COVID-19 and I have a history. The novel coronavirus grounded me again last week. That’s more than two years after the infection from the original strain, which first surfaced in Wuhan, China.
I’ve no idea of the strain that resulted in the reinfection. A second coronavirus attack after such a long gap is not bad, given my exposure. I have travelled to three countries — India, Qatar and Poland — and attended weddings, reunions, press conferences and other get-togethers. These indoor gatherings were fraught with the risk of being a superspreader, but it didn’t happen. That’s why we have gone past the point of being cautious.
How did I catch COVID?
I am guilty of letting my guard down. That’s partly the result of peer pressure. What do you do when you walk into a room full of people and find that you are the only one with a face mask? This is what I did: I settled down into my station and discreetly removed my mask. That allowed me to blend in: a risky manoeuvre if coronavirus is around.
With cases dwindling worldwide, masks have fallen off most people’s faces. I have been largely wearing one indoors and in closed environments like a plane or a bus. But that diligence slipped somewhere down the line, mostly in places where most people are unmasked. I certainly didn’t want to stick out like a sore thumb.
Where did I catch the virus? That was the question from most of my friends. Frankly, there’s no way of knowing. The obvious ones are gatherings, but then I could have caught it from an acquaintance I dropped at his hotel; I still don’t know whether he had an infection. It didn’t matter.
Infection and reinfection: the symptoms
There was a silver lining in the reinfection: the symptoms were mild. So mild that I underwent an RT-PCR test only on the third day; that too only after my wife fell ill. In a way, her illness helped. Or else, I would have returned to work on the fifth day and passed the virus to my colleagues.
How mild were the symptoms? For comparison, let me tell you what happened in April 2020. I had a continuous high-grade fever, which broke only on the tenth day. Pains wracked my body, and there were headaches too. But there wasn’t much cough. I suffered, to put it mildly.
This time, body pains were milder, and I initially attributed them to the resumption of my yoga sessions. My nasal infection on the first day was followed by a sore throat the next day. It felt more like the flu or viral fever. Yes, a viral fever. Yet, I wasn’t thinking it was coronavirus. My scratchy throat led to full-blown coughing, which lasted two days. But by the fifth day, I was on the mend.
Experts say COVID-19 manifests differently in different people. Two people under the same roof can have varied experiences. While I was largely unscathed, my wife reeled from violent bouts of coughing. So severe that she would end up throwing up food and medicines. Four days later, it began to subside.
My medicines and therapy
The contrast between the infections is stark. In two years, our immune systems have been primed by a previous infection and vaccines: two doses each of Sinopharm and Pfizer-BioNTech. And that really helped because we didn’t have a high-grade fever; my temperatures were normal, and my wife had a slight fever for a day. Barring the cough, we were generally fine.
The bigger worry was passing the infections to our children. But we isolated well, and all of us were masked when we occasionally entered the common areas. That seems to have worked.
Over the past few years, most people I know have suffered from a coronavirus infection. And each of them coped differently. So when they wished me a speedy recovery, they also dispensed some medical advice. Mostly home remedies. Drink lots of hot water infused with lemon and ginger, one said. Have ginger and honey, was the advice from another.
Although I acknowledged the care and concern behind those words, I chose to ignore them. More because I had survived a COVID attack, and my children were also sickened by the virus in separate episodes. I now have a fair idea of how to handle the infection.
I spoke to a doctor, and my therapy mainly included paracetamols and plenty of sleep. I slept after breakfast and again after lunch. Of course, I continued the tried, tested and trusted steam inhalation and saline gargle.
My wife required more medications since her chest was congested. Teleconsultations and medicine deliveries helped. We are now limping back to normality. After a COVID negative test, I should be back in the office soon.
One question crops up: Do I mask up? I guess you know the answer.