COVID-19 came on quickly for Nathan Rochford of Charlottetown, and he credits an antiviral drug for seeing the disease off just as quickly.
A few Sundays ago Rochford wasn't feeling well and decided to go to bed early to try to get ahead of whatever was bothering him, but he felt much worse Monday morning.
"Aches and horrible headache, the worst headache I've ever had," he said.
He went early to the COVID-19 testing clinic, and was confirmed positive within a few hours. His first concern was for his family. He lives in a two-bedroom apartment with his wife and a 10-week-old daughter. He decided to move into a motel to protect the baby.
A call from the doctor
He was running a low-grade fever but not feeling too bad.
Then his doctor called him Tuesday evening. Health P.E.I. had passed on the news of Rochford's positive result, and the doctor suggested he start taking the antiviral drug Paxlovid.
"I have a congenital heart defect, so I had open heart surgery as a kid," said Rochford.
"Because we don't really know the long-term risks of COVID, any further heart damage is something they wanted to avoid."
The Chief Public Health Office has said Paxlovid is no substitute for getting vaccinated, but it has become an important tool in the Island's fight against COVID-19. It's being offered to Islanders who are considered vulnerable, including those over the age of 50 and people who are immunocompromised
More than 1,000 Islanders have been prescribed the drug after Health Canada approved it for use across the country in January. Paxlovid is the trade name of a medication from Pfizer that combines two generic antiviral drugs: nirmatrelvir and ritonavir. It's taken in pill form and can stop the virus from multiplying, speeding recovery, but must be taken within five days of first symptoms to be effective.
Rochford did a little research and found the known potential side effects didn't concerned him: some upset stomach, high blood pressure and a metallic taste in the mouth.
Health Canada advises telling your doctor if you have liver or kidney problems before taking Paxlovid. It can also have serious interactions with other medications.
Within an hour, he said, a pharmacist had delivered the medication to his room. He started taking it that evening. It was a five-day course of treatment, three pills twice a day.
There was not much change in his condition Wednesday, he said.
"I was still running a low-grade fever. Thursday I woke up and I felt 99 per cent better," said Rochford.
"Friday I woke up and I was myself again."
Five days after his first symptoms appeared not only were his symptoms gone, but he was full of energy.
Given his experience, Rochford said he would not hesitate to recommend it.
"Take it if you're offered it. If you have a risk of severe complications and there's that chance, however small, that things could take a turn for the worst or just that there could be long-term damage from having COVID linger, take the Paxlovid," Rochford said.
"It made a difference for me."