No pandemonium in the pandemic
Health Wise
March 17, 2020

No pandemonium in the pandemic

ST VINCENT AND THE Grenadines now has its first case of the novel Coronavirus (Covid-19) which has now been declared as a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO). A pandemic is a disease of which people have no immunity and spreads across the world. Throughout history, there have been a number of pandemics of diseases such as tuberculosis, smallpox, the 1918 influenza pandemic commonly referred to as the Spanish flu and the plague.

During outbreaks of diseases, especially a new disease, people will get worried and anxious. This can lead to panic. Understandably, it is acceptable for people to be concerned and ask questions. However, the last thing that should happen is panic.

When people panic, it does not allow for rational thinking and for appropriate decisions to be taken.

How can we avoid panic?

1. Get the correct information: We must make sure that the information that we get is factual and comes directly from or referenced by the WHO, U.S Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) and other reputable public health information. There will be lot of misinformation in the public domain, especially on social media and so this can lead people to believe things that are not true, which can result in unnecessary anxiety and panic. Health authorities should have a dedicated medium to disseminate periodic information. This information must be developed in various ways to reach different audiences.

2. Give clear guidance: In an outbreak setting, there must be clear guidance as to what is done by whom and when. People will need to know that if they are in contact with someone ill what do they do. Failure to give proper guidance can result in chaos and people expressing frustration and panic. The guidance should be simple, easy to understand and specific.

For example, there should be guidance for persons who have travelled, persons who have been exposure to someone ill and persons who may be exposed to someone who was in contact with someone who is ill.

3. One incident manager: There must be someone who is at the helm of all of this.

This person is called the incident commander or incident manager. We understand that there are going to be many actors involved in preparedness and response efforts, but there must be a competent authority and someone who takes control and make the critical decisions.Failure to have a commander will result in delayed decisions or decisions

4. Take preventative measures: It has been proven that prevention is the best approach against this disease. Simple preventative measures such as washing hands, personal hygiene, social distancing and avoiding non-essential travels can help in decreasing the spread of this disease.

Remember that each one of us has a role to play and that information is power. Once you know what to do this can avoid panic.

The views expressed are those of the writer and not that of any organization that he is affiliated with.