Star “Power” Social Distancing & CoVID-19

These are tough weeks worldwide with COVID-19 rising death tolls as all market sectors are affected. An unlucky Friday the 13th as several Forbes articles are predicting a range of problems from technology to delays in college applications.

Health messages can be very powerful if they come from well-known sports figures, local and international movie stars. We need this on a daily basis if we are to motivate change in stopping the transmission of viruses like the Coronavirus, also known as CoVID-19.
ife Rita Wilson who have contracted social stigma (reminds many of the first years of HIV in the 80s and 90s).

Tennis star Stefanos Tsitsipas did a brilliant for public service announcement for the Hellenic (Greek) Ministry of Health with the directive to “sing Happy Birthday to You” 2 times as you wash your hands! Besides being an Orlando Bloom look-alike, talented sportsman, he has a great career as a public health communicator! Go Stefanos! Many efforts are made to increase awareness of how the disease can affect all sectors and e-learning may help curb the issue at least from school – college.

Local stars in Greece like Sakis Rouvas who are promoting the “Stay Home” for 2 weeks movement. We say that as long as stars “practice what they preach” they can reach millions much more than any politician …though the current Greek Prime Minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis is doing a very good job with communicating risk. In times of critical incidents how political figures and governments “handle” situations either builds or breaks trust. Mr. Mitsotakis you’re doing a good job with tough historical issues — one side the migrant crisis and hybrid war and on the other the virus 🦠 and the economic recovery, Bravo 👏!

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Speaking of inspiration and stars ⭐️ here is
an open-air “cafe” moment, before the ‘lock-down’, with my friend Antigone D. who creates amazing Electronica music ranging from epic classics to 80s 90s with the magic of her keyboard…. Check out her single “Electro Infinity” from the album Next Generation on YouTube.

Best to keep our distance and no excess show of affection like kisses 💋 and handshakes 🤝 which were a historical “given” in almost all Mediterranean cultures. But as a more recent Guardian article seems to suggest, we are evolving our social etiquette from handshakes, to using elbows and footshakes, during this critical time.

Hands off we say with Antigone D.!

“It’s over now the music of the night…” 🎶 as is sung by the Phantom in one of my favorite plays The Phantom of the Opera ….or is it!? Yes, bars and restaurants will close for 2 weeks to promote the “Stay Home” 🏠 Movement for prevention. But we can still be smart and enjoy shows via video and livestream to eventually close the chapter of another Deadly vires.

Be smart and be patient friends, social distancing is “in”!

The women of the day

She was #166 waiting patiently her turn in a public hospital while others (and she) were unaware of her condition eventually aware she was carrying the Co-VID19. She took responsibility and informed others for the need of quarantine.

She was Asian who was living in Northern Italy and was told “go away, we don’t want your virus!” She wins the approval of her colleagues as bystanders intervened and she’s now trying to be see how and what we need to work on in the name of prejudice and in times of panic.

She baked all day, kneading the dough into perfect braids with her arthritis ridden fingers. Those infamous Greek koulourakia. They were given to several people living alone, in need for comfort food, and even some intergenerational fun.

Koulourakia for a better world !

I did my part Recently in an internet radio station in Northern Greece in educating the lay public on associated issues, the need for preventive measures of viruses, and the importance of health literacy (Watch/listen to this). We might be getting better in containment but still as with all serious health threats a “thorny” situation (take a read of “A rose in winter”)
You may not know these women but you can relate to their actions, and we want them to keep healthy and strong!

May you blossom like the almond and cherry trees as they quickly change leaves to form fruit. You are vital to humanity’s survival.
Congratulate and hug a woman today for just being her.
March 8th, International Woman’s Day!

Coronavirus update

I’ve heard and read all kind of stupidity related to the latest deadly virus like “don’t drink Corona beer” or “the flu that kills those of royalty” since the word “Corona” means crown in Greek. A lot of misinformation from untrustworthy sources.

But it’s no joke, it’s deadly, and we don’t know much about how it can be treated. And yes, it’s a good idea to drink fluids, wash your hands (at least 20 seconds), cover your mouth and nose when sneezing or coughing with a tissue, according to CDC prevention (if you tend to rub your eyes and nose you may need a face mask 😷) — do not panic, yet.

Apparently this virus has been around mainly in animals showing up in the Middle East (Saudi Arabia) back in the 60s and 70s, so it’s not just Asia (China, Japan, all have had death tolls). Remember SARS? Well apparently it’s a variation…. and then there is still the H1N1 as referred to Bird Flu. So be prepared for airport checks when you travel and understand that public safety takes precedence.

If my great grandma were alive she’d sit on her stool saying «κορώνι μου» meaning “my crown” [a term of endearment used by older people from Mani – Laconia in respect to the past King Constantine I of Greece (1913 – 1917) whom they respected as he fought in military frontlines] ….eat plenty of onions and garlic, wear your winter wool and keep your feet warm .

….and build some immune strength so here it is : Echinacea, Vitamin C (mandarins, clementines, oranges all good), garlic and onions, teas with antiseptic properties like chamomile and thyme and related immune building tea with honey (and lemon), winter apples with cinnamon, and consider a great “fast food” from Ancient Greece called “trahana” (τραχανά) …undefined I remember how the older folks made it during the summer season on low wooden tables from fermented milk and grain laid on cotton cloths, left to dry for days . The pungent smell lasting for weeks.

This is seasonal food. I prefer the sour (than the sweet) version which we lightly brown with some butter and oil, boiled in water and Presto! A yummy hot breakfast food for the entire family. Perfect for winter.

If you are sick, remember to stay home and rest as sleep is the best medicine, you are “contagious” the first few days when (if) you have fever, please use tissues to wipe that runny nose and throw them away! At tail end of illness you’ll have a lot of mucus to “get rid of” it’s perfectly normal (disgusting yes) so keep taking those cough syrups, hot tea, and honey (darker heavier ones especially from chestnut and pine trees are best for winter) are most helpful in this “release” process — they are called mucolytics  as they can dissolves thick mucus and are usually used to help relieve respiratory difficulties.

Be healthy and wise and as always followup with a doctor if symptoms are severe or get worse after 3-4 days. Keep up with the news on what’s next with this “new” virus and do your best to raise your awareness and health literacy. Thus please get your proper source of health information from trustworthy sites like that of the World Health Organization, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and your health department.

They say God created the earth 🌎 and living creatures in seven days, emphasis on “life” here. Building hospitals over six days in Wuhan, China is not a joke ….they know that epidemics must be contained! Be smart and stay healthy ….through early Spring when flu season is over! 🤒🦠🥺

A rose in winter

If a rose is full of thorns, it does not mean it’s not full of beauty……Roses do not bloom hurriedly; for beauty, like any masterpiece, takes time to blossom.

Quotes by Matshona Dhliwayo

One of my favorite books turned Disney success was “Beauty and the Beast.” The original French Fairy tale titled La Belle et la Bête, was written by French novelist GabrielleSuzanne Barbot de Villeneuve in 1740, a time of great tumult and revolution in Northern Europe, and the beginning of what some termed the “great awakening” for the colonial North Americans who eventually rebel 30+ years later…

Perhaps we like the story because of the ideal of love and kindness of the heroine Belle turning over the well educated yet harsh beast into a handsome, well-mannered prince (what many women may fantasize about with a crude partner, in addition to monogamy and other similar more positive traits….). More than this, her relationship with her kind father who in the middle of cold winter stopped to pluck the one beautiful red rose, I imagine similar to this one found on a post-snow day.

We don’t live in a castle, even though the temperature stood at 45 degrees Fahrenheit (7• Celsius), this fuchsia colored rose wanted to survive growing tall, wanting to reach the warmth of the winter sun. Standing alone, beautiful, bundled up in its petals as if saying, “take me into the warmth of your home.” Well, we all know the rest of the Fairytale story and we all love those winter holiday tales… and here is the health “twist”…

Are you caring for yourself and others who need you? Can you rethink monthly about your new year’s resolutions and take practical healthy steps towards this?

“Every rose has it’s thorn” was sung in that cowboy drawn accent by Guns-n-Roses and this last week has caused a lot of ‘thorny‘ subjects to come up. Range from the US – Middle East, all the way to the ecological disaster in Australia and all those helpless animals down under…. with every difficulty we grow stronger and there are always people (we know or foreign to us) who help, like the volunteer firefighter pictured here…

You make us proud

I don’t know who you are Sir, but THANK YOU for showing humanity, as many other people have risking their lives, while most of us sit in the comfort of our homes perhaps wondering what can we do? There are many agencies to donate to and of course we should be selecting those whom we think are honorable in their cause as well as reputable.

  • Maybe your parents are aging — this is a fact of life and so you need to adjust your own life as they will theirs — this indeed was one of the main reasons I wrote my Chapter on health literacy (Across the Lifespan Handbook). As the rose, we whither and pass on but our “scent” still remains, this is what we have contributed to the world of ‘beauty‘.
  • Maybe you are tired of always giving and “fixing” others. One comment I saw posted recently was that it is not “our job” to fix people or take them on as “projects”…. but I’d ask is it enough to TRY to show them the way? I recall one someone telling me about relationships to keep in mind — we all have baggage, but then it depends whether it’s carry-on or check-in.

Be realistic people, not just individualistic, we are supposed to work towards the collective good are we not? Move away from the anger of the ‘beast’; things can be prevented and helped if we care about people, our environment, our community, please ‘call a Spade ♠️ a spade‘ — say it like it is, don’t use empty or irrelevant words. Move beyond simple “likes” on FB , do something about it, and yes social media is helpful to brainstorm ideas and raise funds.

Natural disasters are one thing, man made crises are another. People become displaced in life and love, but people also learn to prevent based on lessons learned (example of one family & the Rafina 2018 fires, or the Boston Strong movements). ‘Thorns’ can be removed.

You may be called on intentionally or by accident to help others and your actions may be like the ONE beautiful rose of winter…. an unforgettable smell reminding you of the “hope” of Spring just a few months away. Don’t get stuck in darkness, heal your body and your spirit with good “food” (books and fairytales included) it only makes you stronger. Sweet and fragrant dreams….

Water water everywhere so let’s preserve it to drink

Do you have the water running while you brush your teeth ? What about when you wash your dishes or your car? Every single product you have and need for your life contain water 💦 are you health literate about your local and global needs?
Do you keep up with the costs of fixing broken pipes and bad infrastructure (Physical or Communication) never mind the overuse of pesticides that run into our drinking water! Most governments are not even following the law for Safety Standards !

Dr. Angelina-Kallia Antoniou, European Environmental Law Expert

We should all be concerned about the quality and quantity of our water supplies in the world which includes the threats like bioterrorism and even the opportunities of therapy with water — there are entire Web pages dedicated to this (eg. Livpure). We learned about hydrotherapies like Ποσιθεραπεία (Water we drink), Πυλοθεραπεία (water with minerals we put on our bodies). We were informed about biodiversity and the fact that 30% of the land in Greece is part of Natura 2000. All this with water-related art, water filter display and networking opportunities at the 1st International Forum on Water held December 10th and 11th in Zappeion, near Syndagma square Athens.

Dr. Vantarakis speaks about the interplay of individual and community behaviors as well as the government importance of maintaining the public’s health !

Do you understand that disease is “cyclical” and waterborne diseases come and go ? Remember Cholera (think John Snow’s water pump) or experiences of gastroenteritis? Painful and deadly. We often have only a few days to “move” in protecting our public’s health epidemiologically but not enough time for lab results …while news spreads like wildfire through media! Sometimes accurately sometimes not, as Dr. Emmanuel Vantarakis, Professor of School of Medicine of Patras University indicates.

There was talk about dealing with public health disasters that reflect what we had posted on this blog a couple of years ago and no, you cannot just hide a problem of potential epidemic proportions where countries in the future won’t even have clean water to drink due to climate changes and geopolitical games.

Congratulations to the Woman of the Year Time magazine 2019, Greta Thunberg, and we love the magazine cover ! She’s keeping our heart and mind on protecting our environment and taking recycling and minimizing plastics seriously ! Our congratulations to local groups like this beach cleaning community who have been attempting to clean up beaches and be more civically engaged with young people. Let’s go global citizens you know who you are!

We can live without food for up to 14 days, without water for only a couple of days, and our earth 🌍 needs to be maintained else humans will be extinct like dinosaurs! Great initiatives …let’s keep talking water!

Birds of a feather, Flu season and personal responsibility

Everyone loves flamingos right? Birds migrate to warmer climates throughout the year despite global warming and colder climates with snow in unlikely places (last post). We all should know that birds are one of the major ways disease is transmitted across continents and via mosquitoes to animals and humans! .

Have you ever stopped to think how your own actions could prevent further spread of what are known as “communicable diseases” such as flu? This season is prime for H1N1 (known as swine flu) or others like bird flu, and the U. S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as well as the World Health Organization constantly share updates on disease spread and prevention.

Good friend Jenny, did her part too! She’s not only talented as a Dramaturg and Stage Director, she recently proved to be very health literate too! Being health literate is having the ability to act appropriately medically (getting tested, vaccinated, taking appropriate meds once sick, resting and drinking plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration), and taking personal responsibility to prevent disease spread.

Her Facebook post (permission to share with you) says it all. It was the first time we had “virtual drinks” and it was a great time despite illness!  Thanks Jenny for doing your part! Maybe it’s true that birds of a feather truly hang together…

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Post Rafina fires … “I saved my family and property” one family’s story

October 10th is annual World Mental Health day (WHO-MentalHlth) and all that Falls upon us may include recent or past traumatic events, including the Rafina “Mati” fire of July 2018 (see past post ‘Ashes to Ashes‘). As psychosocial and public health professionals we refer to post-symptoms including anxiety and depression, loss of sleep etc. which may be indicative of a post-traumatic stress disorder after a shocking or life-threatening event. Last September I interviewed and photographed one woman and her property in Rafina, 10 minutes away from “Mati” where approximately 100 people lost their lives in July 2018.

Fire moves fast, mostly passing on the ground or heat melting  leaves from trees and plants, or parts of homes.  We heard so many stories of ‘survival’ of people jumping into the sea and swimming for hours to be rescued by the Hellenic Coast Guard, or running down stone pathways away from the fire. Just a few hours…. that was the time it took for utter devastation. This post focuses on survival. How one woman’s story of saving her home and property with her family.   Eleftheria (her name means ‘freedom’ in Greek) is in her 70’s and she made it through using prevention smarts, quick courageous actions during the event, and likely one who has high health literacy.

Eleftheria_This close

This close….I saved my family and property.

Traveling to their home I did not know what to expect.  Realizing the last time I visited the area was the beginning of July, coming ‘this close’ to the now tragically famed “Mati” fire where many people died, many lost their property.  What I encountered left me open-mouthed.  This family’s home was completely surrounded by ashes — several homes and surrounding land were burned to the ground. A few streets down there were blackened charcoal regions, houses with burned windows in a corner part near one of the small ports nearby — there an elderly couple died of smoke inhalation.  They did not know each other — but it came this close — it could have been them….

To my amazement, as we walked around their four-acre land only a few trees were burned, though clearly evidence of heat-fire having passed as if on the surface of the earth’s skin… Now only happy animals play or search for food in this family’s fields.  This includes 40 chickens (only one was lost in the fire because it got scared and wandered off), two dogs — a shepherd and a hound, almost all bee hives were untethered.  I sat down with Eleftheria to hear her family’s story, what they did and how…. in hindsight they took risks but they managed to stay out of harm’s way near cemented parts of the home (like their basement) — we now understand for the area there was no clear evacuation plan of the region by the local municipality or media. As a matter of fact most families watching the news that day thought that the fires were only happening in the Peloponnese in Kineta, and from Pendeli (in Attica) fires moved quick as if in a large downward ski slope all the way trough Rafina, to the Mati area.

“It took two hours”, “I thought it was the end of my parents” said her daughter, “I thought it was the end…” said her husband who is now over 95 years old.  But Eleftheria kept moving fast, protecting the animals, using water, throwing dirt or using large branches and wool type blankets to put out fires.  As she says, the primary reason they survived was due to prevention.  Some neighbors who do not maintain their field or surrounding areas to their home had much damage done. In thinking of around the-year prevention, she shared these tips and actions:

  1. clear bushes and surrounding trash, tall grasses, cut down trees year-round, especially during the fire season (summer, dry months)
  2. some plants/trees like cactus fruit, fig trees, aloe vera prevent fire from spreading due to their deep roots which keep moisture in — maintain and plant more of them!
  3. bee hives should have a solid type foundation away from tall grasses if possible
  4. glass windows closed — wooden or plastic panels pulled away so that fire does not pass, and any melting doesn’t prevent doors from opening (for quick escapes)
  5. water storage areas (wells, containers) replenishing and cleaning fire equipment and extinguishers once a year as maintenance
  6. evacuation route pre-planned if possible (knowing the area, clear road/route signs)

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Eleftheria gives me a jar of honey taking a pose for a photograph. I am happy that she, her family, and all the animals she cares for and loves, made it through this tragedy safe and sound….. may we continue sharing lessons for locals as well as our governments to look at “lessons learned” towards improving communication and better planning efforts.

We deserve better.