But, this is not the first serious epidemic that I survived.
SMALLPOX EPIDEMIC IN YUGOSLAVIA
The 1972 smallpox epidemic in Yugoslavia was the last major smallpox epidemic in Europe, before its eradication in 1980. Smallpox is a truly horrible disease. Perhaps, one of the most horrible ones that plagued the human population ever. I don’t think that people fully appreciate what it means to live in a world without this disease. Apparently, it killed up to 300 million people worldwide, only in the 20th century.
Admittedly, I was very young at the time of the smallpox epidemic in Yugoslavia. Certainly, I could not properly understand the seriousness of the situation and how dangerous smallpox was. But I vividly remember the panic, especially my mother and father being very worried. We stopped going to school and we all had to be vaccinated.
Well, the existence of an effective vaccine was the game changer, together with other measures implemented by the Yugoslavian government. That’s also what differentiates the current coronavirus infection from smallpox, although smallpox is a much worse disease.
I also remember that the smallpox vaccine did not work on me, so my mother had to take me to get regular gamma globulin injections, as a temporary boost for my immune system.
Thanks to the vaccine, the smallpox epidemic in Yugoslavia was contained within several months.
I first became aware of the problem in China at the end of December, when first news reports appeared about the epidemic in Wuhan. I followed the news throughout January, especially news from China. Regretfully, now we all know that the Chinese government tried to cover up the epidemic. They did nothing to prevent the spread of the virus, especially in those first crucial weeks in January. They allowed their population to travel all over China and the world for the Chinese New Year, despite the fact that they were aware of the problem. The history and the world will judge the Chinese government for their conduct.
In February, it became clear that the epidemic was unstoppable and that it was spreading all over the world. We can see what’s happening, with lock-downs and quarantines everywhere.
MY CORONAVIRUS INFECTION
As I mentioned, I don’t know when and where I got infected. When that happens, you simply can’t know that you are infected. You feel exactly the same as before, healthy and invincible. Initially, I didn’t feel anything at all. However, approximately a week after I had caught the virus, I had shivers one day. It was a very strange feeling, especially as otherwise I felt perfectly fine. I thought that it was because I felt tired or perhaps because I had pushed myself too much in the gym that day. I had no issues in the following days.
It started suddenly with a sore throat, one day in mid March. I knew straight away that it was the coronavirus. By that time, the epidemic in the UK had already started to advance rapidly and I knew that it couldn’t have been anything else. I was not ill for over a year. I had no colds, no sore throat, nothing at all. Until now!
The inflammation of the throat very quickly spread to my nose and the whole sinus area. By the end of that day, I was literally burning with infection. However, one very significant difference compared with colds that I had in the past was that my nose was completely dry. Usually, I have a runny nose when I get a cold, but not this time. At that point, I was completely sure that it was the coronavirus infection.
I have to consider myself pretty lucky. In the end, I only had relatively mild symptoms. After the initial signs, what happened next was that I completely lost the sense of smell and taste. It happened to me in once or twice in the past, when I had a bad cold, but never like this. Suddenly one evening, I was cooking my dinner and I noticed that I couldn’t smell anything at all. Additionally, I could not taste the food, it felt like eating cardboard. It was the strangest feeling that lasted well after I had recovered. As a matter of fact, it’s only now that I can smell and taste food like before, when I was healthy.
One more important point is that I did not have temperature. A lot of people infected with the coronavirus have high temperature, but not me. Although, for several days I felt like burning, that must have been my body fighting the infection. But, every time when I measured my temperature it was just below 37 degrees C, which is considered normal.
One more symptom connected with the coronavirus infection is dry cough. I had it too, but only very slightly and intermittently. Several times I felt tightness in my chest, but I didn’t know whether that was because of anxiety or because the virus affected my lungs.
I also had headaches, in fact for two or three days they were unbearable. So, I took paracetamol, 3 times per day. However, as soon as the headaches stopped, I reduced paracetamol to one per day, before going to sleep. I had some very good products that I had bought in Romania and Serbia.
My illness lasted for exactly 2 weeks. I started to notice the improvement approximately 10 days after the initial symptoms. After that, with every passing day, I felt better and better. After exactly 2 weeks, although I felt tired and exhausted, all symptoms related to the coronavirus infection disappeared.
This was not an ordinary flu or cold, of which I had many in my life. For two or three days, at the peak of my illness, I felt completely possessed and not aware of myself or anything that was happening around me.
Easily, the worst aspect of two weeks in which I was ill with the coronavirus infection was the anxiety. It was really a horrible feeling and I will explain why. We all follow the news and we see how many people end up severely ill, with the viral pneumonia caused by the coronavirus. People that end up in hospitals, in intensive care units, on ventilators.
I was well aware that I couldn’t know how my disease would progress and whether or not I’d also end up in a hospital, on a ventilator. I also knew that if that happened, I’d have 50% chance of survival. So, imagine knowing all that and having to cope with that horrible thought, in addition to being ill. I remember going to sleep and not being able to fall asleep for a very long time, while I listened to every slightest sound of my body.
In other words, I was listening to my lungs, to hear if and when they would start collapsing because of the virus. Can any of us really imagine a moment when suddenly you can no longer breath properly and when you start suffocating? Well, that’s basically what happens to people that require hospital care, on ventilators, in intensive care units.
WHEN YOU CAN’T RELY ON NATIONAL HEALTH SYSTEM TO HELP YOU
Additionally, I knew that the NHS had not been properly prepared. Back in February, the Tory regime that currently runs the UK propagated the “herd immunity” concept. Basically, their objective was for as many people as possible to get infected within a short period of time, while they completely disregarded the fact that many people would end up severely ill and in need of a very limited hospital care.
So, when you know all this and when you see with your own eyes that they did nothing to limit the spread of the virus, you find yourself in a situation in which you know that you can’t rely on the national health system to help you. There are simply not enough ventilators for everyone that needs them. It means that many people have to be left to die and you certainly do not want to fall into that group of people.
Whatever measures the Tory regime implemented afterwards, it wasn’t because they were suddenly looking after the best interest of the people in the country. No, it was because they had no choice, they were forced to do it, because people in the UK saw the measures that governments in other countries had implemented to save their populations. The Tory regime was literally shamed into doing something, although far too late. We will see the end result of their policies at the end of the epidemic.
As with every viral disease, once infected, our immune system starts to fight that particular virus. Within several days after the onset of the illness, our body starts to produce antibodies that fight the virus and clear it completely from our bodies. The presence of antibodies means immunity in absolutely all viral infections known to human beings.
That’s also why, as we get older, we suffer fewer and fewer colds. We become immune to many viruses that cause simple colds of flu. The same applies to other viral diseases, such as measles, chickenpox, even smallpox.
The basic premise is that when you have the antibodies, you are immune and you shouldn’t get that same disease again. I hope that it will be the same with this coronavirus infection.
As soon as it’s going to be possible, I’ll do an antibody test, to see whether or not I have developed immunity. But, I don’t know whether and when that will be possible. Very few people are tested in the UK, which is yet another shameful policy by the Tory government. If not in the UK, I will try to do the test in another country.
A WORD ABOUT THE MAIN PHOTO
I took this photo in Sucre, in Bolivia. My friend and me, we were walking around the city when we suddenly came across this building. I remember I was standing there, completely bewildered, when I read that it was a centre for control of tuberculosis and leprosy.
Leprosy – a medieval disease, but very much present in Bolivia in 2012, when I was there. I was thinking of myself travelling and enjoying myself across South America, totally oblivious to unfortunate life realities of many people. The fact that that building exists tells you clearly that there are still people in Bolivia that suffer from leprosy. In fact, there are many leper colonies in India and some other Asian countries, but Brazil and Bolivia are also affected. Perhaps, it has something to do with poverty and the lack of basic means for personal hygiene, things that we take for granted in our more developed and richer countries.
SOME FINAL THOUGHTS ON MY CORONAVIRUS INFECTION
In some strange way, now that I’ve recovered from the coronavirus infection, I consider myself rather privileged. It should mean that I am immune and that I should have no problems in the future. We will see if that’s true or not, although in terms of immunity, the human evolution has done miracles over many millions of years.
But, perhaps it would be much better if you don’t get infected, because you don’t know whether or not your immune system will be able to fight it off.
You certainly wouldn’t want to end up in a hospital, in an intensive care unit, on a ventilator.
Right now we know very little about this disease. Hopefully, the science will soon decipher all its mysteries and perhaps there will also be an effective vaccine available in the near future.
But, if you ask me to choose between natural immunity and a vaccine, I’d always choose natural immunity. Although, it’s easy for me to say that now, after I’ve successfully recovered.
Keep healthy and safe!