Biloxi firefighter among the first at Memorial Hospital to be treated with chloroquine

Biloxi firefighter among the first at Memorial Hospital to be treated with chloroquine
Capt. Richard Conine is one of three Biloxi firefighters to be diagnosed with COVID-19. He says his family has not shown any symptoms of the virus. (Source: Richard Conine)

BILOXI, Miss. (WLOX) - The Biloxi Fire Department has had three of its firefighters test positive for COVID-19. Capt. Richard Conine is one of them.

Conine, an EMT and firefighter, says he knew something was wrong when he started having trouble breathing.

“I was really bad. I was in trouble and, being an EMT, I knew I was in trouble,” said Conine. “I’ve never been that sick before. It wasn’t scary because I knew I was going to go to the hospital if I had to but I was in bad shape.”

His symptoms started on a Monday, by Tuesday he was being tested, and by that Friday he had his results. He was COVID-19 positive.

By the time Conine received his positive test results, he had already developed pneumonia. According to the CDC, pneumonia is a complication of a severe case of COVID-19.

“The difficulty breathing and then the pneumonia was probably the worst thing," said the Biloxi firefighter. “I still have a cough and I’m still coughing the pneumonia up and, you know, that’s a pain,” said Conine. “I’ve never had pneumonia before so that was a new experience. Right now, the cough is the worst but not being able to breathe was a little scary.”

On Friday, the day he received his test results, Conine also connected with an infectious disease doctor who decided to treat him using the malaria drug, chloroquine. Conine was the first patient at Memorial Hospital to be treated with the antimalarial drug.

“I think it helped a lot. Friday night to Saturday morning when I first started on it, I was doing really bad,” said Conine. "The pneumonia had gotten bad and I was really worried I was going to end up in the hospital but when that medicine kicked in, it has helped greatly. I’m almost breathing normally now.”

Along with chloroquine, he was also prescribed a Z-pack to fight the pneumonia.

So far, three Biloxi firefighters have tested positive for the virus. Conine says many in the department are concerned about the possibility of contracting the virus and taking it home to their families.

"It’s a concern of all ours. I know there are several firefighters who have brought in motorhomes and, if they have symptoms, they’re staying in their RVs away from their families.”

However, the department is now taking extra precautions.

“They’re screening everybody before they come to work now and they’re doing a real good job," said Conine.

Conine is resting and healing in isolation at home. He says, so far, his wife and three children have remained virus-free.

As for the testing, Conine says he wishes requirements to get a test weren’t as strict.

“My fever barely got where they wanted it to be and not everybody I don’t think is going to have that 100.4 fever so you know I kind of wish they would say this, this or this and not have to have all three things because there’s going to be a lot of people that can’t get tested that are going to have it."

If you think you have symptoms of COVID-19 and need testing, health providers say to call one of their pre-screening hotlines for evaluation. Once the pre-screening is complete, you will be referred to a testing clinic if needed.

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