In the past two years of the COVID-19 pandemic, doctors, nurses, and other healthcare professionals were on the frontlines of the battle against the virus, reporting to high-risk settings to care for and treat infected patients. Despite frequent close contact with carriers of COVID-19, however, many healthcare workers were able to evade infection — until today.
The higher transmissibility of the Omicron variant has made the hospital environment a riskier place, with doctors and nurses getting infected and falling ill. This, coupled with higher case counts and hospitalization rates, has made the challenge of fighting the new variant more difficult than ever before.
Dr. Faheem Younus, a certified physician executive and award-winning clinician in the United States, has tested positive for Omicron in the week of January 1, 2022. On January 15, exactly two weeks since the onset of his symptoms, he took to his Twitter account to share five things he learned from his experience that could be helpful to everyone amid the current surge.
Lesson 1: “Masks Work”
Dr. Younus’ first lesson is on the importance of mask-wearing, telling the story of how he got infected with COVID-19 — by attending a 2-day maskless family gathering. He compares this with his time caring for COVID-19 patients in his hospital of work for over 2 years and being exposed “over 1000 times.” But because in all these instances, he was wearing a mask and full personal protective equipment, he did not get infected once.
He ends his first lesson recommending either an N95 or KN95 mask, both of which are said to offer the best protection and are recommended by health agencies like the CDC.
Lesson 2: “Vaccines Work”
Lesson 2 is on the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines. Dr. Younus has been fully vaccinated and has received his booster shot prior to getting infected with COVID-19. After 5 days of quarantine and recovery, he is now fully recovered and back to work.
According to him, his vaccines and booster shot have prevented him from getting hospitalized and fighting for his life on a ventilator. Other frontliners have also noticed that vaccinated and boosted individuals have milder and less life-threatening symptoms compared to those who are unvaccinated.
Lesson 3: “Practice What You Preach”
Being a doctor who has recommended treatment for COVID-19 patients in the last two years, Dr. Younus has a good handle on how to address his own symptoms. His treatment plan was similar to that of patients with mild illnesses, namely, symptomatic therapy.
He further shares that he did not need COVID-19 antiviral pills such as Paxlovid, steroids, antibiotics, or antibodies, nor did he use Ivermectin, HCQ, and Zinc. Most of these known COVID-19 treatments are reserved for patients with severe symptoms.
Lesson 4: “Remember the End”
Dr. Younus takes a more philosophical standpoint in his fourth lesson, reminding everyone to think of their own mortality. He makes mention of the ultimate goal at the time of COVID-19 — to finally achieve herd immunity.
But Dr. Younus also warns against herd mentality, encouraging everyone to make brave and meaningful decisions. Human behavior plays a strong role in how and when we can move on from COVID-19. Let’s all do our part and work together to curb the spread of the virus and say goodbye to it once and for all.
Lesson 5: “Know Your Risk Tolerance”
COVID-19 affects people in different ways. Some may have more severe symptoms than others and depending on individual comorbidities or underlying diseases, the virus can be fatal. To get the best protection, Dr. Younus advises that we get boosted and continue wearing our face masks. That way, if we do get infected with COVID-19, we have a better chance of fully recovering.
He also tells us to comply with science, i.e. adhere to basic health and safety protocols that aim to minimize risks and curb infection. And after that, follow our hearts. We have the ultimate say on what we do and where we go — and these can either be safe or risky.
But just as that family gathering was important for Dr. Younus, we should make our own wise decisions as to how we protect ourselves and our loved ones from COVID-19.