by Chris Pickup

“There is no reason for unnecessary angst about COVID-19,” Haldimand Norfolk’s Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Shanker Nesathural, told Haldimand council Tuesday.

In common with flu and colds, symptoms of COVID-19 are cough, runny nose, fever, shortness of breath. The overall risk of death is low.

“The vast majority will ultimately get better with treatment at home,” he said. “A smaller group will need to go to hospital where most will be evaluated and sent home to recover in self-isolation.

“A smaller subset will be admitted, and perhaps 1 to 5% might succumb to the disease,” he added, because of old age or multiple medical problems.

The reason for closing schools and public spaces is not to keep children safe, he said. The issue is that children will infect parents, and they will infect grandparents who are most at risk, and on into the wider community. Closure of public spaces will minimize this spread.

The real danger with COVID lies with those aged 70 and up, and there are some 20,000 residents in Haldimand county in this age bracket. The MoH advises If you know elderly people in residential housing – don’t visit. It can be very serious for them. You can interact in other ways, such as phone or social media.

There are some 100 people in self-isolation in Haldimand Norfolk presently, but that said, there is not a single documented case of COVID-19 so far in the two counties.

C19 is spread through respiratory droplets. “If I cough I will project it onto him,” he said, pointing with a laugh at his council neighbour, which is why it is so important to keep a social distance from other people.

Ways to keep safe: try to work from home if possible; spend March break with the kids; don’t leave home if there is no reason, there are other ways to socialize with people; order groceries on line, or shop at times when the store is not so busy and go less often.

Above all, do your best to protect the elderly and disabled.

Countywide planning with hospitals, county fire, police, ambulance and doctors is underway. “We’re making our responses proportional to risk and taking the cautious approach.”

“We have to take this in perspective,” Nesathural emphasized. “As a doctor I lived through HIV, H1N1 and SARS. There is no reason for unneccesary angst. There is good planning.”

COVID testing sites are not a good strategy–many tests are negative, he said. “If you are in quarantine, it’s more than likely you will get better. If you’re really sick go to the hospital.”

“Doctors take credit, but most people get better on their own,” he added. ”Many viruses have no treatment. In most cases the body itself eradicates it.”

“I am mostly concerned about older individuals. Six have died in each of two nursing homes in other communities. We inconvenience children and adults to save the elderly.”

Media messaging on the subject is over the top, he agreed.

“It is worth sharing with children in rational dialogue that in this county per year there are about 20 deaths in traffic, suicide about the same, and opioid deaths are 30-36. Yet no-one has died from COVID-19.”

If you come down with flu-type symptoms, call (don’t visit) your doctor, who will ask questions and pass the answers on to the health unit, and direct you to hospital if necessary.

“Family doctors are the cornerstone of health care and can screen better – they know their patients,” the MoH said.

If you have no family doctor, call the health unit.