A 33-year-old Halifax man who was hospitalized with COVID-19 is urging more people under 40 to get vaccinated against the disease, saying it's "nothing like the flu."
Laird Smith spent eight days at the QEII Health Sciences Centre in May after testing positive for COVID-19 when cases of the Alpha variant were being reported.
"You really can't mistake it for anything else," Smith said Wednesday of the disease, which some skeptics have dismissed as nothing more than a flu or the common cold.
Though some people with COVID-19 are asymptomatic and others have just mild symptoms that can be treated at home, severe illness can lead to hospitalization, long-term complications and death.
Exposed though working from home
Smith received his positive test on the same day his age bracket became eligible for vaccination. He and health officials believe he was exposed due to community spread.
"I worked from home, I remained in the neighbourhood," Smith told CBC Radio's Maritime Noon. "I wasn't going out for any social activity."
He was quickly contacted by Nova Scotia Health and given a pulse oximeter, a device that measures oxygen levels in blood.
Hospitalized after oxygen levels fell
When his levels dropped lower than recommended, he was told to call 911 and was taken to the hospital, where he was given an IV and oxygen.
He was told to lie face down on his stomach whenever possible to give his lungs the optimal chance to expand.
"You're just expected to lie there and stay relatively still," he said.
At one point, Smith said even with the prone position for maximum oxygen intake, his lungs were so congested and he coughed so often that he was unable to eat.
Smith is calling on people to get vaccinated. He said those who are choosing not to take risks "are doing something beneficial for their community."
Vaccination rates lower among younger Nova Scotians
Earlier this summer, Public Health officials in Nova Scotia urged more young people to get the shot after noting uptake was lower among younger men outside of the Halifax Regional Municipality.
As of Aug. 13, the province said 64 per cent of eligible people between the ages of 30 and 34 had received two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine. The lowest uptake was among eligible 20 to 24 year olds. In that cohort, 53 per cent were fully vaccinated.
The vast majority of COVID-19 cases in Nova Scotia since March 15, including hospitalizations, are among unvaccinated people, according to provincial data. As of Wednesday, there were 25 active cases in the province, with one person in ICU.
Smith said people are not taking COVID-19 seriously enough and laughing off the consequences, which he said seems "arrogant."
"This is like nothing you've ever experienced," he said.
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