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Sorting Out Covid-19 Information with MS

By Matt Cavallo
We are living in troubling times. In addition to the real and present threat of an infectious virus, there is also the inherent threat of mass hysteria from information overload on how to manage the threat. On my phone and in my Facebook messenger right now are several chain letters that all start with a similar message: so-and-so’s friend has it on good authority from an unnamed source that you should … fill in the blank with the messaging you have received.

Some of these messages are legitimate and have good, useful information. Others spread misinformation that plays on our deepest, darkest fears. Unfortunately, in times of fear and unrest, some try to leverage that fear to push their agenda. The question becomes with all this information coming from different angles, how do you mute the noise and find the signal of truth?

The first thing to do is to seek a valid source of information. This is a health crisis, so organizations like the Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization are going to have reliable, up-to-the-minute news about the health crisis as this is their mission.

Understand that the truth is subject to change and quickly. That means that the information you learned to be true at the beginning of the day can be disproved by the end of the day. This is part of the scientific method and is expected that as theories bubble up, then examined and disproved until we find the solution.

Keeping up-to-date is critical. Once you have found a trustworthy source of information, then check back frequently. Social media is not a trustworthy source of information, especially for health information. Social media is chockful of misinformation that can make you feel panicked, scared or even symptomatic. Just because your best friend posted something, it doesn’t mean it is true.

Also, don’t self-diagnose or assume the worst. We cannot see a virus and some of its symptoms can resemble the cold, flu and even season allergies. The CDC has laid out guidelines that tell you what to do if you are experiencing symptoms. The thing you probably don’t want to do as a person living with MS is rush down to a hospital and be exposed to people who have been exposed. Remember, most of our MS medications are immune-suppressants. That means we could be at a higher risk of catching an infectious disease.

Take social distancing seriously. You can even reinvent your standard greeting. My father-in-law laughs because instead of a hug, handshake, or high-five when he has stopped by I give him an elbow bump. I tell my kids that no matter how hard you try, you can't put your elbow in your mouth.

Finally, follow the CDC guidelines. Wash your hands, keep a safe, social distance, and only leave your house if you have to. Remember, you may be at a higher risk, so please stay safe out there.