Don’t forget the other coronoviruses

Being a member of a few social media sites I am noticing that people on Facebook are really freaking out about coronavirus.  Now, I’m not saying don’t be alarmed by it, I’m just saying, step back, take a deep breath and try to think about how things really are.

The population of the United Kingdom is sitting at about 66.5 million (2018).  As of 0900 hrs on Monday 16th March 2020, 44,105 people in the UK have been tested for coronavirus…42,562 are confirmed NEGATIVE.  Read those numbers again because only 1,543 tested positive.  It’s a tiny, tiny amount of our population so please, put it in perspective.

Of course, for those who have tested positive, it is a worrying time, particularly if they have any underlying medical problems.  It’s horrific for friends and family, not to mention for the person themselves.  I sincerely hope that those who are diagnosed recover well.

I’m starting to worry about the general population though.  I think that Covid-19 is going to make more people ill by worrying about it and aggravating things like anxiety disorders and depressions.  Perhaps even causing people who have never suffered before to suffer now.  Things like panic-buying are the result of an anxiety about how much food and toilet rolls you should have in the house.  If you’re sitting at home with a cupboard full of baked beans, a hallway full of toilet rolls and a shed full of hand wash and anti-bacterial wipes then I can assure you that have suffered, even temporarily, an episode of an anxiety illness.  And that’s worrying.  The simple fact is, no one needed to buy anything over what they usually buy.  As I said in another blog, this is a selfish thing to strip bare supermarkets, but if you’re gripped by the anxiety to buy, you have to do it or you won’t feel at peace.  It could become a more severe illness.

This is where it’s appropriate to say – stop reading newspapers, stop having the news channels on, stop reading every “fact” on social media.

The one thing that a lot of people don’t remember is that this is not the first coronavirus epidemic or pandemic we’ve been through recently.  It’s our third in twenty years.

Remember SARS (Severe Acure Respiratory Syndrome) in 2003 and MERS (Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome) in 2012? Both members of the coronavirus family.  SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV.  Covid-19 is a new strain coming from a not so old enemy.  The bat.  SARS-CoV is linked to bats, while MERS-CoV seemed to involve camels.  You’d have been justified in your toilet roll buying during both of these outbreaks as they did cause diarrhea.

Coronavirus can also cause the common cold.

The reason I am downplaying it all a bit is that the media are starting to over-complicate what is actually a simple matter.  We’re dealing with a new strain of an already established set of viruses.  It’s true that Covid-19 is going on its own route and we don’t know what’ll happen in the UK.  It’ll either fade away in a couple of weeks or we’ll still be dealing with it come Christmas.  Deal with it we will.

My worry is how it’s affecting people though.  Not people who are diagnosed with it, they are few, but those who suffer illness anxiety or general anxiety and those who dread the thought that we might be told to stay at home.  I would think that the people suffering with anxiety related to illness is probably higher than those suffering with the actual strain itself (if empty shelves are to go by).

I’m pretty laid back when it comes to pandemics.  Twenty-five years – plus as a healthcare worker will kind of do that to you.  I’m never sure of the actual years but it is that or over.  The worst time I ever had was when norovirus became a thing.  The best way to explain it is that if you stood still for a moment you could actually watch the virus spreading.  The sudden leaning over of beds and vomiting, the bowels exploding everywhere, from one vulnerable person to the next.  Aprons and gloves on, all hands on deck.  Staff going down one by one.  That was bad.  I actually walked into a bathroom during that to find someone so ill, the faeces (green) were up one wall, all over the toilet itself and her and she was passing out.

Anyway, the point is, I don’t want people over worrying what they are to do if they feel they need to self-isolate.  By the way, that norovirus year, I had it and my entire family had it and could only have came from my work.  No lawsuits though.

So.  You’ve been advised self-isolate (by the NHS and not some hack on social media).  Self-isolation is not for you.  Not for me either.  I can’t be kept at home.  I’d give myself two days and I’ll be on the roof.  I need to be out and about, but not necessarily talking to people or even being within two metres.

Advice from a person who suffers severe anxiety and needs to be able to get out.

  • Go out.  No one can stop you from getting fresh air.  You can sit at the bottom of your stairs, your doorstep or in your garden.  If you want to go for a walk, do it.  You can keep away from other people, they can keep away from you.
  • You need to shop.  No one can stop you from doing that, unless they’re going to buy it and deliver it to you.  Okay, you maybe don’t need to go out and buy that Michael Kors handbag, but if you need bread and milk, a TV guide and a Lego set then off you go.
  • You can exercise indoors.  I can’t, but maybe you can.  Internal stairs, use them for stepping.  Or youtube an old aerobics video.  Or Spotify a zumba course.  I, personally, will be doing none of that.  I can’t.  I need to walk outside in the fresh air even if it’s a howling gale and fifteen-feet of snow
  • Occupy your mind.  This is important.  The moment I knew that football was off the agenda for a month or so I knew I would go insane without it.  There’s nothing, no other leagues (even non-league has now shut down) so I had to find something to do.  Reading.  I’m seven Muriel Spark books in, with two to read here and more to be picked up at the library.  Also, more reading on the new arm my career will be taking.  Reading isn’t for everyone, find something you like but also something that won’t make you feel like you’re not doing anything.
  • Skype/Facetime people.  Keep in touch with your pals this way.  Sometimes texts are fine, but sharing a laugh together is immense.  It’s not forever.  Though many of your pals on Facebook would like you to think so.
  • Eat well.  Don’t allow the takeaway to overcome.  Keep cooking, keep it fresh.  Takeaways are fine, but if you eat too many over a period of self-isolation then you’ll lose skills.  And you’ll depend too much on the takeaway service.  Good mental health is reliant on eating well, as well.  We know that, don’t let it slide.  Takeaways aren’t healthy.

I may be proved wrong on this, and if I am then I am and I’ll face up to it at the time.  I don’t think we’re going to see as big a problem as we think.  China, host country, faced a huge problem, it originated there but a mere about three months in they’ve been able to close temporary hospitals and redirect the workers to the usual hospitals.  It’s not over there but the new cases have dropped significantly.

Italy has been badly effected.  Some of this can be put to the Italians that they knew about coronavirus, they knew people skiing in other countries were going home with it and then when the Italians all returned home they had it, and it spread.  There is fault there, lying at the borders, but the government will get to it, they have to be allowed to deal with the illness and then, hopefully, deal with why it got so bad for them.

Yet, while I am here, laidback as I am, I urge people to take a step back.  The world is not actually ending.