My more discerning readers will have noticed that I have been MIA over the last three weeks. The truth is that I tested positive for Covid-19, and I have been convalescing since.
About three weeks ago, I started experiencing a lack of appetite, poor sleep patterns and what I understand is known as “brain fog”. This lasted about two days and then the symptoms disappeared only to reappear four days later.
It was during the second episode that my daughter, out of the abundance of caution, suggested that I should be tested for Covid-19.
The doctor came home that evening and took a nasal swab. The results came out the following day in the late afternoon and I was confirmed to be positive. Strangely enough, my oxygen saturation was at 95 percent, my temperature was normal, and I was not experiencing any fatigue.
I went to hospital for further tests the next day where a scan of my chest revealed that my lungs were infected five-10 percent while my blood sugar levels were high.
Apparently, blood sugar levels can spike in response to serious illness. The rise in blood sugar due to an illness is called hyperglycemia.
A body under stress from illness produces hormones, in reaction, which elevate blood glucose. In addition, Covid-19 can affect the pancreatic beta cells, which produce insulin.
This leads to insulin deficiency and thus a rise in blood sugar levels.
I was put on a Covid-19 treatment kit, which included insulin to control my blood sugar levels. As my symptoms were relatively mild, I was placed on home-based care and the doctor would visit me twice a day. At one stage I was receiving eight injections daily.
I am happy to report that I am now fully recovered. Fortunately, none of my family members contracted the virus.
I attribute my mild symptoms and quick recovery to the fact that I had received my two doses of the Oxford, AstraZeneca vaccine.
Of course, the first line of defense against Covid-19 is to practice the protocols of social distancing, masking, hand sanitising and avoiding large gatherings.
The body has many ways of defending itself against pathogens (disease-causing organisms). Skin, mucus and cilia all work as physical barriers to prevent pathogens from entering the it in the first place.
When a pathogen does infect the body, our defenses, called the immune system, are triggered and the germ is attacked and destroyed or overcome.
A pathogen is a bacterium, virus, parasite or fungus that can cause disease within the body. Each is made up of several subparts, usually unique to that particular pathogen and the disease it causes. The subpart that causes the formation of antibodies is called an antigen.
When the human body is exposed to an antigen for the first time, it takes time for the immune system to respond and produce antibodies specific to that antigen.
In the meantime, the person is liable to become sick. Once the antigen-specific antibodies are produced, they work with the rest of the immune system to destroy the pathogen and stop the disease.
Antibodies to one pathogen generally do not protect against another pathogen except when pathogens are very similar to each other, like cousins.
Once the body produces antibodies in its primary response to an antigen, it also creates antibody-producing memory cells, which remain alive even after the pathogen is defeated by the antibodies.
If the body is exposed to the pathogen more than once, the antibody response is much faster and more effective than the first time around because the memory cells are at hand to pump antibodies against the antigen.
This means that if the person is exposed to the dangerous pathogen in future, their immune system will be able to respond immediately, protecting against the disease.
Vaccines contain weakened or inactive parts of a particular organism (antigen) that triggers an immune response in the body. Newer vaccines contain the blueprint for producing antigens rather than the antigen itself.
Regardless of whether the vaccine is made up of the antigen itself or the blueprint for producing it, this weakened version will not cause the disease in the person receiving the vaccine, but it will prompt their immune system to respond much as it would have on its first reaction to the actual antigen.
No single vaccine guarantees 100 percent protection. It is also a fact that not everyone can be vaccinated. People with underlying conditions that weaken their immune systems or who have severe allergies to some vaccine components may not be able to get vaccinated with certain vaccines.
But with herd immunity, these people will have substantial protection, thanks to those around them who have been vaccinated.
Turning specifically to Covid-19 vaccines, as with other vaccines they do not protect you from contracting the disease or transmitting it to other persons. However, should you be infected, like I was, the vaccine will give you better protection against severe illness and probable death.
Recent statistics indicate that between 80-90 percent of all Covid-19 hospitalisations in Kenya are of the unvaccinated. Elsewhere in the United States that figure is closer to 100 percent, a staggering demonstration of how effective the vaccine shots are.
Vaccination is not a new phenomenon in Kenya or elsewhere in the world. We have been vaccinated against polio, chicken pox, hepatitis, measles and others, all to good effect and nobody has complained.
My public service message to all Kenyans is, get vaccinated; it could save your life.