What is your Covid-19 risk?

Monday, December 7th, 2020 00:00 |
Awuor Opee, a nurse. High risk, moderate chance of becoming seriously ill.

Looking at the daily statistics of Covid-19 infections in the country one thing is clear: no demographic has been left untouched. Covid-19 deaths and infections have been reported among the old and young, those with comorbidities and the otherwise healthy. Yet the risk of getting infected and falling seriously ill differs. Five people in varied settings highlight factors that influence their level of risk of infection and chances of falling seriously ill.

Dorothy Kamonya, 62, businesswoman, medium level of exposure, high chance of becoming seriously ill

Dorothy Kamonya operates a small posho mill in a shopping centre along Kangundo Road.

The  retired social worker would wish to spend her days in the comfort of her home taking care of her grandchildren, but she can’t. 

As the sole guardian and caregiver of her four grandchildren she has to work every day to make ends meet. 

“Three of my grandchildren left under my care after my daughter passed on in 2012 and one is the child of my daughter who lives with me,” she says. 

Until May this year, Dorothy had been operating the posho mill from her home, but decided to expand by looking for bigger space at the shopping centre.

Dorothy Kamonya, 62, businesswoman, medium level of exposure, high chance of becoming seriously ill.

Every day between 10pm and 5pm, she spends her time at the posho mill where she interacts with several people.

This, she says, places her at a high risk of contracting the virus. Dorothy, who suffers from blood pressure and heart complications, understands too well the negative impact Covid-19 would have on her if she contracted the virus. 

Statistics by the United Nations show that the fatality rates of older people are five times more than the global average.

Besides, people with pre-existing conditions such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer are more vulnerable to becoming seriously ill with the virus according to World Health Organisaton.

Dorothy is keen to take safety precautions including always wearing a mask, washing hands and sanitising regularly.

But still, the people she interacts with, some of who are not keen on following these measures, put her at a high risk of infection. 

Zeddy Odanga, 21 year old college student. High risk, low chances of falling seriously ill 

Inside the densely populated Kibra informal settlements, where Zeddy and his family lives, maintaining social distance is a difficult endeavour. 

Zeddy lives in a two bedroomed house with his parents and three siblings. His chances of contracting the virus are even higher when he is interacting with people within the neighbourhood.

Lately, Zeddy notes, there is laxity among residents on observing necessary precautions including hand-washing, social distancing and wearing masks. 

“Most people are not keen on taking the measures to prevent infection,” he says. All these put Zeddy at a very high risk of getting the virus. 

In case of infection, the college student has a lower risk of getting seriously ill based on his age. 

According to data by WHO, only less than 10 per cent of reported cases and 0.2 per cent deaths had occurred in people under 20 years as of September this year.

The virus can spread from an infected persons mouth or nose in small liquid particles when they cough, speak or breathe heavily according to WHO.

People can also get Covid-19 when the virus comes into contact with their mouth, nose as a result of being in close contact— less than one metre with an infected person.

Joan Wangari, 36, a cancer survivor. Low level of exposure, high chance of becoming severely ill 

The thought of contracting a common cold alone is too dreadful for Joan, a cancer survivor.

The 36 year-old mother of two was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2011 and completed treatment in 2014.

Years down the line, the treatment that included chemotherapy and radiotherapy left her immune system suppressed, leaving her susceptible to all forms of infection.

To minimise her risk of infection, Joan and her children mostly stay indoors and go out when it is extremely necessary while observing all necessary precautions. 

“I am paranoid about what may happen if I were to get infected and this means that I am frequently washing hands and sanitising,” she says.  

To minimise risk of infection, Joan’s husband ensures he sanitises when he gets home from work before he can interact with the family.

To boost her immunity, Joan is keen on eating a balanced diet comprising of a lot of fruits and vegetables. 

“Whenever I do not eat a balanced diet, I find that I become susceptible to frequent colds.

It scares me to think of the harm contracting Covid-19 can do to my body,” she adds.

Her level of exposure to the virus is low, but she fears that the effect if she were to be infected would be devastating. 

Awour Opee, a nurse. High risk, moderate chance of becoming seriously ill

Working at the frontlines as a health worker, Awour is constantly exposed to the risk of contracting the virus.

Results of a study conducted in USA and UK published on Lancet found that frontline health workers had a 95 per cent  risk of reporting a Covid-19 positive test as compared to the general community.

Working in close proximity with patients daily, with many having undeclared Covid-19 symptoms increase her risk of infections. 

“Looking at the trajectory and trends of infections it is almost certain that more health workforce will be infected by the virus and be either symptomatic or asymptomatic by the end of the year,” says Awour. 

Besides, Awour and her colleagues work in an environment with constrained resources, where there is no assured supply of personal protective gear.

The frontline health workers are forced to re-use protective gear such as n95 mask for up-to a week. 

“Reusing these masks and considering the work we do is an even worse scenario than going out there without a mask,” she notes. 

On average, Awour works 40 hours a week. The long hours of exposure to an environment that is potentially infectious further increases her risk of infection. 

Collins Otieno, a boda boda driver. High risk, low risk of being seriously ill

Collins Otieno, a boda boda rider in Siaya for the past six years, lives with his wife —a stay-at-home mum— and his son. His work entails driving people to their places of work, taking children to school, transporting goods from one place to another, sometimes taking travellers who desire to various places.

His chances of getting Covid-19 are high; not only does he take  people to  high potential areas such as crowded markets or enclosed spaces, but also most of the people he carries mix with others, do not observe social distancing and hop on the boda boda without a mask. 

Before the pandemic, Collins would carry up to three  people on his motorbike and earn more cash by doing so.

Now with the restrictions and risk involved, he wears a mask, despite how uncomfortable it is due to the hot Siaya weather.

He makes sure he carries only one passenger at a time, to maintain social distance, and that passengers have their masks on and sanitise so that he doesn’t catch the virus.

Although he has no underlying conditions, which might increase his risk, he is prone to colds and that too worries him a lot. 

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