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By Nur Ashikin Louis
EVERY household should keep Covid-19 self-test kits and an oximeter on standby on site to monitor personal health amidst the Covid-19 pandemic especially when Sarawak is moving into the post-vaccination era where Covid-19 will not be seen as a pandemic but rather become endemic like the common flu.
Covid-19 self-test kits and oximeters are two products that would be of great assistance to families and individuals, especially those who are close contacts to positive cases, to carry out preliminary screening on themselves without having to wait on the health authorities to make the first move.
Kuching Health Divisional Officer Dr Eunice Melissa Joseph said Covid-19 self-test kits and oximeters are now available at pharmacies.
“For Covid-19 self-test kits, there are various brands out there and it does not matter which brand you choose. However, you must choose the ones which are approved by Medical Device Authority (MDA), a department of the Ministry of Health (MOH),” she said in an interview recently.
Whilst she is not against similar products sold through online platforms such as Shopee and Lazada, she encouraged the general public to buy those sold in pharmacies because those brands have been clinically tested and documented by MDA.
On the pricing for these products, the doctor pointed out that the federal government had recently revised the ceiling price of the Covid-19 self-test kit to RM16 for wholesale and RM19.90 for retail which came into effect on Sept 5. Prior to this, these medical products were priced between RM28 to RM55 in the market.
Dr Eunice advised members of the public before purchasing these items to check the list of approved brands on MDA’s website at portal.mda.gov.my.
A Covid-19 self-test kit is a single-use tool which detects the presence of the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 through human oral fluid.
However, it must be noted that the result obtained from the test kit is preliminary only whereby the final confirmation should be based on the results of clinical diagnostics by recognised medical institutions, establishments or clinics.
If the subject tests positive based on the test kit, he or she must go to the nearest health facility to undergo real-time reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (rT-PCR) testing for a more elaborated diagnosis of the infection.
Sharing the same view as Dr Eunice, Shine Pharmacy chief pharmacist Christina Wong said an individual who is in close contact with a positive case is encouraged to do a self-test and monitor his or her health at home because most close contacts would be instructed to undergo home quarantine.
“However, there are also cases where patients who have tested negative through the self-test kits were later found positive for Covid-19 when they underwent rT-PCR testing at a health facility later.
“Inaccuracy of such results may occur because it depends on the course of when the patient has contact with a positive case, when he or she carries out the self-testing and when he or she undergoes the swab test,” she explained.
Meanwhile, an oximeter is an electronic device used to measure heart rate and oxygen levels in red blood cells. The scanner is attached to a finger.
Wong said as a result of Sarawak achieving a high vaccination rate of more than 80 per cent among its adult population, most Covid-19 patients in Sarawak are in Category 1 (no symptoms) and Category 2 (mild symptoms), and most of them are undergoing home quarantine.
“Under these circumstances, we would recommend patients to get ready an oximeter at home. The reason being that the patients must regularly check their heart beat and oxygen levels to make sure that they are not suffering from ‘happy hypoxia’,” she said.
Happy hypoxia is a condition where Covid-19 patients in Category 4 (patients with pneumonia and in need of oxygen assistance) are unaware that they are suffering from low oxygen levels which causes them to experience heightened heart beats and shortness of breath. They continue carrying on with their daily lives thinking that they are well, as they do not show other more obvious Covid-19 symptoms such as fever and cough, but in actual fact, they are in great danger and in urgent need of medical attention.
“A Covid-19 patient who suffers from happy hypoxia would just feel lethargic without difficulty in breathing. In other words, they just feel tired and they do not have the energy to do basic activities such as eating, bathing, etc.
“That is why we would advise all Covid-19 patients under home quarantine to have an oximeter at home to monitor and ensure that oxygen levels in their blood is sufficient for them throughout the whole recovery period,” she said.
Normal oxygen saturation for a healthy person is between 95 per cent to 100 per cent. If it falls below 90 per cent, immediate medical attention is required because oxygen starvation can affect a range of vital organs such as the heart, lungs, brain and kidney.
“If the patient realises that his or her oxygen levels have started to drop, do call the nearest Covid-19 Assessment Centre (CAC) or the hospital,” said Wong.
For Category 1 and 2 patients who are allowed to do home quarantine by the CAC, should they experience any symptom of happy hypoxia, they should call the CAC at 082-312 749 or 082-313 961 or hospitals in district to seek medical advice immediately. — DayakDaily