The Next Coronavirus (III); please stop buying toilet paper.

I’m of course primarily referring to the Coronavirus paralyzing the press, media, economy, imagination, indeed our lives and sanity – even our health – in March 2020. There may be a few things to reflect upon before it disappears as quickly as it arrived however.

Resistance is futile (to the virus – but also the associated political and business opportunities.)

So, what do I mean, why does it matter and what could we learn?

In March 2020, gatherings were banned in the Republic of Ireland, but pubs and bars had remained open, but videos emerged of large numbers of people in pubs in the country (well it was Ireland, right?)

So the government, having confirming 40 new cases of coronavirus, bringing the total in the Republic of Ireland to 169 and the death of 2 (from a population 5,000,000) – chose to close pubs (yes, Ireland) until the end of March, probably saved Irish lives simply by doing that.

Across the globe, even churches were beginning to close and shops (often depleted and unprofitable anyway incidentally) thereby shortening their days. This way more people can enter together over a shorter period .

The request to close pubs until 29 March in Ireland followed discussions with industry representatives who outlined the difficulty of implementing ‘social distancing’ while pubs remained open. The government also asked people not to hold house parties, as doing so “would put other peoples’ health at risk”. BBC 15th March 2020.

This “flu” is another ‘flu” variant outbreak. It’s not the first, nor will it be the last.

Of course, it is both contagious and virulent, because that’s what viruses are. Is it serious? Yes of course it is, any disease is. In society we try to remain healthy despite overeating, smoking, taking drugs and drinking alcohol – often to excess.

The message is clear – we want to stay healthy, providing someone else does it for us.

We don’t exercise adequately, worry too much and are stressed by bosses and keeping our jobs within the ‘employment system’, unless you work for the government as a teacher or post office worker (just lost half my audience.)

The message is clear – we want to stay healthy, providing someone else does it for us.

So why is this outbreak any different from all those that we’ve had so far.

I’d propose a few reasons.

Does the media drive infectious disease fear?

We are no longer driven by the press alone. Now we have social media to stoke the fires too and because of the “Big Brother Characters” (or BBC) we have now lost the concept of ‘reality’ which is somewhat ironic given the genre of the show (reality TV).

Anyway, we now have self-appointed experts (SAEs) who know nothing (usually ’nuffin’ about ’nuffin’) spouting off to others who also know nothing either but believe that this first group (SAEs) will look after their best interests. Remember we want to stay safe and healthy, providing someone else does it for us.

The role of fear in this infectious disease.

Fear seems to have been more intensified this time. It’s been described as the ‘herd mentality’ and is analogous to lemmings jumping off a cliff because their neighbour does.

My mother used to say, “well if you’re sister puts her head in the gas oven, would you?” (‘What’s a gas oven?’ – I’m showing my age)

Unlike lemmings and other herds however, humans on the other hand will beg, borrow and steal to get ahead of their neighbours – how much toilet paper can one use in a lifetime anyway? I’m half expecting people to appear in the streets dressed as “mummies” for protection!

Does hysteria drive infectious diseases?

I have a suspicion that hysteria may drive the fear of infectious diseases

So, in a slightly suppressed form, this is mass hysteria – driven by ignorance, apathy and fear – in response, those in public health, universities, labs and other people with lots of books behind them in the screen shot, are recommending that we check the sources of information that we’re living by, which makes sense, sorta’.

Does ignorance drive the infectious disease fears?

We are also being attacked by a ‘novel’ virus. Most of them are for two reasons, first viruses mutate, that’s what they do. Secondly, that’s why it’s an epidemic – there’s no established resistance. It’s worse of course if you’re old, infirm, have suppressed immunity, etc.as the likely hood of morbidity and mortality is higher (it has to be.)

As ‘The Sun Newspaper’ in the UK so elegantly put it, “OUTBREAKS of disease can spread rapidly and kill thousands – but what is the difference between a pandemic, an endemic and an epidemic?”

An outbreak of a disease is an awareness of a rise in the number or symptoms of a disease. An epidemic is a disease which is actively spreading (more of this later). A pandemic is that but considered globally and endemic is a disease that exists permanently in a particular region or population. For instance, Malaria is a constant threat in parts of Africa.

Has there been a change in the Public Health message for this infection?

Regarding epidemic, for the first time that I can remember, official sources are using a new phrase, ‘social distancing’, which depending on what you read, ranges from keeping your distance from others while shopping, to a lockdown and curfew?)

Why is there such a “Big time” involvement by government, even proposing “lock downs”.

Lock down and then curfew?

Lock down and then curfew? Is it worth going shopping?

Why is this being proposed?

According to Business insider (USA),  “After wasting weeks underestimating the threat of the novel coronavirus, the US is finally taking meaningful action to slow its spread.”

“Unfortunately, we are still behind where we need to be”, it said.

“The next big step is lockdown. New York City, Los Angeles, Massachusetts, Ohio, and other cities and states have started taking this brave and painful step. The rest of the country should prepare to do it soon.

The data is clear. Locking down to slow the spread of the coronavirus helps “flatten the curve,” reducing the infection rate and, thereby, reducing the impact on local healthcare systems.

The short-term economic and social impact is devastating, But once we get a handle on the epidemic, the economy will recover.

China, South Korea, Italy, Spain, France, Denmark, and other countries have already gone to some form of lockdown. More of the US should follow their lead.

Every day we wait will mean thousands more Americans getting sick and needing medical attention, potentially overwhelming local healthcare systems.” – Business Insider (USA) March 2020

This “flu” is another ‘flu” variant outbreak. It’s not the first, nor will it be the last.

In my opinion there are three messages here, although only one is openly addressed;

You’re very likely going to become infected. Everyone knows that our bodies are composed of more alien (good emotive word) than human bacteria. Viruses are omnipresent too but more likely to cause disease.

The message from this “flattening the spike” we’re now hearing about is that we’re likely to contract it, with or without symptoms and with or without prevention. Although I’m still not sure how much toilet paper is required to combat this flu outbreak?

Our healthcare systems are overburdened by the sick, the old and the infirm (I’m not suggesting we ‘cull’ our older and wisers’).

Maybe when this is all over, [for it will be], we should both look to getting healthier individually and as a society, and less reliant on a healthcare system which is actually a “disease care system” and clearly incapable of dealing with mass or epidemic ‘anything.’

Perhaps ready ourselves for the next epidemic, which is only a matter of time given our ‘self-chosen’ need for world travel, business and economy (“I don’t care where it comes from providing it’s either cheap or in my home by this afternoon”) – because clearly, we’d have it no other way.

“because clearly, we’d have it no other way.”

In my opinion

So, in my opinion, we do need to be careful and look after those more vulnerable. It’s called “being thoughtful”. With protection, people are unlikely to die by delivering base needs ( including ‘some’ toilet paper) to those unable to get it themselves, I’m not suggesting a ‘house party’ just a delivery for others that can’t get out or at least a quick call or check on them.

If we do go into lock-down, there’s also likely to be a large price to pay in the subsequent counselling and emotional management of parents too.

So, let’s use some common sense – if stupidity is the opposite of common sense, I believe it was Einstein (not me) who said, ““Two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I am not yet completely sure about the universe.”

So,

“Think about others.”

“Wash your hands.”

“Don’t touch your eyes.”

“Don’t sneeze on people.”

“Increase your own resistance (health) ready for next time.”

AND please stop buying toilet paper.

As a post script we’re now in October 2020 and faced with a second wave in many countries of the world. With no practical vaccine in sight just yet and an admission that we still no little about this virus, we are faced with staying well physically and emotionally. I stand corrected – we now live in a world that will forever be changed and need to concern ourselves with surviving this virus before the next.

Dr. Stephen Bray March 2020

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