Malaysian coronavirus survivor suffers social stigma

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PETALING JAYA - Weeks have passed since his recovery from Covid-19, but now he has to endure the stares and the discomfort of others around him.

The 32-year-old man, who wanted to remain anonymous, said he was still isolating himself because he did not want people to feel uneasy.

"I can still feel people in my community treating me as if I'm a monster - even though I have fully recovered.

"Some people still view me as 'the coronavirus patient'. They are afraid that I may be infected again and spread it to others, so they keep a distance from me.

"They would also stare at me and gesture at me in a way that makes me feel uncomfortable," the man from Selangor told The Star.

Recounting his ordeal, he said he had a mild fever several days after returning from a work trip to Macau on Feb 7.

"Doctors referred me to the Banting Hospital for a thorough check-up as they were concerned that I could be infected.

"I was feverish. I was shivering and had headaches. I was given some medicine, which brought my fever down during the two-day stay in the hospital," he said, adding that he felt much better then.

Initially, he was diagnosed with a severe acute respiratory infection but doctors soon realised it was more than that.

When he thought he could be discharged, he said the doctor suddenly informed him that his throat and nasal samples had tested positive for Covid-19.

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"The doctor said the ambulance was ready and waiting outside to send me to Hospital Sungai Buloh.

"I followed the instructions even though I couldn't accept the fact that I had been infected," he said.

As news of his hospitalisation spread in his community, he had to also counter various rumours.

"Social media users who had heard about my condition would share my family photos by highlighting my face, exposing the rest of my family to public scrutiny.

"There were rumours claiming my mother and nephew had also been infected.

"I felt bad for my family because people were shunning them," he said, adding that many people in his town began to panic because of the rumours.

"Some netizens even blamed me for bringing this virus back. But in fact, I was also a victim.

"Had I known the virus was in my body, I'd never step out of my house or come back," he added.

During his time in the isolation ward, he said he was monitored closely as he had breathing difficulties and there were traces of blood in his phlegm.

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"I got worried about my condition and had negative thoughts every time I closed my eyes.

"I thought to myself, is this the end of my life?

"There are many things I have not done," he said, adding that he was thankful to friends who were there for him and encouraged him not to blame himself.

After spending over two weeks in the hospital, he was eventually given a clean bill of health.

He returned home on Feb 19.

Despite still getting peculiar looks from people, he said he harboured no ill feelings towards anyone.

"I just hope that my experience will help Malaysians understand the virus better," he said.

He also added that he was relieved that no one from his family and community tested positive for the virus.

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