the persistence of the fever, and the fact that I wasn’t improving over the course of the 10 days, had me worried that at any point my symptoms could start to get worse. There was no treatment except to keep taking medication to try and keep the fever down.
5) What precautions did you have to take during quarantine?
Once I fell sick, I told my wife, who commutes between Syracuse (where she attends graduate school) and NYC, not to come back so I could avoid giving her whatever disease I had. Given that the number of cases in NYC is exploding and travel is not advisable right now, she has remained in Syracuse for the past several weeks. With the exception of going out to get tested one day, I have remained indoors, mostly in my room, since the day I fell sick.
I live with a flatmate and took strict precautions to attempt not to infect him, including wearing a mask whenever I stepped out of my room, washing my hands before touching anything outside the room, and using disinfectant wipes on surfaces I touched like tap and flush handles. My flatmate has luckily not fallen ill (although he did have a mild cough for a couple of days), so either I managed not to infect him, or he has been asymptomatic.
He has also been self-quarantining in our apartment since I fell sick. Now that I have recovered, according to the doctor’s guidelines, I can leave quarantine. However, since my flatmate never fell ill, we are unclear on when it will be okay for him to leave the apartment, since he could be an asymptomatic carrier.
6) How long were you under quarantine? When exactly did you finally recover?
I had been working from home and practising social distancing since Monday 9 March, even before I fell ill. But I have been properly under quarantine since Friday, 13 March, the day I knew I had fallen ill. On Sunday 22 March, I woke up with a mild fever, which quickly abated over the course of the day without my needing to keep taking paracetamol.
Since then, the fever has stayed down. Out of an abundance of caution, I have still not left the apartment, though the doctor told me I could leave quarantine after 10 days from the onset of symptoms plus 3 days after my symptoms disappeared (it has now been 4 days since my symptoms disappeared). Despite some initial plans, I am staying in quarantine for a few days longer.
7) People down with COVID-19 or those under solitary quarantine have often expressed a real sense of loneliness. How did you deal with it?
In some ways, I was more connected to friends and family than I am under normal circumstances. I passed the time with a lot of group video calls, and even watched Main Hoon Na and Om Shanti Om synchronously with a bunch of friends. I probably would have been lonely if I didn’t have the internet to keep me so connected to my friends and family.
8) What’s your current status now? Are you still under quarantine?
It has now been over four days since I recovered. I can technically leave quarantine, but I’m staying home for a few more days.
9) What do you think are the biggest misconceptions people have of COVID-19?
One of the most dismaying things I noticed in my city was the number of people who were out and about on the streets on the day I stepped out to get tested, many of them in groups, as well. By that point, people should have been taking the spread of the disease much more seriously. Of course, I can blame myself for not taking it more seriously myself in the days prior to my falling sick, and going out to meet friends and visit the climbing gym.
10) Finally, what advice do you have for folks in India?
Now, with the lockdown, I think there’s an adequate level of alarm in India about the virus. It did take some time to convince members of my family in India that this was a big deal, and now I’m mostly worried for the many vulnerable people who will be hurt by lockdown itself.
I guess one piece of advice I do have is that even under lockdown conditions, if you do fall sick, you’re likely to spread the disease to your family or people you live with. If you have the space in your home, keep to one room and avoid contact with other members of your household. Wear a mask, wash your hands thoroughly, and disinfect surfaces you touch if you do have to step out into common areas.
Once again, it’s imperative to note that the severity of each case is different. Always consult a qualified doctor, take all necessary precautions and stay indoors so that your chances of catching the infection remain low.
(Edited by Saiqua Sultan)