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What Can We Learn from Italy About the Pandemic?

We should learn from Italy to take COVID-19 very seriously. Practice social distancing and hand-washing as if your life depended on them. It does.
What Can We Learn from Italy About the Pandemic?
Catania, Italy – March 12, 2020: Coronavirus in Italy. Quarantine announcement about one meter distance between people as prevention mesure against Covid-19 virus epidemic in Italy

What can we learn from Italy about the global coronavirus pandemic? COVID-19 has hit the country especially hard. More than 40,000 Italians have been infected and the number of deaths has surpassed the toll in China.

Lessons We Can Learn from Italy:

When you plot the rate of COVID-19 infections on a graph, the US appears to be following Italy with a delay of a few weeks. The Italian government has put stringent social distancing policies into effect, but it was slow to do so. The result has been an explosive increase in infections and now in deaths due to COVID-19 as well.

Hospitals Cannot Cope with the Influx of Patients:

Although the Italian healthcare system is excellent, it is now completely overwhelmed. There are not enough physicians. Consequently, the government is recruiting 10,000 medical students prior to their graduation to help with the emergency. In addition, there are not enough intensive care beds for everyone who needs them.

Italy has a large number of older people who have been especially hard hit. The extended family structure common in Italy, in which the generations live together and interact frequently, is usually a source of strength. In this pandemic, however, it put the elderly at additional risk. Emergency services are struggling to keep up with the demand. Ambulances are becoming contaminated and the staff are becoming infected. Shortages of protective gear for medical personnel make this problem more acute.

What Should We Learn?

What we should learn from Italy is to take this pandemic very seriously. That is what Italians themselves emphasize. Follow the guidelines about social distancing; wash your hands frequently; and avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth, since that is the route the SARS-Cov0-2 virus takes to get in.

Italian public health officials urge the rest of the world to prepare now and not wait for healthcare facilities to be overwhelmed. With shortages of medical equipment such as ventilators and protective gear such as goggles or respirators already showing up, we might have waited too long to put the pandemic lessons we can learn from Italy into effect.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
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