11.03.2020 Feature Article

Don't Panic!”

Don't Panic!”
LISTEN MAR 11, 2020

THE herd instinct is so strong in humans that it is a crime in some countries for anyone to falsely shout: “Fire!” in a cinema, theatre or other crowded premises, when no such fire has broken out.

The reason is that when people hear a shout of “Fire”, and see other people begin to run, they don't wait to find out whether there really is a fire or not. Self-preservation drives them to rush for the exits -- like everyone else. The mad dash may soon turn into a "stampede", which may result in more deaths occurring than would have been the case had all the people stayed put and made an orderly retreat. Sad, but it's human instinct!

Similarly, if the Captain of a ship that's in difficulties yells: “DON'T PANIC!” to the passengers, many of them will throw themselves into the sea, whether they can swim or not. For the word “panic” works like a triggering mechanism in people's brains that produces the reverse of what it's intended to convey.

The Governments of the world are therefore to be congratulated on calmly seeking a scientific answer to the coronavirus phenomenon, instead of parroting words calling on their people not to “panic” in the face of the epidemic.

There is no doubt that some complacency – or even mendacity – was initially unleashed on the world at the onset of the epidemic. But thankfully, this was so patently self-defeating that it very soon vanished from the scene.

However, misinformation about how to prevent being infected with the virus, or even how to “cure” oneself from it, HAS spawned several myths. These have to be dispelled to save people from expensive or even harmful self-medication that produces no tangible results.

One of the most interesting suggestions for a cure is that people should “chewgarlic”. The person who first mooted this idea must be a sadist, for garlic has such a strong smell that even after it has been boiled in a stew or soup, it can still emit a pungent smell on one's breath. How much more when it is chewed in its raw state?

My congratulations to the BBC on going to the trouble of squashing the garlic idea, among others. According to the Beeb, “Lots of posts that recommend eating garlic to prevent infection, are being shared on Facebook. The World Health Organization says [however] that while [garlic] is 'a healthy food that may have some anti-microbial properties', there's no evidence that eating garlic can protect people from....coronavirus.....The South China Morning Postreported a story of a woman who had to receive hospital treatment for a severely inflamed throat after consuming 1.5kg of raw garlic.” 1.5 kilos? Suppose she “broke wind” after that?

Another popular claim is that a 'Miracle Mineral Supplement' (MMS) can “wipe out” coronavirus. But the supplement was only found to contain chlorine dioxide - a bleaching agent!

I wonder what Fela Kuti would have made of that! Would he have sung:

I-dey bleesh oh,

I-dey bleesh!

Bot yet you na see

Her nyaash?


Done give am


(The US Food and Drugs Administration says that drinking things like MMS ”can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea and symptoms of severe dehydration.”) – reports the BBC.

A US televangelist, Jim Bakker, had a guest on his show who claimed that “colloidal silver” (tiny particles of silver suspended in liquid) could kill some strains of coronavirus “within 12 hours.” But there was “clear advice from the US health authorities” that “colloidal silver” silver could cause “serious side effects”, including kidney damage and seizures.

Other myths are that “drinking water every 15 minutes” can help; as can “drinking hot water”, “taking hot baths”, or “using hair-dryers.”

One false report, attributed to UNICEF, indicated that avoiding “ice cream and other cold foods” could help prevent the onset of the disease. UNICEF stated emphatically that “this is, of course, wholly untrue."

These stories remind me that the world has come very far from when we were children. I remember one cure which was suggested in my village for anyone who had a “hernia” [funumapuuru] that gave him or her a protruding umbilical cord.

The sufferer was taken to go and sleep in the palace of our queen-mother and was taken to her to stamp on it with her foot, first thing every morning; (before she had said a word to anyone!) I don't recall anyone saying that it had worked, but hey, the practice was carried out regardless, – in the hope that if it didn't work in one person's case, it might work in another's.

Hmmm! Science has helped us oh! Some readers may remember a disease called “mumps” [ajemirekutuin Twi]. You woke up one morning and someone in your house would be sporting one swollen cheek! As if he'd been in a boxing match during the night! Why one cheek and not two? But even the one was very painful.

Once one child caught it, almost every other child in the house would catch it too. So widespread was it that a song had been composed about it by village wits who wanted to mock sufferers. It went as follows:


Wo sere a ƐyƐwo.

Woannsere a


ƐnneƐfanyam saa sere!”

(This mumps thing,

If you laugh,

It will get you;

If you don't laugh,

It will get you all the same!

So, you might as well laugh!)

Thank God this rascally disease has been practically driven out of the world by the work of scientists!

Who remembers eborƆ[yaws]? Ha – this and a similar affliction called jatƆƆ were the commonest of all the diseases that some of us had to endure as kids. There would be these smelly, pus-filled spots all over one's legs or arms. Or beneath one's soles. And elsewhere more delicate, too! They itched, but if you dared scratch them, they would turn into sores and give you real pain. Worse, the smell of the pus attracted flies. And, man, there was nothing as exasperating as trying to field flies and drive them away from one's yaws-sores!. Again, these dreadful diseases have practically been driven out of Planet Earth by scientists, God bless them.

As bad as yaws was its sibling – head-sores [tikuro]. These were sores that developed under the follicles of one's hair and formed scabs. Once the scabs formed, one always felt a compulsion to peel the top, dead skin off them, though they often bled when treated that way. There was only one cure for it: a smelly, white substance called “Zinc Ointment.” It was not always effective. Yet one always hid a bit of it on a piece of paper in the pockets of one's school uniform, to apply (secretly) to one's head, when the pain became unbearable.

Where would we be without scientists, who have made life more comfortable for today's children? Whooping cough is gone. So has conjunctivitis ("Apollo Eleven").

So I am sure coronavirus will also be killed off. But we do depend on all the world's governments to follow the advice of the scientists – scrupulously. No money should, therefore, be spared in implementing their advice.

For they are working their butts off, trying to save us all.

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