In conversation with a medical frontliner to debunk Covid’19 myths

Covid'19 myths

When Covid’19 began infecting and killing people four months ago, there was little to no information to help us understand what this pandemic really is. We did what made sense to us, grabbing at whatever promised relief and security. We have come a long way since then; there are studies to confirm as well as debunk our convictions, and governments have taken it upon themselves to regulate life at micro level until the situation is under control.

Despite the progress, there is still a lot of misinformation out there, propagated by ill-informed and mischievous. So, in order to understand our situation, I spoke to a medical frontliner and asked her to clarify the most common misconceptions; I also included some of the questions that you sent over to me on Instagram (thank you for that, by the way).

Let’s start with you – can you please tell me about yourself, education, practice, etc.

My name is Madeeha Mohamed Haniffa. I’m Sri Lankan by birth and was brought up in Qatar. I did my MBBS in Pakistan and moved to Germany in January 2015. I initially lived in Stuttgart, where I leant the language. Then gave my medical exam in June 2017 in Freiburg. Started my first ever job in internal medicine at SLK-Kliniken in Möckmuhl and Bad Friedrichshall in Baden Württemberg. 

When I got pregnant, I was given a Beschäftigungsverbot and was required to stay at home for the entire duration of my pregnancy. Two months after the delivery, I got a job at UKGM in Giessen in ENT Unit. Currently, I’m in my second year of residency training.

Elephant in the room – what does it mean to practice social distancing? Why is it important?

Social distancing is the art of staying a few meters apart from friends and strangers. In a normal setting, social distancing doesn’t apply to members of the same family living together. In cases where the mode of infection is through respiratory droplets or aerosols, it’s important to stay out of reach of the pathogens carried and disseminated by infected people.

When should social distance turn into self-isolation?

When you have symptoms of common cold such as runny/stuffed nose, throat pain, fever, body aches.

How does the virus transmit from one person to another?

So far, studies have shown that the virus is transmitted through droplet infection. That is when an infected person sneezes or coughs and the aerosols, that are then expelled in the air, lands on any mucosal surface of another person, i.e. mouth, nose and eyes. 

Recently, WHO reported that the virus can stay up to 8 hours in the air in certain conditions, like the ones that medical staff works in. This was misunderstood and many believed that it is Covid is an airborne virus. It’s not.

Equally important, how does it not transmit? (animals, plants, food, air, etc.)

Droplet transmission is the only way. No studies so far have confirmed that it can be transmitted by any other means. It only gets transmitted through contact with the infected. Recently, it was reported that a few animals were infected, but there is no confirmation that infected animals can be spreaders and infect humans.

Symptoms for Covid19 overlap with other forms of illnesses, such as flu. How does one know when it is potentially Corona and when it is not?

As Corona is also a flu virus, there is an overlap in symptoms, and one cannot know for sure if they are infected without being tested. So, if you have flu-like symptoms, it is better to self-isolate as there is no treatment for Covid’19. But if you are suffering from shortness of breath or heaviness in the chest, it’s time to get to the hospital.

If someone fears that they are indeed infected, what should the action plan be?

Self-isolation, basic hygiene, self-isolation, basic hygiene, self-isolation and basic hygiene!! If your condition worsens, and you experience symptoms such as shortness of breath and chest tightness, get medical assistance.

Mothers are very worried about their children. How high at risk are kids under 3? Is it okay for children to play in parks?

Surprisingly, children have had a mild case of Covid’19. We do not know why or have enough numbers to be sure, but by the looks of it, it is not as dangerous for children as it is for elderly and adults with comorbidities.

If a child or children from a single household play in a park, without any contact with other kids or adults (in other words, they are the only children in the park), and immediately wash hands and follow precautions after, there is no harm in it.

When mothers need to take their newborns out for vaccines and such, how can they ensure that their child remains protected against infection?

For starters, try traveling by your personal car if possible. If you need to use public transport, try to maintain as much distance as possible. Wash your hands as soon and as frequently as possible, 

When you are at the doctor’s, maintain distance from other patients and keep your contact to an absolute minimum.

If you or your child is immunocompromised, then wear FFP masks and not the normal masks. If you or your child is sick, wear normal masks.

Most importantly, don’t be paranoid about it.

Thank you so much for time and effort. Please feel free to add anything else that you think masses need to know and understand about Covid19.

Covid-19 is not the end of the world. We have had pandemics before; we still have wars and poverty in different parts of the world. We need to take it seriously, practice caution, protect those who are vulnerable, but please don’t panic as that only makes matters worse.

Pray. Try to protect the elderly and sick, even if that means not visiting them. Eat healthy. Exercise. Spread love. Make the most of this time by overcoming bad habits, exploring hobbies and living the best life you can.

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