As someone with a weakened immune system, I'm fed up with people saying the coronavirus is nothing to worry about
Every time I log onto Twitter or Facebook, I'm met with multiple posts by people saying 'coronavirus is just like the flu'. 'There's nothing to worry about'. 'People are over-reacting'. 'The media is scaremongering'.
I couldn't disagree more. Here's why I'm scared of the coronavirus, and why I need people to stop telling me not to worry.
Covid-19 – the coronavirus that has already affected 88 countries worldwide – is a new illness that impacts your lungs and airways. Symptoms include a cough, shortness of breath, breathing difficulties and fever; in many reported cases, this can develop into pneumonia and even lead to death (with more than 3,300 deaths reported globally so far).
As someone with asthma – i.e., someone with a weakened immune system and pre-existing breathing difficulties – I'm part of the 'at risk' group. Not only that, but my entire immediate family is also immunocompromised, with each of us having long-term medical conditions. For us, the coronavirus is both a significant health risk and seriously life-threatening. Brushing it off as 'just like the flu' doesn't fly.
I've also noticed a lot of people on social media saying the press is 'scaremongering', and that people are 'overreacting' to a situation that 'isn't that bad'.
For me, it is that bad.
I have the flu vaccine – I get it every year – but a coronavirus vaccine does not currently exist. I commute on public transport for four hours a day and am constantly exposed to strangers coughing and sneezing without washing their hands. With the Department of Health being so vague about where infected people are from, I have no way of knowing who's putting me at risk.
The most recent Irish case, which was reported in Co Cork, proves that it's possible to catch the virus while out and about in your community. As of yet, the Department of Health doesn't know how this patient contracted the illness – and for those of us who are immunocompromised, that's worrying.
Should I be self-isolating? Who should I avoid? Did the woman who just coughed without covering her mouth recently travel to Northern Italy? The fear of the unknown is strong.
Other people on social media are saying that more people die from road accidents and poverty than Covid-19. To that, I say they are completely unrelated issues and can't be compared. All three are terribly important and all three should be addressed with the same level of concern. It's not productive to compare them against each other, but rather to tackle each one separately and head-on.
At this stage, with 13 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the Republic of Ireland and three cases in the North, all I can hope is that the Department of Health will be more forthcoming with information. I understand the need for patient confidentiality, but surely such a global health emergency trumps that?
For more information about Covid-19, visit hse.ie/conditions/coronavirus.
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