While the cases of COVID-19 have been increasing for several days across Quebec, what to do if a loved one or we believe we have contracted COVID-19? Better to run and get tested or isolate yourself right away? For 10 or 14 days? The duty take stock with experts from the world of health.
“Generally, the most important thing in stopping transmission is to isolate quickly,” explains microbiologist Michael Libman, also a professor at McGill University. According to him, the reflex to get tested as soon as a doubt sets in is not the right one. “You can be positive today and negative the next day,” because of the incubation period of the virus in the body, he says. Especially since the queues have grown in front of several clinics lately.
“Unless you have serial tests, a negative test doesn’t mean you don’t have the virus,” Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam also recalled this week. Isolation should therefore not be shortened, even if one receives a negative test result in the meantime.
Once isolated, Public Health is informed of the situation, adds Christina Zarowsky, professor at the School of Public Health at the University of Montreal. It will then assess the measures to be taken.
Follow the evolution of COVID-19 in Quebec
The need – or not – to self-isolate and the duration of this quarantine vary depending on the situation. Administrative segregation is to last 14 days and applies to a person who has been in close contact with an infected individual. According to Public Health, exposure of more than 15 minutes, without a mask and less than two meters away is equivalent to “close contact”. And the risk increases in interior spaces.
For confirmed cases of COVID-19, if the patient is asymptomatic, they should remain isolated for 10 days after the date of screening. If symptoms appear, the isolation will also be 10 days, but from the time the fever, cough or breathing difficulties start.
For travelers returning from a stay abroad, 14 days of isolation is mandatory, anywhere in Canada.
It is time to get tested when symptoms appear, specifies Michael Libman, at the same time allowing Public Health to better document possible outbreaks. “And you don’t get there by public transport. “
In the event that our condition deteriorates, we should not hesitate to call 1 877 644-4545 – the government’s COVID-19 information line – or even 911, adds Dr. Libman. Public Health also recommends that citizens experiencing anxiety or stress, or being overwhelmed by the fear of having caught the virus, to contact 811 (Info-Santé).
A person who isolates himself must obey a number of rules. She must first avoid going out, whether it is shopping or walking in a park. At home, she needs to separate herself from other members of the household.
In its guide “Measures for the management of cases and contacts in the community”, the National Institute of Public Health of Quebec goes even further. Relatives who have not been exposed to the infected person since the onset of symptoms should stay away from home while the person is isolated, the organization recommends.
However, these conditions are difficult, if not impossible, for most people to meet, notes Benoit Mâsse, epidemiologist at the School of Public Health at the University of Montreal. “Not everyone has a big house, who can move into the basement and use a second bathroom,” he explains.
In these kinds of circumstances, rapid detection is essential. Another example: a caregiver who has to take care of his parent who is over 70 years of age and therefore at greater risk of serious complications if he contracts the virus. In this case too, according to Mâsse, it is better to get tested as soon as possible.
The PCR test – currently used to screen for COVID-19 in Quebec – is “excessively sensitive”, and can detect “virus fragments”, explains the specialist. Especially since when a person is informed by Public Health that they have been in close contact with a positive case, it usually takes one, two, or even three days. “If you were infected during this contact, the test will be positive,” he says.