Epidemiological curve, incubation, quarantine, isolation, PCR and antigen tests, protein spike, vaccines. For nearly a year, all of our lives have been inundated with scientific terms, once unknown to most of the population. But, so many months later, do we really know what they mean?
Carolina Malhão, Diogo Rama, Duarte Próspero and João Cardoso are students in the 3rd year of the Integrated Masters in Medicine (MIM) at the University of Algarve (UAlg).
Course colleagues, it was within the scope of work for a curricular unit that they created this practical guide for Covid-19. But the idea, that one, came from their experience in the field, as in Linha de Saúde 24, where they often had to explain these concepts to those who called with doubts.
The premise is summed up in a phrase by Diogo Rama: «we want to exchange the most difficult ideas for more basic concepts, with enlightening images and a language that reaches everyone».
For the young student, who is already licensed in Nursing, the pandemic brought (even more) the question of « fake news and the difficulty of accessing information from reliable sources” because “we see, hear and read so much on so many sides”.
So this handy guide for Covid-19, which is now available here and was the target of scientific review by MIM professors, it was born to combat misinformation, condensing what is relevant.
Over the 26 pages, a little bit of everything is spoken. “Initially, we have a chronology with a small overview of what happened over the last year. We also explain what a virus is, specifying the differences between this and the flu, something that is still much discussed», explains Carolina Malhão.
And he continues: «we also talk about the incubation of the virus, explaining how they work in our organism and the reason why there are symptomatic people, others not. In addition to these issues, we address the differences between tests, low- and high-risk contacts, the use of masks, quarantines and isolation, vaccination, another much-discussed topic, and the myths».
Even the part less connected to health issues does not pass by. “We have four pages just for economic support, because we know how Covid-19 also affected the health of the portfolio», says Carolina, who has a degree in Biomedical Sciences.
João Cardoso, also with a degree in Biomedical Sciences and now a student of the Integrated Masters in Medicine, tells how the selected themes were the ones that «were most relevant».
«In each theme, we always gather information that people can take for themselves, in a pedagogical way».
«What we want is to equip people with knowledge that is easy, fast and simple. If they are not simply informed about the vaccination, for example, they can refuse it and put us all in danger”, he explains.
“When we attend the Infarmed meeting, for example, we always hear some technical jargon and there are people who just hang up”, complements, for his part, Diogo Rama.
During the preparation of the guide, which took about five weeks, the young students were doing a job of «pre-listening» to family and friends, trying to explain, in a simple way, the most scientific terms. “We got to the point where we were reading sentence by sentence”, recalls Diogo Rama.
Carolina Malhão tells a story that illustrates the difficulty of the task: «I took the vaccination part and, when I showed it to a friend, he asked me what a placebo was. And I, so used to the theme and the term, I was surprised».
In addition to the digital publication, the idea, in the future, is to print the guide and distribute it "to health centres, schools and homes", with "contacts already made in this regard". The group of students has the support of the Algarve Biomedical Center (ABC) for printing the guide.
For MIM students at the University of Algarve, helping to fight the pandemic is not new, as they participate as volunteers in the SNS24 or in the QClinic project, also from UAlg.
The most rewarding thing is being able to help “change behavior”. In this specific case of the guide, Diogo Rama leaves a wish: «I hope that when I give this to my grandmother or my aunt, they will no longer have doubts about the risks they are running».
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