As a means of curbing the spread of the deadly respiratory infection which has claimed over two million lives globally and about 1,500 lives in the country, anyone experiencing loss of smell has been advised to go and isolate at home or a nearby isolation centre, as loss of smell has been established as a valid symptom of COVID-19.
An infectious disease expert, Dr Adefolarin Opawoye, made the assertion on Tuesday, telling people with loss of smell not to bother going for test at the laboratory, but seek care at the nearest isolation centre, because it definitely must be COVID.
Opawoye, who was one of the speakers during the virtual programme organised by the Federal Neuro-Psychiatric Hospital, Yaba, Lagos, highlighted the symptoms of COVID-19 like headache, sore throat, running rose, fever, loss of smell, loss of taste or alteration in taste; however identified loss of smell as the surest symptom of the virus.
“I like loss of smell because not many conditions present with loss of smell. So I tell people that once you have loss of smell, don’t bother going for test, just go and isolate yourself at home or at the isolation centre, because you definitely most likely have COVID-19.
“I have had patients who discovered they have lost their sense of smell when they are in the toilet, or when they apply perfume, or when they are in the kitchen. Some people just have bitter taste.
“The ones that are most serious are the ones with difficulty in breathing. Although some of them may be looking as if nothing is happening, but their cases might have gone far, for the people with difficulty in breathing”, he explained.
He further harped on the need for people to stay safe from the infection by adhering to all prevention protocols as even asymptomatic patients can spread the virus without showing any symptom.
Opawoye, who works at the Infectious Diseases Unit, Lagos University Teaching Hospital, lamented the complexity of the infection, which leave no one out of its onslaught. He punctured the earlier medical assumption that the virus is more deadly on the elderlies and children, saying there is no reliable means of predicting who is likely to die from the virus.
He said: “There is no reliable way to predict who is likely to die from COVID. I have lost a 37- years -old, a 29- years- old who was pregnant. I have also lost an 82- years- old and an 83- years- old, so there is no way to predict.
“The reality is that some people will be very sick, and some will be fine. I have treated a 91- years- old woman, who did not have any symptom, and I have lost a 19 year-old girl to COVID-19”.
The infectious disease practitioner therefore urged all Nigerians to ensure to always mask up properly in public places to stay safe from the virus as prevention is better than cure.
Another speaker at the seminar, Dr Charles Umeh, a senior lecturer/consultant clinical psychology, LUTH, stressed the need for hospital management to organise special sessions for frontline health workers as most of they are experiencing psychology stress, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress.
As a seasoned frontliner, he expressed the feelings of most health workers at the battle front saying the second wave spike in cases has brought emotional exhaustion, pantophobia, fear of contacting the disease and spreading to their family members, stress, burnout, among others.
“Our experience during the first phase has shown us how best to care for our workers, as we had debriefing sessions with them, where they allowed to vent their experiences, creation of relaxation exercises, creation of time to go on break to ease compassion fatigue”, he narrated.
He gave some tips to assist frontliners in easing their fatigue such as dancing, exercises, and when level of stress is high, they should see a therapist. Training and retraining, and getting the right information were some of the recommendations he made in reducing the stress.