Science and Facts not Emotions and Hysteria!
THE OUTBREAK OF the new corona virus (2019-nCoV) in China, takes most people back to 2014, when the dreaded Ebola virus caused the deaths of more than 11,300 people mainly in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone.
Panic, and a feeling of helplessness, were the common emotions then, because of how easily that virus is transmitted and its high fatality rate.
Over the years, we here in St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) have also had to prepare when there were international outbreaks of other viruses such as H1N1 and SARS. Then in 2014, the mosquito borne Chikungunya virus wreaked havoc, causing great morbidity among Vincentians due to its painful nature.
We all learned valuable lessons from those situations. In each of these instances however, as bad as the viruses were, even worse were the rumours that were spread, and the panic those rumours caused.
Our world is now a global village and getting smaller every day. We are fed, via social media, raw, unfiltered information, and sometimes misinformation too, structured with the specific intention of drawing out from us an emotive reaction so that we will click, like and share.
Our Public Health officials though, do not have the luxury of acting based on how they feel. Their decisions must be evidence- based and guided by science.
They are supported in their decision making by the region’s top regional experts, led by CARPHA
(the region’s public health agency), as well as the Pan American Health Organization- PAHO- and the World Health Organization- WHO.
However, emotions often power the intellect, and once individuals are convinced about a matter, based on something they saw on the Internet, it is very difficult, no matter how well reasoned the counter-argument, based on facts, to convince them differently. Panic and misinformation could lead to poor decision making, to the detriment of one’s health.
That is why in times like these, it is important that the Ministry of Health intensify their public education programs and try to saturate the various media with the facts at hand, and the rationale used for arriving at their decisions. They should try to get ahead of the rumour mill to prevent unnecessary panic.
As responsible members of the public, we have a duty to not fuel the rumour mill, and ensure that whatever information we disseminate is factual. Unfortunately, some of the purveyors of disinformation have a partisan political motive; others do so through sheer ignorance.
Matters of health, including infectious diseases, know no boundaries and keeping safe is too important for game playing.
We must all work together to keep our nation safe and to avoid unnecessary panic among the public.
Science and facts, yes; emotion and hysteria, no!