Please Stop Panicking Over Coronavirus And Remember The Cold, Hard Facts
The evolving coronavirus situation around the world and in Australia continues to be closely monitored and a leading topic of discussion in the media and among our peers.
We’ve also seen some pretty unusual behaviour in response to the coronavirus in supermarket aisles and on public transport. It’s clear that Australians are beginning to become increasingly concerned by this new virus -- concern that is manifesting itself in panic and, unfortunately in some cases, aggression.
As a doctor who is closely monitoring this unfolding situation at its front line every day, I am alert but not alarmed. I believe the sense of panic and hysteria we’re starting to see among the general public can be put at ease by looking at the facts.
COVID-19 should indeed be treated seriously by Australian healthcare workers. The illness has potential to cause respiratory complications such as pneumonia and, in a small number of cases, death.
The true fatality rate of COVID-19 is difficult to pinpoint due to the possibility of people being infected not showing symptoms and therefore not being diagnosed.
There is currently little evidence of any specific demographics being more at risk of being infected with COVID-19, however we’ve notably only seen very small numbers of children contracting the virus.
Approximately 80 percent of people who are infected with COVID-19 will only experience mild symptoms, but there is cause for concern for anyone elderly or with an underlying health condition -- two groups in which we’ve seen more severe symptoms and, sadly, more fatalities.
While case numbers continue to grow, from an infection prevention perspective the advice remains the same. Regularly wash your hands for at least 20 seconds, cough and sneeze into your elbow, and avoid touching your face.
These same tips that we should use year-round when protecting ourselves against other infectious diseases such as the flu remain the best way forward to protect ourselves against COVID-19.
In uncertain times, a level of unease and a degree of anxiety among the general public is understandable. Forward thinking is understandable. The desire to prepare for the worst is, again, understandable.
What we must not forget in this time of uncertainty is to treat each other with some kindness.
Before we purchase an extreme amount of toilet paper, let’s think about the elderly and those who are only able to get to the shops once every week or two. Let’s also remember that COVID-19 is a respiratory illness, with very limited reports of gastro-related symptoms, so you’re not likely to need five 12-packs of toilet paper to make it through to recovery if you do contract the virus.
Before we yell at each other for coughing or sneezing on public transport, let’s ask the other person if they’re feeling okay before offering them a tissue and politely reminding them of cough etiquette.
Before we start to feel and spread panic, let’s remember the facts, remember our hand hygiene, our cough etiquette, and remember to look out for each other.