An oncology certified registered nurse, preventive health care educator and adjunct nursing professor in Houston Texas, United States of America, Edith Declan, in this interview with DAYO OJERINDE, shares her experience in the frontline of COVID-19, among other issues
What has been your experience being a frontline health worker in the United States of America?
Working as a frontline health care worker has constituted a tremendous opportunity for me to contribute towards curbing the spread and impact of the coronavirus.
Despite not working directly with COVID-19 patients, we have employed every measure necessary for protecting our immunocompromised cancer patients whose bodies are not fit to withstand infections such as the COVID-19.
We have employed a lot of personal protective equipment, regular testing, hand hygiene, social distancing and the appropriate use of face masks and face shields.
I wouldn’t be completely wrong if I say that Africans who reside in Africa must have a strong immunity against most infectious diseases.
Take, for instance, the malaria disease is something most Africans live and thrive with, but the Americans certainly cannot.
For some reason, Africans, Nigerians have something working for them that still beat the imagination of the entire world.
Can you compare the adherence to COVID-19 safety protocols in the US and with Nigeria?
There is absolutely no comparison between Nigeria and the US when it comes to adherence to COVID-19 safety protocols. First, most Nigerians have yet to believe in the authenticity of the virus. Secondly, the government does not have any strict policies in place to ensure strict adherence.
How do you think Nigeria can be better prepared for outbreaks or pandemics?
By doing the same thing most developed countries are doing- Being proactive in their approach to health issues.
Nigeria is a very religious country, where some people will rather wait for a miracle than be prepared for rainy days. Education and health care reform policies will go a long way in getting Nigerians in the right frame of mind as regards health crisis.
The country can prepare for disease outbreaks by making accommodation for health care professionals and researchers who will able to rapidly diagnose, produce vaccines, or drugs for new pathogens, and by investing in a public health communication system that is prepared to prevent, detect and respond to emergencies related to infectious diseases in a timely manner.
Can you tell us how you contracted the virus?
I’m not very sure how I contracted the virus, but working with different people and caring for patients who may have recently contracted the virus, without it being detected upon admission, could have been responsible for it.
How were you able to know that you’ve contracted the virus and what were the symptoms you exhibited? Or were you asymptomatic?
I woke up on the morning of July 4, 2020, terribly weak, with a fever of 100.6 F, headaches, and nasal congestion. I immediately contacted my employers who recommended I got tested, especially since some of my coworkers had tested positive, however asymptomatic. I placed a call to my doctor’s office and she referred me for a COVID test. The result came back the following day, positive. I was really devastated as I had my little boy and mum in the house.
I had a fever, severe body aches, headaches, and airway congestion which I was able to manage.
Have you received COVID-19 vaccine?
Not yet, I was supposed to take the vaccine before my trip to Nigeria, but considering that I wouldn’t be available for the second dose on the 21st day, I deferred it.
What can you say about the vaccination programme in the US?
The vaccination programme is being embraced tremendously, especially by people who have seen or felt the impact of the virus. While we still expect more vaccines to arrive, frontlines, the elderly, and those at a higher risk for contracting the virus have been earmarked to be the first recipients.
At least 10 million people have been vaccinated in America. Can this success be replicated in Nigeria and how?
Anything can be replicated or even improved on in Nigeria. What matters the most is how much the people understand and embrace the concept.
If Nigerians come to better understand the potentially devastating effects of COVID-19 on the general population, their economy and chances of growth as a nation, they may better respond to the global crisis and begin to put infrastructure in place to curb this virus.
There is the school of thought that believed Nigerians may not need COVID-19 vaccines, arguing that the herd immunity of the people may help fight the virus. What do you have to say to this?
COVID-19 is a global pandemic and should be managed as such. Considering the mode of transmission of this virus as informed by researchers, it becomes increasingly important for everyone to comply with prevention modalities.
A study showed that Africa and Nigeria have maintained a relatively low number of COVID-19 casualties primarily because the median age of the Nigerian population is below 20, unlike countries like the USA whose population is mostly comprised baby boomers, who are more likely to develop severe cases of the disease due to age-related effects on the immune system.
There are also some people scared of taking the vaccines because of the alleged side effects. What is your reaction to this?
Vaccines have historically been known to eliminate or curb the occurrence and spread of many preventable diseases. Despite this, there are an increasing number of people who are hesitant about taking them.
Worthy of note is that most vaccines have potential complications or side effects, which typically occur within minutes to hours of receiving the vaccine. However, in the absence of severe side effects in those who have received the vaccine, it would not be out of place to say that the Covid-19 vaccine will be safe down the road.
The new strains of the virus seem to be deadlier. How can Nigeria and the rest of the continent succeeds in overcoming the new strains of the coronavirus?
Studies have shown that there will continue to be mutations for as long as the coronavirus continues to spread.
To this end, we must continue to do what we have been doing, and ensure strict compliance to prevention policies. Mutations will be greatly reduced when we join hands to limit the occurrence and spread of the virus by hand washing or hand hygiene, wearing our masks appropriately, and proper social distancing.
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