WHO: First, do no harm

Posted on Mar 30 2020

In addition to the coronavirus pandemic that’s sweeping the globe, there is also what a World Health Organization official calls an “infodemic.”

“We are facing an infodemic, which is an epidemic [of] false information,” said Dr. Corinne Capuano, director of Pacific Technical Support and World Health Organization representative to the South Pacific.

To combat this, the WHO in Fiji hosted a video teleconference last Thursday for media partners across the Pacific in a bid to help decrease misinformation about COVID-19 and share helpful information with the region. Saipan Tribune was one of the participants.

Rose Aynsley, risk communications lead for WHO division of Pacific technological support, pointed out that there is currently no drug—or “pharmaceutical intervention”—that’s going to slow this pandemic “so we really need to have the community on our side.”

“We really need to implement practical containment measures at the community level,” she said.

How is the virus spread?

According to Aynsley, the virus will spread if a sick person coughs or sneezes on another person, a person touches an infected surface (tables, handles), or a sick person, and then touches their mouth or face, or kiss someone’s face, hands, etc.

“Good hygiene is [really] the best way to protect yourself and others against COVID-19,” said Eynsley.

This includes regularly washing your hands for 40 to 60 seconds or using hand sanitizer, covering your sneeze or cough with a tissue or your elbow and washing your hands after, avoiding touching your face, nose, or mouth. If necessary, wash your hands beforehand. Keep a distance of at least one meter from other people and avoid hugging, kissing, shaking hands, and sharing items such as cups, utensils, etc.

Who needs to wear a mask and gloves?

“We’re seeing everyone globally who are using masks inappropriately,” said Eynsley.

Often, people who are using masks are touching their face more because they’re readjusting the mask, they don’t fit the mask, or it keeps slipping under their chin.

WHO strongly advises that a healthy person do not need to wear a mask and gloves.

Those who need to wear a mask are persons with COVID-19 symptoms, individuals who are caring for persons who have COVID-19, and health workers or persons screenings individuals who may have COVID-19.

“[Masks and gloves] can provide a false sense of security,” said Eynsley.

Quarantine and isolation: What’s the difference?

Isolation is the separation of person/s who have COVID-19 from others in order to stop the spread of the virus.
Quarantine is when you restrict the movement of healthy individuals who may have been exposed to the virus and to monitor them if they become sick.

Persons who are in quarantine must be kept separate and monitored for 14 days from the last time they were exposed to the person with COVID-19. The 14-day period is the incubation period of the novel coronavirus.

Individual actions for reducing spread

In practicing physical distancing, families should develop a household plan of what you need to cover when going out into the public, which includes grocery shopping, getting water, paying bills, getting medicine, etc. Persons with medical conditions should talk to their health provider in advance.

According to Aynsley, it is recommended to not panic-buy and to shop for a two-week period, if a person is able to and shop again after those two weeks are over.

“[Panic buying] not only changes the price of products but it also means that when people try to get products, they aren’t able to because someone stocked up for six months,” said Eynsley.

At work or home, reduce the risk of exposure by wiping down high-touch surfaces like door handles, keyboards, lights switches, phones, etc. daily.

Social responsibility
In a slideshow presentation, WHO recommends exercising the medical concept of, “First, do no harm.”

That includes getting information from accurate and reliable sources. Prevent and address rumors and misinformation by researching, looking at credible sources such as the Commonwealth Health Care Corp., newspapers, news broadcast, etc. Minimize exaggerations that undermines trust and creates fear and uncertainty.

Inaccurate and sensational information restrict response and control measures and creates confusion and distrust among people.

Addressing stigma and discrimination

– Drives people to hide the illness to avoid discrimination
– Prevents people from seeking health care
– Discourages them from adopting healthy behaviors

Words and images matter

– Talk about “people who have COVID-19,” not “COVID-19 victims/cases.”
– Don’t repeat or share rumors.
– Motivate people with preventative measures and solidarity, not dwell on threat.
– If you or a person gets symptoms, call the Commonwealth Health Center before going there.

Justine Nauta
Justine Nauta is Saipan Tribune's community and health reporter and has covered a wide range of news beats, including the Northern Marianas College and Commonwealth Health Care Corp. She's currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Rehabilitation and Human Services at NMC.
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