COVID-19: Preparing the public for pandemic
In view of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, there is need for global education that will prevent the pandemic from worsening. Learning from China, the prevention of spread within and between communities is the most pivotal step to take seriously. It is imperative for the public across every single continent to put this into action right now.
Here are a few important factors to consider as we prepare for the pandemic:
- Use media such as radio and news channels or social media platforms, including Facebook and YouTube, to educate the public about when to reach out to hospitals for COVID-19-like illness symptoms.
- Segregate the location of patients presenting with COVID-19-like or influenza-like symptoms away from patients presenting for other illnesses and complaints such as heart failure or other noncommunicable diseases.
- Maximize telemedicine or care using online services and smartphone apps such as FaceTime, Skype or WhatsApp for patients requiring ongoing high-risk clinical care. This will prevent the public from community exposure to COVID-19.
- Ensure that patients who need medicines for chronic illnesses have refills for prescriptions and that the best measures are taken with the help of online and telephone services. Home delivery from pharmacies and Amazon, UPS, FedEx and the Postal Service should help.
- The public needs guidance on deciding between staying in locations where they are currently vs. trying to get back home or to an apparently safer place.
- Bars, cafes, halls and venues other than those for medical or food services have to abide by lockdown regulations until further guidance from WHO. This should be similar to wartime curfew precautions.
- Urge large companies, such as Facebook and Google, foundations such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and major industrial technological institutions to help tackle the pandemic through mass education and data gathering.
- Stick to the basics of health and hygiene: hand-washing, covering one’s face when coughing or sneezing, getting lots of rest and avoiding public travel for reasons other than medical or food needs.
- Learn from other countries, including from current and future case fatality rates from China and Italy and firsthand accounts, such as the JAMA interview with a doctor in Milan. From these, we see that there are cues for us to prioritize and screen patients aged 50 to 80 years more rigorously than the other age groups to have an effect on mortality and morbidity.
- It is still not too late to dampen the consequences of this pandemic. We, the public, have to stand up for the safety of the most susceptible age groups. Remember, you may carry the virus and not die of it but can spread the virus to the more vulnerable population and cause morbidity and mortality. Stay home. Stay safe.
For more information:
Prashanth Thalanayar Muthukrishnan, MD, of Albert Einstein College of Medicine in Bronx, New York, and clinical and research pulmonary and critical care physician at Jacobi Medical Center and North Central Bronx Hospital, can be reached at Dr.firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @Prasdoc.
Disclosure: Muthukrishnan reports no relevant financial disclosures.