Go to main menu Go to main content Go to footer

Voices ᐋ ᐄᔮᔨᐧᒫᓂᐧᐃᒡ

At war with a virus

BY Xavier Kataquapit Mar 27, 2020

We are in a worldwide war with the coronavirus COVID-19. We are now at a critical stage in Canada. If we take this threat seriously and listen to the experts who are telling us to stay at home, cancel events, close schools, work from home if possible, practice safe hygiene and quarantine ourselves if we get sick, we just might come out of this somewhat intact in a few months. If not, we might be facing many more months of dealing with this deadly virus.

Unfortunately, we failed to be proactive even though we were watching what happened in China, South Korea and now Italy, France and Spain. Our leadership did not do what was necessary early on to combat this virus.

Thankfully, we are now reacting. We can really push back on this virus by staying put and minimizing our contact with others. Doctors in Italy are warning us to do what we can now in containing this virus so that the exponential numbers do not overwhelm our hospitals. We must listen to those warning signs and act now rather than later.

Information is empowering during a time when we all feel helpless. There are many sources of information at Health Canada and the World Health Organization. Sometimes the average person needs someone to explain complex health news. One easy-to-understand source that I have been following is Dr. John Campbell on YouTube.

Maybe the most important thing that will come out of this war with COVID-19 will be our new awareness for what causes and spreads disease. Every year we lose 3,500 people in Canada to the flu but somehow that has never really caught our attention. The new COVID-19 virus dramatically shows the results of not being prepared. This should be the wake-up call for governments to better support our public healthcare systems and ensure our hospitals and medical workers are ready for global emergencies like this pandemic. We should also realize that it is time to change some social habits like shaking hands and other close contact touching, especially when there are viruses and influenza known to be circulating.

We experienced the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome corona virus (SARS-CoV) outbreak in 2002 and 2003. I was travelling overseas at the time when it spread to 26 countries and it was frightening. There was so much panic in the world at the time. Many of us would be surprised to learn that there was never a vaccine developed for SARS. Instead it was thought to have faded and disappeared.

Many of us don’t realize that the most recent global pandemic happened in 2009. It was referred to as an H1N1 influenza virus, or the swine flu. It was estimated to have infected between 700 million to 1.4 billion people worldwide, but studies showed that it was not so deadly. It is thought that somewhere between 150,000 to 600,000 people died of it globally. It was known to have affected younger people more which led to some school closures. During this 2009 pandemic, which was first identified in Mexico and the US, there was no great alarm sounded and only spotted and limited quarantines.

Many people have been hit with seasonal flu and sickness this winter and it has been more severe than normal. In the North and up the James Bay coast, there has been more cases than usual of severe respiratory disease that led to increased numbers of hospitalizations and clinic visits. We should start taking these influenza and virus outbreaks more seriously.

Hopefully, we will listen to the directives from our leaders and healthcare professionals. We need to stay home, maintain a safe space of at least one metre from others, avoid crowds and work from home. As well, we must frequently wash our hands for at least 20 seconds and be careful not to mix with older people or those with health problems. Sadly, we will lose people we know and love with this virus, but the chance of that is less if we all do the right thing now.

LATEST ᒫᐦᒡ ᑎᐹᒋᒧᐧᐃᓐ

Xavier Kataquapit is Cree from Attawapiskat First Nation on the James Bay coast. He is a writer and columnist who has written about his life and Indigenous issues since 1998.