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Infectious Disease Expert Warns of the Consequences of Needless Coronavirus Panic

Infectious Disease Expert Warns of the Consequences of Needless Coronavirus Panic

“Facts not fear. Clean hands. Open hearts.”

Abdu Sharkawy is a doctor in Toronto, Canada, who wrote a Facebook post last week with a message that underscores many of the points I have hade in recent Wuhan Virus Watch posts.

Abdu Sharkawy, a doctor and expert at the University of Toronto in Canada, wrote late Friday that the disease is indeed dangerous but that the often self-interested measures to contain are in some cases proving worse.

His post, which has been shared around 310,000 times at the time of writing, attacks the “spellbinding spiral of panic” he observes around the world as the number of cases increases.

The entire post is worth reading and weighing against all the media drama likely to be offered next week on COVID-19:

I’m a doctor and an Infectious Diseases Specialist. I’ve been at this for more than 20 years seeing sick patients on a daily basis. I have worked in inner city hospitals and in the poorest slums of Africa. HIV-AIDS, Hepatitis,TB, SARS, Measles, Shingles, Whooping cough, Diphtheria…there is little I haven’t been exposed to in my profession. And with notable exception of SARS, very little has left me feeling vulnerable, overwhelmed or downright scared.

I am not scared of Covid-19. I am concerned about the implications of a novel infectious agent that has spread the world over and continues to find new footholds in different soil. I am rightly concerned for the welfare of those who are elderly, in frail health or disenfranchised who stand to suffer mostly, and disproportionately, at the hands of this new scourge. But I am not scared of Covid-19.

What I am scared about is the loss of reason and wave of fear that has induced the masses of society into a spellbinding spiral of panic, stockpiling obscene quantities of anything that could fill a bomb shelter adequately in a post-apocalyptic world. I am scared of the N95 masks that are stolen from hospitals and urgent care clinics where they are actually needed for front line healthcare providers and instead are being donned in airports, malls, and coffee lounges, perpetuating even more fear and suspicion of others. I am scared that our hospitals will be overwhelmed with anyone who thinks they ” probably don’t have it but may as well get checked out no matter what because you just never know…” and those with heart failure, emphysema, pneumonia and strokes will pay the price for overfilled ER waiting rooms with only so many doctors and nurses to assess.

I am scared that travel restrictions will become so far reaching that weddings will be canceled, graduations missed and family reunions will not materialize. And well, even that big party called the Olympic Games…that could be kyboshed too. Can you even

I’m scared those same epidemic fears will limit trade, harm partnerships in multiple sectors, business and otherwise and ultimately culminate in a global recession.

But mostly, I’m scared about what message we are telling our kids when faced with a threat. Instead of reason, rationality, openmindedness and altruism, we are telling them to panic, be fearful, suspicious, reactionary and self-interested.

Covid-19 is nowhere near over. It will be coming to a city, a hospital, a friend, even a family member near you at some point. Expect it. Stop waiting to be surprised further. The fact is the virus itself will not likely do much harm when it arrives. But our own behaviors and “fight for yourself above all else” attitude could prove disastrous.

I implore you all. Temper fear with reason, panic with patience and uncertainty with education. We have an opportunity to learn a great deal about health hygiene and limiting the spread of innumerable transmissible diseases in our society. Let’s meet this challenge together in the best spirit of compassion for others, patience, and above all, an unfailing effort to seek truth, facts and knowledge as opposed to conjecture, speculation and catastrophizing.

Facts not fear. Clean hands. Open hearts.

Our children will thank us for it.

And here is an example of the reaction that upsets Dr. Sharkawy:


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to the full extent allowed by law.


Indeed stupid panicking is stupid. But overreaction in a cautious way (withdraw from public for a while) is not stupid. Better to overreact than underreact.

Maybe the doctor thinks he has a “public health” responsibility to keep infrastructure humming along.

    notamemberofanyorganizedpolicital in reply to artichoke. | March 9, 2020 at 2:51 pm

    “Stupid panicing” and “overreaction?” – Oh you must mean Freak-Outs like this.

    “Trump Wants His Own Supporters To Get Sick By Going To His Rallies…” – Democrat Party Representative Jackie Speier

      I agree, he shouldn’t hold these rallies, nor should Bernie Sanders. Biden doesn’t have to worry about drawing a crowd, so he’s OK.

        Colonel Travis in reply to artichoke. | March 9, 2020 at 6:12 pm

        This is absolute nonsense and not justified. How many total U.S. deaths have we had from coronavirus? 22 as I type this. Maybe we should stop political rallies altogether since five times as many people in the U.S. die every freaking day in a car crash. We don’t want to risk anyone driving to and from one of these rallies.

      notamemberofanyorganizedpolicital in reply to notamemberofanyorganizedpolicital. | March 9, 2020 at 4:39 pm

      Dr. Drew on the coronavirus: “And the press, they really somehow need to be held accountable because they are hurting people”

    The democrat media’s work is the work of the devil.

    Sonnys Mom in reply to artichoke. | March 9, 2020 at 8:35 pm

    He practices medicine in Canada. Notice how he describes emergency rooms in Canada– as only treating the patients first in line because there “aren’t enough” medical staff.

notamemberofanyorganizedpolicital | March 9, 2020 at 2:49 pm

Leslie, do you have someone there who can check to see if
Hell has Frozen Over?

Gavin Newsom Praises Trump/Pence Response To Virus In California, ‘Every Single Thing They Said They Followed Thru On’

inspectorudy | March 9, 2020 at 3:22 pm

I was in COSTCO yesterday buying a few items when I noticed a 30 something young man with about ten large bundles of toilet paper. I almost stopped him to ask if he ran a motel but decided against it. I can only hope that he does because if he doesn’t then he is part of the panic buying that makes no sense. Of all the things to hoard toilet paper is the silliest. I installed a Joy Bidet for my wife several years ago and our use of papers has gone down by at least half. For $75 it was the best buy we have ever made. Also, wearing these silly masks does NOT help you avoid the bug. That has been written about hundreds of times yet no one seems to listen. When I was in Japan more than thirty years ago riding on the subway, I was the only person there who was not wearing a mask! I didn’t even catch a cold.

    notamemberofanyorganizedpolicital in reply to inspectorudy. | March 9, 2020 at 3:41 pm

    Damn those Democrat Party Toilet Paper HOARDERS!!!!


    in wa Costco is limiting those items (including water) to 2 per customer. They were out of Kirkland TP, but still had Charmin….

    I saw a couple of older Asian ladies loading their carts with these 2 per limit items.

At the end of the video, there was a picture of a woman with a load of paper napkins instead of TP – sure hope that the Aussies have great sewer lines.

I haven’t heard anything about massive hoarding of diapers or “feminine hygiene products”. I wonder what’s going to happen when the SJWs find out about any shortages there!

    JusticeDelivered in reply to Liz. | March 9, 2020 at 8:48 pm

    And if they have septic systems, are ready to pump them. If they are on a municipal system, probably no real issues.

healthguyfsu | March 9, 2020 at 4:08 pm

He’s not entirely wrong but his rhetoric is a little over the top. It’s foolish to excuse people of panic whilst using hyperbole.

It’s not stealing N95 respiratory masks if you bought them off the internet. Just because they didn’t end up at a hospital doesn’t mean it’s theft to buy them on the free market. If I read him right, he is suggesting such. And I don’t think healthy health care workers deserve more protection than immunocompromised or elderly purchasers of those masks.

He also has a lace of scolding, woke-ish SJW in his tone.

    beagleEar in reply to healthguyfsu. | March 9, 2020 at 6:36 pm

    Healthcare workers come into close contact with hundreds of people, most of whom have some sort of illness. You have to keep those people healthy, if you don’t you’ve created the perfect infection spreading machine.
    Yes, they do need them more than you or me, and I am one of those people in a higher risk category.

      healthguyfsu in reply to beagleEar. | March 9, 2020 at 9:13 pm

      And most of those workers are healthy to fend off the virus. My point is not that health care workers don’t deserve them (which your post suggests you took from my post), but that they don’t deserve them more than people who actually do need them that buy them on private sales.

      And again, it’s not “theft” to buy them on the open market if they are offered, even if it does create a shortage.

    Milhouse in reply to healthguyfsu. | March 10, 2020 at 2:44 am

    It’s not stealing N95 respiratory masks if you bought them off the internet. Just because they didn’t end up at a hospital doesn’t mean it’s theft to buy them on the free market. If I read him right, he is suggesting such.

    Huh? How did you arrive at such a reading? He didn’t say anything about people buying the masks; they may be silly but it’s their money and they’re entitled to do it. But stealing them from hospitals is a very different matter. It’s not a petty crime, because the health care workers actually need the masks, while the people stealing them are probably not immunocompromised or elderly.

So does the first amendment protect shouting Corona virus in a crowded movie theatre?

    notamemberofanyorganizedpolicital in reply to Andy. | March 9, 2020 at 5:00 pm

    Evidently from the way the Lyin’ Media Media Media

    Methinks the Media is Drunk on too many Corona Beers…….

    beagleEar in reply to Andy. | March 9, 2020 at 6:37 pm

    No, only in a crowded bar.

Iain Sanders | March 9, 2020 at 4:59 pm

Those women, all massively fat, all ‘minority’. The rainbow brawl.

    notamemberofanyorganizedpolicital in reply to Iain Sanders. | March 9, 2020 at 5:01 pm

    Is that why they need such Massive Quantities of TP?????

      My father was a school teacher, had no income in the summer. I grew up with him stocking up supplies for the summer, basically buying items on sale. We raised a large garden in the summer, and ate what was in season, supplemented from those sales items.

      In my early working years I raised a garden, and canned stuff. I also bought sales items and stockpiled about one year worth of each sale item. Overall, I averaged about 35% return on that investment.

      There are also considerable overhead saving from operating in this manner.

      Before I was prosperous, I made much of my household supplies, at about 10% of the cost of buying them. Through middle age I did not have time to make the stuff, in retirement I do have time, and am now making most of the stuff again.

      Buying supplies in bulk makes sense regardless of pandemics. There is a peace of mind in having a buffer to ride out difficult situations. If one is going to catch this, and end up in intensive care, it is better to do so after most people have cleared out of the hospitals.

Interest is not “panic.”

Neither is concern over a new and not entirely familiar disease which seems to pop up mysteriously in some non-obvious places.

Comparisons to ordinary flu are spurious. Flu we understand. We know all there is to know about how it behaves, how it spreads, when it appears, when it disappears, who is vulnerable, how it’s treated, etc.

Pretty much by definition, we do not know all these things when a new and essentially unknown disease appears. Some qualified people can make some educated guesses based on its similarities to known contagions. And some of those qualifed people might actually be interested in disseminating those guesses. Others might not, or might be prevented from doing so, or might be just plain wrong.

And only a fool would sit back, fat, dumb, and happy, content with reassurances from governments. Governments lie. We’ve caught China at it. Other governments lie too, whether or not they’ve been caught yet.

I must say I do appreciate the way we older would-be victims are so causually dismissed. One can’t say this thing is not a problem just because people with compromised immune systems or damaged lungs are the only ones likely to be adversely affected. In the developed world, just about everybody over about forty has a suppressed immune system, because that is exactly how so many of our miracle medications work. And in the somewhat less-developed world, people smoke like chimneys despite statistics intended to show otherwise. So all of us are more vulnerable than officialdom would like to pretend.

Meanwhile, I’m not hoarding anything or restricting my activities in any way. But, if I had business in, say, China, as so many do, I probably couldn’t say that.

    Mac45 in reply to tom_swift. | March 9, 2020 at 7:39 pm

    Are you familiar with the old saying that there is nothing sure, in this world, but death and taxes? Well, the truth is that the only thing sure in life is DEATH. Now, I am one of those fragile old people and my wife is old with a respiratory condition. Being retired, in a suburban setting, we have the luxury of staying home and away from the masses. Yoouu too can simply fort up in your home and refuse to leave until the virus has been eradicated, which will never happen, in our lifetimes.

    However, most people do not have this luxury. They have jobs, children, lives which require them to leave the house. They have to interact with others. Now, the COVID virus is going to spread across the country, to all locations and social strata. Just like almost every other highly infectious disease in the world. There is simply nothing that a person can do to guarantee they do not contract the virus. Even with a vaccine, the actual effectiveness of it will probably be considerably less than 100% [the current influenza vaccine is between 25 and 50% effective, depending upon the specific strain of flu is addressed by the vaccine].

    Life is a risk. You might avoid the COVID virus, but succumb to a brain aneurysm in the bathroom. Or you might be critically injured or killed in an automobile accident. A criminal assault might lead to your death. Or, a simple fall at home could end your life. If you have lived long enough to be considered OLD, you are beating the odds.

      mesoman in reply to Mac45. | March 11, 2020 at 9:28 pm

      I don’t think you appreciate the risk here. For those of us in your category, it is quite high compared to flu. Yes, we’ll die some day, likely in a few years, but that’s no reason to just give up.

      We need younger people to take measures to reduce the spread of this. While we probably won’t be able to stop it, if we slow it down enough, there are a several benefits:

      1) The peak, when it comes, is less likely to overwhelm the healthcare system. It has already done that, and had they not gone to their latest strict measures, the numbers needing care from COVID19 would go up by a factor of probably 100. And, not just us old folks die in those situations – Italian hospitals are letting young folks die because they can’t treat them.

      2) If we delay it long enough, there very likely will be a vaccine. At that point, we can contain the disease, or at least keep people in much of the world safe from it. In other words, no, it isn’t inevitable that everyone gets it.

      3) Treatments may become available.

        mesoman in reply to mesoman. | March 11, 2020 at 9:29 pm

        Sigh, I didn’t preview. On health care overload – it has done that in northern Italy. I forgot to mention where.

    healthguyfsu in reply to tom_swift. | March 9, 2020 at 9:27 pm

    “Comparisons to ordinary flu are spurious. Flu we understand. We know all there is to know about how it behaves, how it spreads, when it appears, when it disappears, who is vulnerable, how it’s treated, etc.”

    And yet more people as of now are dying from a flu and will die from a flu than COVID 19. I’m not sure you made the point you think you did. This disease we “know” so much about still has a higher mortality rate (although it’s probably not the fairest of comparisons since there are many strains causing flu-like symptoms…but guess what one of them now is??? covid19)

    The point is that covid19 is nothing greatly different from the other strains that cause cold/flu symptoms with 1 exception…not many people have been exposed so population immunity is low. In fact, there are many, many coronaviruses already out there. Chances are you’ve had several of them in your lifetime.

    ANY coronavirus or other respiratory infection that spreads from the upper respiratory tract to the lower respiratory tract can kill someone. Not many do unless you are immunocompromised or suffer from respiratory disease.

    By the way, the recovery rate for COVID19 is high and doesn’t even take that long. The reason that recoveries seem long is because they make people stay in isolation for 14 days after they test negative for the virus as a precaution. This is a precaution to reduce spread thereby protecting those at-risk populations that you belong to…but I guess no one cares.

After looking at the countries that have cases, is it logical that Turkey and Syria still don’t have any reported cases? Don’t forget that the spread of the virus is linked to people who have been to Italy and Iran. So,some of them would have traveled through Turkey & Syria.

Is this one reason why the Greeks are worried about the surge of migrants from Turkey – incoming Trojan horses of disease?

Yesterday, I noticed that a couple of disinfectant wipes containers in our house were nearly empty. After striking out at some supermarkets, I thought that dollar store patrons might be less easily panicked than the well-to-do. The first dollar store I came to still had wipes on the shelf, plus a stack of boxes with more.

Morning Sunshine | March 9, 2020 at 5:47 pm

we are actually looking at a last minute vacation to Hawaii this month to take advantage of other people’s fear. Since costs are down. We would have done Europe, but we haven’t gotten the kids passports yet.

We are healthy, we are not immunocompromised, and we are not worries about getting it ourselves.

daniel_ream | March 9, 2020 at 7:01 pm

I am scared that travel restrictions will become so far reaching that weddings will be canceled, graduations missed and family reunions will not materialize. And well, even that big party called the Olympic Games…that could be kyboshed too. Can you even

This paragraph is where he piles his credibility in the parking lot, soaks it in lighter fluid, and lights it on fire.

I know that acetone is a good treatment for a raw butt. wink, wink..

I have been resolutely anti-panic and pro-prudence, both publicly on Facebook and privately. I think the major media have been despicable. But I have a pretty big bone to pick with Trump’s administration on the testing issue.

Last Friday, the FDA said that 1.1 million test kits had been shipped, with another 400,000 ready to go and another 600,000 in quality testing. This was reported on Friday by Bloomberg News. And please no stupid yammering about Bloomberg. I’m no more in favor of Mini-Mike than anyone else, but his news operation is solid.

Today, CNBC reported that the CDC says it “has 75,000 lab kits ‘cumulatively’ for public labs to test for COVID-19 with more coming on board soon.”

As someone whose first career was as a professional journalist including 5 years in D.C., where among other things I was accredited in the White House press room and attended briefings there, and whose second career was as a securities analyst and portfolio manager, I am quite aware of the various permutations of human error, and the dangers of what I’d tell my employees “false precision.”

Still, there’s a hell of a lot of daylight between 1.1 million + another million soon, and 75,000 kits, with broad testing being available “in a matter of weeks.”

I think a lot of the criticism directed at Trump has been vastly exaggerated or just flat wrong, but the test kit situation has been a real debacle from the start. I am now kicking myself for having believed the FDA last Friday. This is sorely testing my tolerance.

    RandomCrank in reply to RandomCrank. | March 9, 2020 at 10:14 pm

    Link to the CNBC story.

    Which pack of clowns are we supposed to believe, fer chrissakes?

    RandomCrank in reply to RandomCrank. | March 9, 2020 at 11:20 pm


    I wrote to the Bloomberg reporter for clarification. Much to my shock, she replied within a few minutes. Wow, who knew?! I’m still in a state of shock. Here is what she wrote — and it should calm everyone, including me:

    “The CDC had shipped 75,000 test kits, which go to public health labs – about 80 labs in the United States -one in each state at least. Those report results back in to the CDC because they’re part of the public health network.

    “The larger quantity of tests that shipped, about 900,000 of the tests that shipped by this weekend, go to hospitals, private labs, others for testing. They don’t currently have to report to us that they’ve conducted a test or what the result of that test is.

    “So two different groups that total up to 1.1M.

    “And that number is expected to be 2.1M by end of week, and then produced at a clip of 4M a week (though that includes a third group of tests – done by private companies) starting next week

    “And then remember that one test doesn’t equal a person because some people get tested multiple times .”

    Milhouse in reply to RandomCrank. | March 10, 2020 at 2:55 am

    Thanks for the followup. That makes perfect sense.

    healthguyfsu in reply to RandomCrank. | March 10, 2020 at 11:27 am

    What exactly is your problem with the test kit?

    It’s not easy to validate a test in a short turnaround time for a virus no one previously tested for. They have done a remarkable job if this thing is even 90% accurate.

    Yes, we have previous coronaviruses as blueprints but most are also not routinely tested for (other than SARS) because coronaviruses tend to be mild and not require testing (because it doesn’t affect the treatment options).

    Would you rather they send out a test with false positive, false negatives, or improper protocols that don’t know exactly how to sample the virus and thus get a valid result?

      RandomCrank in reply to healthguyfsu. | March 10, 2020 at 12:13 pm

      What would I want? Well, I’m old enough to remember when the United States was the leader. Not this time.

      RandomCrank in reply to healthguyfsu. | March 10, 2020 at 12:24 pm

      South Korea has now tested 210,000 people. We’ve tested 6,000. Are you satisfied with being behind South Korea? I’m not satisfied in the least.

So, for any that think this is not overblown, just got a message from a friend outside of Nashville. Schools are shut down, the Bat (ATT) building in downtown is closed. The Nissan plant in Smyrna (suburb) now has one case, which now is causing speculation they will shut the plant down. Panic buying is rampant.

If one case of a .1% mortality virus can cause this reaction, the economic gains of the past 3 years will evaporate. All because there are few adults in the room manning the mikes.

Money for nothing because the clicks aren’t free.
Add the general dislike of Trump and seeing this could free them of Trump, they are piling on like flies to a fresh pile.

    mesoman in reply to GusPatriot. | March 11, 2020 at 9:37 pm

    This is not .1% mortality virus, or the experts wouldn’t be so worried. About 10%-20% of the patients require hospitalization, and the death rate is 1%-3.5%. Current rates of spread will overload hospitals far before it hits its peak, and that will kill lots of people, including those not suffering COVID19. It is already happening in Italy and they are nowhere near the peak. But, since they are taking strong measures, they may push the numbers back down. We are not doing so. Wait 4 weeks, when US cases hit 20,000, or wait 8 weeks, when they hit about 100,000, and watch what happens!

    The doctor is not well informed – he probably doesn’t have time to be. But he should keep his yap shut. The actual professionals that specialize in viral epidemics are not saying what he did – they are urging all sorts of measures, because they know what will happen otherwise.