Q&A with Dr. Ibrahim-Khan on COVID-19
- EFN Staff | April 14, 2020
Every week, we will hear about COVID-19 from the Medical Health Officers for First Nations in Saskatchewan. This week features a Q and A between Eagle Feather News and Dr. Ibrahim Khan from First Nations and Inuit Health Branch.
Can you explain the difference between Coronavirus and COVID-19?
Coronaviruses are a common family of human and animal viruses in our environment. They look like a crown (“corona”) under a microscope. COVID-19 is a dangerous new strain of human coronavirus that is spreading around the world.
Why is COVID-19 so dangerous?
You may have heard the virus “spreads like wildfire”. Imagine lightning hits a single tree and that tree ignites. In a very short time, a few more trees are on fire, and they light a few more until you have a forest fire. This is how COVID-19 can make many people very sick, very quickly.
Most people who get COVID-19 have a mild illness, but about 1 in 5 people will need treatment at the hospital. This is a big problem because right now, doctors, nurses, and hospitals cannot help a “forest fire” of extra sick people if they happen all at once.
How does it spread from one person to another?
This virus spreads when we are together.
It spreads through handshakes. Hugs. Laughing. Passing objects to each other. Touching everyday items. To contract COVID-19, all you need to do is get a few invisible virus particles in your eyes, nose or mouth.
When people speak, cough, sneeze or sing, they release invisible “droplets” of moisture into the air from their mouths and lungs. If someone has COVID-19, those droplets contain virus particles. This rains millions of invisible virus particles all over hands, faces, masks, clothes and nearby surfaces.
COVID-19 likes to “hitchhike” on our hands. If we don’t wash our hands and sanitize surfaces, the virus can wait up to three days for a lift to a new person, place, surface or face.
This is why COVID-19 spreads so easily at gatherings.
How many cases of COVID-19 on First Nations in Saskatchewan?
As of April 8, 2020, there are four cases of COVID-19 in First Nations in Saskatchewan; two have recovered. Even though this number is low, there are likely undiscovered cases on First Nations and in other communities. Everyone should act as if there are cases in their community right now.
What are the most important things to be doing right now?
Wash your hands. Scrub every inch of your hands for 20 seconds. If Happy Birthday doesn’t work sing 20 seconds of a traditional song. Or some CCR. Or “Baby Shark.”
Stay at home (or out on the land). Only visit stores if you need essential supplies or medical care and send just one person.
If you must go out, physically distance yourself from other people indoors and outdoors. Stay six feet apart, the length of a fishing rod, a hockey stick or a pool noodle.
Avoid any gatherings unless absolutely necessary. I can’t stress this enough. In Newfoundland, more than 100 people got COVID-19 from a single funeral and two have died. This virus is unforgiving this way and I never want a First Nations community in Saskatchewan to experience this.
Please, do not have visitors for Easter.
What if people are struggling with all of this?
I understand this time is difficult for many Indigenous people. You are missing the gatherings, ceremonies and family time you cherish. For others, your living situations or personal challenges are adding to this stressful time.
I am humbled by the ways Indigenous people have come together and make this work, to support each other and to find ways to laugh.
But if you’re sick, unsafe or need more support, here’s what you can do:
Stay connected with family, elders, and friends through phone or social media. Connect with local health professionals: nurses, counsellors, social workers, police force. Do not be afraid to tell them if you’re sick.
Call Saskatchewan’s Healthline (811). They have Indigenous language translators.
Call, text or visit Saskatchewan’s 211 service (https://sk.211.ca/), a directory of social supports for violence, crisis, employment and more.
The Government of Canada (Canada.ca/coronavirus) and the Province of Saskatchewan (Saskatchewan.ca/coronavirus) have many great resources and supports.
The FSIN has set up a COVID-19 information line 1-888-833-8885 or email@example.com. They have access to Cree speakers.