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Kaleidoscope of the Heart: What if a doctor develops a fever before work?

Rika Kayama (Mainichi)

The other day I caught a cold for the first time in a while. I had a bit of a sore throat in the morning after I fell asleep with my air conditioner on. I had the sniffles, too. It was a typical mild cold.

    Normally I would go to work after taking Chinese herbal cold medicine and the like, but I was baffled that day. What if I had a fever? One is supposed to report to a hospital I work at if they had a fever of at least 37 degrees Celsius as part of measures to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.

    I took my temperature with unease and it turned out a little higher than usual but below 37C. I was relieved and went out with a mask on my face.

    But what if I had a fever of at least 37C? If I told that to a worker at the reception, they might tell me, "Doctor, please go home today." Because those who have developed a fever are supposed to take time off at our workplace, it cannot be helped.

    But what about patients? After coming all the way to the hospital, would they just be told, "We have no consultations as the doctor has gone home"?

    "Would that happen even if I had a mild cold that clearly has nothing to do with the coronavirus? Oh dear," I murmured in my consultation room.

    The government's "Go To Travel" campaign to spur domestic tourism demand is reportedly slated to begin with trips to and from Tokyo excluded. People can develop a fever under various circumstances. Some people experience a fever of 37C by catching a cold like I did or by suffering heatstroke. There are even those whose normal temperature is relatively high.

    What if a traveler is told they had a fever at an inn they had just arrived at after taking trains or other means of transport? If one of the members of a family on a trip has to go home without being able to stay there together, that would seem quite unrealistic.

    That said, it would also be a problem if someone who claims to have "just a cold" was allowed to stay at an inn and later turns out to have been infected with the coronavirus. Luckily, my cold soon subsided, but there's no proof that my sore throat had been completely unrelated to the coronavirus. It makes me think that perhaps I should cancel my consultations if I have a fever even at short notice on the day.

    Developing a fever upon catching a cold is one of the human body's protective responses as it attempts to curb virus multiplication. The fever works to contain the virus and get the person to soon overcome the cold. For now, however, we have no choice but to check our temperature before going out to work or making a trip while praying that it will not somehow go up. I'm hoping that families and others who are taking part in the Go To Travel initiative will be able to embark on trips and return home safely.

    (By Rika Kayama, psychiatrist)

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