Of media hype and misinformation: Be positive when you test positive

On the sixth day of fever that was resistant to flu antibiotics, I lost my sense of smell, which was when my doctor ordered the COVID test; and within a few hours I was declared positive!

Geeta Chandran Jul 08, 2020
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On the sixth day of fever that was resistant to flu antibiotics, I lost my sense of smell, which was when my doctor ordered the COVID test; and within a few hours I was declared positive! This despite taking the fullest of precautionary care of remaining faithfully locked down at home, and without interactions with anyone in the outside world. Yet, the virus found me, air-borne or not, as it eventually will everybody. That is why it is called a pandemic! 

For a few hours I was definitely tormented from within. But the 'why me' question was a trap I quickly abandoned, as I sought to understand protocols for self-isolation during the home quarantine.

As required legally, the testing lab duly informed the state government and the central government, who in turn respectively informed the district magistrate and the Aarogya Setu app. A team from the local primary health centre in the vicinity came in PPE gear to get a form signed by me to say that I would self-isolate at home, and who my caregiver would be. I had to pose for them for a photograph holding the signed form. They also stuck a large red notice announcing the house to be out of bounds for a period of 17 days. (the rules for this have now been further relaxed to ten days).
 
Health-wise, I was fortunate to get only a moderate attack. Persistent fever and a phlegmatic chest and rude wet cough were the sum total of my symptoms. That, and the most acute exhaustion that I have ever experienced. 

Medicines suggested were two days of invermectol and doses of zincovit and Vitamin C to build immunity. In addition, I used the magical ayurvedic anti-fever powder Mahasudarshan and also took turmeric milk (haldi milk) which helped build my immunity and helped clear my chest.

Stay positive

Also, throughout, I kept my mind sharp and did not let the illness bog me down. I was thinking of future dance projects and what all needed to be done. Keeping the mind positive is key to early and complete healing and tricking the virus.

With temperature and oximeter readings being duly logged every six hours, my self-isolation was redeemed by watching films on Prime Now and Hotstar and also mindlessly thumbing over social media posts. Also, regular WhatsApp conversations, jokes, and other shares make one feel connected and not isolated even in quarantine. The key is physical distancing, not social distancing.

Throughout the two weeks, I did not lose my sense of hunger nor thirst. Food would be left at the door. The most enormous tasks during self-isolation are washing one’s utensils and clothes. The body does not have any energy for even those simple tasks.

Within the next four days, other members of my family started feeling woozy – and when tested all dozen (family members plus support staff staying with us) tested positive. So our home became a large quarantine centre with temperature and oximeter readings being shouted loud as if they were share prices at a stockbroker’s office!

I was also overwhelmed with the support one gets when one is declared positive. Every single day for the entire fortnight, I received calls from Arogya Setu app, the Delhi Chief Minister's office, and the District Magistrate's office, asking for my symptoms, whether my quarantine was following all the strict rules of isolation, and whether I needed any home support or hospital services.

In addition, our Gulmohar Park Residents Welfare Association provided immense psycho-social support. The support of one's community during quarantine isolation is extremely important and makes one feel secure. Also, the vast ring of support that I received on social media through my quarantine made me gutsy enough to face the virus squarely in its eye.

Family support is also key. One feels like eating light food only. And to be served hot healing khichdi was a blessing. 

Culture of silence and shame

But one thing was crystal clear in my mind – I had to change the culture of silence and shame around the virus. The 'infodemic' with its multiple components such as a culture of fear, the overflow of misinformation, and the media hype in fanning such distress had to be 'outed' and discounted. 

COVID is a trigger virus; it triggers comorbidities that already are present in individuals., which is why every individual’s experience of the virus in their bodies is different. And so there can also be no one-size-fits-all treatment. Thankfully, most people will probably catch the virus; but most will display only mild symptoms; while many will remain asymptomatic. Monitoring remains key, and the moment oximeter readings drop, high-quality medical care is urgently warranted. But for the mild symptoms victims, cozy home care and local community support can do the deal. My COVID-19 mantra is:  no fear, no panic, no stigma, and no discrimination.

I also realized that the media hype in reporting the virus is causing a lot of panic. Also, unverified information and treatments are being forwarded pell-mell on social media channels. The appeal is to share only verified info (the World Health Organisation (WHO) website is a boon WHO; PIB, as is the Press Information Bureau (PIB) verified information campaign); and also everyone should pause before one shares false and mischievous social media posts. This culture of media responsibility will definitely end this culture of fear around COVID, and enable one to take empowered and intelligent decisions while handling the virus when it visits you.

(The writer is a renowned Bharatnatyam dancer and choreographer,  founder-president of Natya Vriksha, a Padma Shri awardee, Sangeet Natak Awardee and a Tagore National Fellow)