Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry listens during a news conference about the provincial response to the coronavirus, in Vancouver, on Friday, March 6, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry listens during a news conference about the provincial response to the coronavirus, in Vancouver, on Friday, March 6, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

COLUMN: Listen to those who know about COVID-19

Accurate information is essential when understanding the pandemic

When Dr. Bonnie Henry speaks about the COVID-19 pandemic, British Columbians tend to pay attention.

Henry, the provincial health officer for B.C., has a background in epidemiology, and is a specialist in public health and preventative medicine.

She has a list of credentials to her name, including medical training in prestigious Canadian and American universities.

Her career has taken her to places around the world, including working with a polio eradication program in Pakistan and efforts to control the Ebola virus in Uganda.

In Canada, she has worked with the Canada Pandemic Influenza Plan, prepared in 2017.

She has dedicated her professional life to medicine, and when she speaks about the COVID-19 pandemic in British Columbia, she has the medical knowledge to back up her statements.

READ ALSO: B.C. reports 47 new cases, no deaths due to COVID-19

READ ALSO: ‘We all have anxieties’: B.C.’s top doctor addresses return-to-school fears amid COVID-19

In short, she understands this pandemic better than most.

The same is true of Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer.

Tam has a lot of knowledge about medicine and pandemics.

In 2006, she was a co-chair of a federal report on pandemic preparedness. And, when she has spoken about the COVID-19 pandemic at the national level, she has the medical knowledge to back up every word.

In the United States, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has been speaking about COVID-19 since the pandemic reached that country.

He has more than 50 years of medical experience, and he has held his present position since 1984.

There are similar stories from around the world.

Public health officials are selected for their role because of the knowledge they possess – knowledge acquired as a result of many years of training and research.

The best information on the pandemic should come from those who know about medicine and pandemics.

This includes these public health offices, the B.C. Centre for Disease Control, the World Health Organization and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.

COVID-19 is something relatively new. The disease was first identified in December and has been traced back to a case in mid-November. And while medical researchers have discovered much about COVID-19 in the months following, there is still much to be learned about this disease, how it spreads and how it can best be treated.

Efforts to develop a vaccine or a cure have been ongoing for several months, but at present, a confirmed cure or vaccine does not yet exist.

Each week there is new information about COVID-19, but there is also plenty of misinformation.

Some of this includes statements about how the disease spreads or how it may be controlled, statements about the severity of the disease, claims about the effectiveness of non-medical masks and more. Sometimes, these statements are written in what may sound like medical terminology.

Trying to sort the truth from the misinformation is no easy task.

Facebook Karen or Online Research Chad may have the best of intentions as they share pithy quips or links to online articles about COVID-19, but unless those statements originate from a person or organization with extensive knowledge about the pandemic, the information might not be accurate.

At worst, well-intentioned efforts could end up spreading dangerous or deadly advice.

Reposting an online status or spending several hours doing an online search is not the same as earning a medical degree.

The advice from Henry, Tam, Fauci and other health officers, or the advice from the provincial and federal governments, the World Health Organization and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control will not be as flashy or as sensational as some of the claims circulating online.

But it is the most accurate information we have at this time.

Listen to those who know.

John Arendt is the editor of the Summerland Review.

To report a typo, email:
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