By Andrew Carruthers, Editor-In-Chief.
The fight against the Global Pandemic that is COVID-19 may have only just started in South Africa. Whilst China are seeing drops in numbers of people that are being contaminated with the virus and slowly but surely trying to piece their lives together, South Africa on the other hand has officially hit the charts as one of the fastest growing countries in the world with strict respect to the rate at which COVID-19 is spreading.
Why are we experiencing such rapid contamination growth?
The reason why is simple. South Africans are remaining ignorant to the power of this virus and how fast it spreads. With informal settlements and social distancing something that people aren’t used to, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to spread the word of it’s importance. Informal settlements will be hit the hardest with overcrowding and people living on top of one another, there is no way that the average South African can easily claim a 1m or 6ft gap between their living counterparts or social members unless they are in wide open social spaces. Even then, people are choosing to ignore the social distancing concept and they’re carrying on their lives as normal.
Current Statistics in South Africa
At present (23 March 2020 at 17h38) there are 402 confirmed cases, 0 dead, 4 have already recovered, and confirmed today alone are 128 cases. Whilst this doesn’t sound like much, the virus is only just beginning here in South Africa and the higher the confirmed case number rises, the faster the daily count will rise. The only way that South Africans are going to be able to “beat the curve” as some would say is for a country like ours to be under strict and certain lock-down with immediate effect. If you haven’t seen already, the military are already being deployed around SA, especially in Gauteng where the growth seems to be booming at the moment. With that said, if the President declares a lock-down at 19h00 tonight then the entire country is going to be on complete paralysis until further notice. For how long? I’m not sure. Whilst this is going to cripple our already depleted economy and cause major financial issues for people all over South Africa, it is these drastic measures of forcing people away from one another and into their homes that will inevitably start to slow the rate at which people are being infected around the country. To put it plainly, if a country’s people won’t adhere to the suggestions of social distancing then a complete lock-down will force them to refrain from visiting public spaces and make them stay at home. Drastic times call for the drastic measures.
A possible hope..
A recent French Study has found that Anti-Malarial and Antibiotic Combo could reduce the COVID-19 duration. A new study has found that a combination of hydroxychloroquine, a popular anti-malaria drug known under the trade name Plaqenuil and an antibiotic called azithromycin (aka Zithromax or Azithrocin) could be especially effective in the treatment of the COVID-19 coronavirus by reducing the duration of the virus in patients.
Researchers performed a study on 30 confirmed COVID-19 patients, treating each with hydroxychloroquine on its own, a combination of the medicine with antibiotic, as well as a control group that received neither. The study was conducted after reports from treatment of Chinese patients indicated that this particular combo had efficacy in shortening the duration of infection in patients.
The patient mix included in the study, included 6 who showed no symptoms whatsoever, as well as 22 who had symptoms in their upper respiratory tract (things like sneezing, headaches, sore throats) and 8 who showed lower respiratory tract symptoms (like coughing).
20 of the 30 participants in the study received treatment and the results showed that while hydroxychloroquine was effective on its own as a treatment, when combined with azithromycin, it was even more effective and by a significant margin.
The Good, The Bad and the Ugly..
The good part about these drugs showing such great promise is that we here in Africa have been using them for a very long time, especially hydroxychloroquine as it is used to treat Malaria in most African countries.
The bad part however is that given the current growth of the virus, availability will run out in a matter of a few days if not weeks. This hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin combo is also not a proven cure, so who knows how long it would actually take the government to even approve them for treatment with COVID-19. Other countries have already approved treatment with these drugs because they have no further option at this time, but how long it could take for SA to get approval still is the question. There is also the disadvantage of Big Pharma companies at play here in that if they don’t get to cash in on a new and 100% effective drug to cure people of this virus. Be that as it may, I do believe that the death rate here in SA is going to slowly start picking up alongside the confirmed numbers and although the reality is that we would like to think Big Pharma cares about these things, cashing in on a cure is certainly their number one concern.
The ugly part comes next and it really isn’t pretty. If nothing is done to provide adequate meds to confirmed patients then another simple and already well practiced habit of South African’s will take place – SELF MEDICATING.
Side effects of hydroxychloroquine already include: headaches, dizziness, ringing in the ears, nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, loss of appetite, weight loss, mood changes, anxiety or nervousness, skin rashes and hair loss. Some if not all of these side effects will take place in someone being treated with the medication. The problem when people tend to self medicate is this well known factor called overdosing. If you overdose on hydroxychloroquine you get what’s simply called hydroxychloroquine poisoning. What happens when you overdose on this anti-malarial drug is that you obtain severe headaches, bilateral tinnitus (ears ringing), facial numbness with tingling eventually spreading to other extremities like arms and legs etc. It also affects your peripheral vision and makes patients feel “off-balance”. Some patients have experienced elevated heart rates with overdosing and also seizures. Life threatening hypo-tension can also occur depending on the patient.
Since Trump’s announcement a few days ago that these drugs mentioned above are showing good promise to the world riddled with COVID-19, Nigeria reported 2 cases of Hydroxychloroquine poisoning within a few hours after his speech. It’s no surprise that health officials are warning people about self-medicating with the drug after the demand surged for it in a city that is home to 20 million people (Lagos). So while Hydroxychloroquine is still in a testing phase with COVID-19 cases, please don’t start self medicating until a proper and conclusive study has been reached.