Under The Northern Sky: ‘At War With A Virus’

Man with Northern Lights reflection
Man with Northern Lights reflection - ImageBank.com

We are in a worldwide war with coronavirus disease (COVID-19). We are now at a critical stage in Canada and here in Ontario. 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.

The thing is that we have 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 in Canada and in our province of Ontario to deal with this virus. 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 have to listen to those warning signs and act sooner rather than later.
Information is empowering during a time when we all feel helpless. There are many sources of information with Health Canada, Ontario Health and worldwide sources like the World Health Organization. Sometimes the average person needs someone to explain complex health news and one easy to understand the 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 of disease cause, spread, and danger. 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 for disease spread. This should be the wake-up call for the government to support our public health care system even more and make sure 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 coronavirus (SARS-CoV) outbreak in 2002 and 2003. I was traveling 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 that cured SARS. Instead, it was thought to have faded and disappeared according to news stories after the pandemic. Many of us don’t even realize that the most recent global pandemic happened in 2009. It was referred to as an H1N1 influenza virus and also 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 almost 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 United States, 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 have been more cases than usual of severe respiratory disease that has caused hospitalization and visits to the hospital or doctor’s office. Perhaps we have to really start taking these influenza and virus outbreaks more seriously as they can often be deadly and cause long-lasting damage to people.

Hopefully here in Ontario and Canada, we will all listen to the directives from our leaders and health care professionals. We need to stay home, practice safe space of at least one meter from people, stay away from crowds and work from home if possible. We need to close down ourselves, the way they are doing in Italy, France, and Spain right now. We need to follow the simple directions of washing hands for at least 20 seconds and being 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.

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Under The Northern Sky is the title of a popular Aboriginal news column written by First Nation writer, Xavier Kataquapit, who is originally from Attawapiskat Ontario on the James Bay coast. He has been writing the column since 1997 and it is is published regularly in newspapers across Canada. In addition to working as a First Nation columnist, his writing has been featured on various Canadian radio broadcast programs. Xavier writes about his experiences as a First Nation Cree person. He has provided much insight into the James Bay Cree in regards to his people’s culture and traditions. As a Cree writer, his stories tell of the people on the land in the area of Attawapiskat First Nation were he was born and raised.