By Enyeribe Ejiogu
February 27, 2020 remains a day etched on the minds of Nigerians. On that day, the first case of COVID-19 infection was confirmed in Lagos, Nigeria, by the Federal Ministry of Health, after an Italian man who had come into the country on a short business trip tested positive for the viral infection. He was promptly quarantined at the Infectious Diseases Hospital, Yaba, which was set aside as the focal health facility for the management of COVID-19 cases.
With the active support of the Corporate Alliance against COVID (CACOVID), several isolation centres were built in various major cities just as state governments set up their own facilities. COVID-19 infection occurred first in Wuhan, China sometime September 2019 and by December 31 of the same year, it had become an epidemic in China. It then rapidly spread to the whole world and led the World Health Organisation to declare it a pandemic.
Like all other nations, Nigeria imposed measures to curb the spread of the deadly disease. Initially, the dread of the disease made people strive to adhere to guidelines, referred to as non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs). As more information became available, coupled with the fact people were not seeing hundreds dropping dead in Nigeria and other African nations as had been predicted by some foreign medical experts and publicised by some Western media, skepticism, doubts and denial of the reality of COVID-19 built up. Despite the mounting death toll in some countries, including the death of notable individuals who got infected with COVID-19 and died in the country, the doubts and denial lingered. But people who survived the infection haves documented the stories of the ordeal they experienced as the virus ravaged their bodies at the isolation centres.
As expedited efforts to find a cure for the disease or vaccines progressed, other researchers have focused on the major effects of the disease on the human body. In a recent research report published on May 7 in the World Journal of Men’s Health, medical researchers found that infection with COVID-19 may affect the reproductive ability of men and possibly result in impotency. This, the experts determined, should be one major reason every man should be very steadfast in avoiding infection by observing the COVID-19 protocols, and seek to get vaccinated.
In publication based on the research findings, WebMD.com noted that Coronavirus infection is already known to damage blood vessels, and logically it could also affect the supply of blood to the penis.
Working with an electron microscope, the researchers, according to the report, discovered coronavirus particles in tissue samples taken from the penises of two survivors of COVID-19 infection who became impotent after recovering from the disease, which they had about six and eight months earlier.
Further study revealed evidence of blood vessel damage in the penises of the COVID-19 patients, compared to two other men with erectile dysfunction who’d never been infected.
Director of the Reproductive Urology Programme at the University of Miami’s Miller School of Medicine, who led the team of researchers said: “We found that the virus affects the blood vessels that supply the penis, causing erectile dysfunction. The blood vessels themselves malfunction and are not able to provide enough blood to enter the penis for an erection.”
Ramasamy compared this to organ damage in the lungs, kidneys and brain that’s been found in COVID-19 patients.
“We think the penis also could be affected in a similar way,” Ramasamy said. “We don’t think this is a temporary effect. We think this could be permanent,” he said.
The new report focused on two recovered COVID-19 patients undergoing penile prosthesis surgery for their erectile dysfunction. Both men had normal erectile function prior to their infections.
One of the men had been severely sick with COVID-19 and spent two weeks in the hospital before he recovered, but otherwise was free from chronic health problems. By comparison, two COVID-free men also undergoing surgery for erectile dysfunction had no evidence of the same sort of small blood vessel damage in their penises.
“I think this is probably not something men are discussing right now with all of the things that are going on,” Ramasamy said, adding, “I’m fairly certain in the next six months to one year we will probably get a better sense of the true prevalence of erectile dysfunction among COVID-positive men.”
It makes sense that COVID-19 could affect men in this way, given the virus’ ability to cause inflammation and damage blood vessels, said Dr. Ash Tewari, chair of urology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, in New York City.
However, Tewari cautioned that men shouldn’t panic until more research has been done, saying: “One or two patients don’t make a fact, but this is worth investigating from our standpoint. COVID-19 is an endothelial dysfunction. The small arteries of the heart can get impacted in the same way that the penile blood vessels can get impacted.”
Ramasamy urged former COVID-19 patients now suffering from erectile dysfunction to seek medical help: “Don’t think this is something that’s going to go away on its own. We think this could be a long-lasting effect, and not a temporary one.” Ramasamy said.
For men who are worried about this development, there’s one other piece of advice: “Don’t get COVID. Get vaccinated, so you don’t get COVID.” In an African setting like Nigeria, where the government depends on the WHO-driven effort to make affordable vaccines available to the teeming population, the advice of Ramasamy is cold comfort given that Nigeria is severely handicapped by the extreme shortage of vaccines for the people eager to be vaccinated. The other side of the coin is that millions have reservations about COVID-19 vaccines, probably because of certain religious teachings.
COVID-19 is a viral disease that manifests a number of symptoms in people infected with the Coronavirus. COVID-19 affects different people in different ways. Most infected people will develop mild to moderate illness and recover without hospitalization.
Most common symptoms of COVID-19 include: fever, dry cough, tiredness. The less common symptoms are aches and pains, sore throat, diarrhoea, conjunctivitis, headache, loss of taste or smell, a rash on skin or discolouration of fingers or toes. The more serious and life threatening symptoms include difficulty breathing or shortness of breath, chest pain or pressure and loss of speech or movement.
When you notice a combination of these symptoms, please seek immediate medical attention if you have serious symptoms. Always call before visiting your doctor or health facility.
Health authorities advise that people who have with mild symptoms and are otherwise healthy should manage their symptoms at home. On the average it takes five to six days from when someone is infected with the virus for symptoms to show, however it can take up to 14 days.