First Filipino COVID-19 patient in the country shares his experience with the viral disease

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 22) — A recovered COVID-19 patient, the first Filipino to test positive in the country, narrated how he battled with the viral disease, which has been increasingly afflicting people worldwide.

“I was COVID-19 patient no. 4. As patient no. 4, I was the first Filipino to be confirmed positive after a lull of more than a month following the three Chinese travelers from Wuhan,” Carlo Llanes Navarro said in a Facebook post on Sunday.

Navarro, who travelled to Japan with his family, said they knew it was a risk to take a trip out of the country. However, he said “at that time, Japan was not yet battling with community transmission.” He also noted that there were no quarantine measures implemented yet by the government for returning passengers.

In an effort to protect themselves from the viral disease, Navarro said he and his family were careful in practicing preventive measures while in Tokyo.

“In Tokyo, we thought we were making-up for the risk by always wearing our masks, vigorously washing and rubbing our hands with alcohol and Thieves essential oil, and wearing disposable latex gloves which we regularly changed and threw away throughout our five days there,” he said.

However, it was on their flight back home, on February 25, that he suspects he contracted the virus—from a Filipino man he described to be coughing vigorously behind him.

While they had their masks on the whole time, he said “nothing could be done" as they sat in the plane for more than 4 hours.

Onset of COVID-19 symptoms

A week after their flight home, on March 3, Navarro said he “came down with the chills and a low grade fever of 37.7 degrees Celsius.” He clarified that he did not report to work days before the symptoms appeared.

“That night of March 3, I decided to play it safe and that I be immediately tested. St. Luke’s hospital did not see the need to test me. The hospital said my symptoms were mild, and Japan is not a Covid-19 hotspot,” he shared.

He said he was only tested after he insisted, and that he went home after being discharged. At the time, his wife was in Lipa, and as precaution while waiting for his test results, his daughter and their helper stayed at his mother-in-law’s house to isolate themselves. 

Two days after, Navarro said his fever was gone, but that it was replaced by muscle pains and a bad cough. It was also that evening that he received his test results confirming he was infected with the virus.

Following the confirmation, Navarro was immediately brought to the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) in Alabang. His entire household, including their drivers, also had themselves tested for the virus the following day.

“At this point, while in RITM, I prayed fervently to spare all of them. My mind was raising with scenarios that Evie and Gia [wife and daughter] wouldn't survive in RITM. All their tests came back negative. Thank God! All I need now is to worry about myself,” he said.

Navarro also narrated how he was “vomiting endlessly” and had diarrhea “probably due to stress” while confined in RITM. According to him, "it was not the physical pain that is frightening," but "the psychological effect that made it difficult."

After two weeks at the hospital, Navarro said he was discharged “with no symptoms.”

"I never knew my test results and perhaps will never know. I know those doctors are busy with more severe and critical cases."

'Ignorance and inaction will cause virus to spread faster'

He also shared in his Facebook post a number of realizations he had while in confinement.

“I realized that ignorance and inaction will cause the virus to spread faster,” he wrote. “That should anyone experience ANY symptoms, they should stay home and limit contact with others. They should NOT shrug-off any symptoms and downplay them. This community quarantine is something we need to protect the people that we love.”

Navarro emphasized the need for people to have themselves tested quickly in order to minimize potential health risks, saying that the virus may spread "inadvertently by their non-quarantine and late testing.” He also warned people that even mild symptoms—such as cough, sore throat, or muscle pains—must not be taken for granted, as some who tested positive for the virus did not, in fact, display symptoms.

“Because I got myself quickly tested, by my immediate confinement, I shielded my elderly parents. I shielded our senior household helpers. I shielded my family,” he added.

He also stressed the importance of being transparent about being infected with the virus. He noted that by disclosing the fact, all those he had been in close contact with were tested by the Health department and were quarantined.

As of March 22, there are a total of 380 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the country. Of these, 17 have already recovered, while the viral disease claimed the lives of 25 patients.

Worldwide, some 308,000 people have contracted the virus. Over 93,000 have since recovered, while the disease proved fatal to around 13,000 patients, according to the Johns Hopkins University's COVID-19 global tracker.