In case you missed the news: there’s a new virus in town…and they named it after a cruddy beer!!
All of the hype surrounding the coronavirus has created a new and difficult situation for me, my staff, and on doctors around the world. How do we answer our patients who are terribly afraid of what they are hearing? China is quarantined, the Olympics might get cancelled, Oprah has been crowned Empress of civilization…OK, that Oprah thing is no true, but the rest is pretty scary. Is it hype that we should downplay, or is it seriously scary stuff that we should warn our patients, our friends, and our families about?
In response to this, I wrote a summary of what we know now about the COVID-19 virus and sent it out. The response has been overwhelming. People say that it is “concise,” “balanced,” and “level-headed.” My mom is proud of that last one. I’ve come a long way.
They also have commented on the lack of political agenda in what I wrote, a compliment that confuses me some. Why would I use a patient education piece to push a political agenda? I haven’t done so in my handouts on otitis media or ringworm. The goal of this was not to rail against the demagogues that interfere with public health, scream at the press that incites the public in attempt to increase revenue, or theorize about the authoritarian nation where this infection began and its government’s role in creating this virus for evil intent. I’ve heard each of those opinions, and whether or not they hold truth has nothing to do with care of my patients. The handout was written to give patients a mooring of truth and sanity in a world of hype and fake news.
So here is the handout in all its glory. Feel free to share it, to steal it, to republish it, to make wrapping paper out of it. I don’t care. Just start talking sensibly about this issue that may or may not be the scariest health crisis we’ve faced in our lifetime. Yes, it’s important to have good leadership in this crisis, but it’s more important for us to work together as a country, as a world, to minimize the likelihood of disaster. The biggest danger, in my opinion, is no from the virus, but from societal panic and the chaos that could create.