Covid-19: First coronavirus was described in The BMJ in 1965BMJ 2020; 369 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.m1547 (Published 16 April 2020) Cite this as: BMJ 2020;369:m1547
All rapid responses
BMJ contributors also highlighted the potential for a pandemic originating from interspecies crossover.
In 2017, I wrote a tongue-in-cheek article for the Christmas edition of the BMJ on the impact of children’s television series ‘Peppa Pig’ on healthcare services, entitled ‘Does Peppa Pig encourage inappropriate use of primary care resources?’(1) Several prescient ‘rapid responders’ expressed concerns about the events featured in my third case study; ‘Pedro’s cough’, which appeared to depict the origins of ‘an impending pandemic of equine influenza’ (2).
In this episode, a young pony develops a cough, which is rapidly transmitted amongst multiple species of animal, including the attending healthcare worker, Dr Brown-Bear. Now a mother of two young children, I took the opportunity, during a homeschooling session on ‘Understanding the World’, to review the source material from a public health perspective.
‘Pedro’s cough’ depicts Patient Zero, a 3 year old equine ‘superspreader’, attending preschool whilst symptomatic of a respiratory illness. Despite the quick action of their teacher, Madame Gazelle, in notifying the local GP, Dr Brown-Bear, the extremely short incubation period sees the rest of the children, the teacher and the parents all rapidly develop symptoms.
Dr Brown-Bear does not appear to have access to video technology to assess his first patient remotely, opting to triage by telephone and perform an urgent face-to-face assessment (a). Sadly, Dr Brown-Bear subsequently contracts the illness himself; a tragic inevitability given his lack of adequate personal protective equipment.
I fear I was too harsh on my ursine colleague in my original analysis, interpreting his ‘disregard for confidentiality, parental consent, record keeping, and his self prescribing’ as signs of ‘burnout’. With the benefit of hindsight, it is clear Dr Brown-Bear was working on the front line in an unprecedented situation, without access to essential equipment and diagnostics, putting himself at risk to provide prompt care for his patients. I hope that his regulatory body was lenient and the outcome of his fitness to practice investigation was a positive one.
Humour aside, as a NHS GP and wife to an NHS anaesthetist, I am proud to be part of a workforce who regularly go above and beyond for their patients, despite the risk to themselves and their families. I certainly have a renewed appreciation for the commitment and selflessness of my colleagues and hope that what we learn from collaborating across different specialties, professions and locations is one positive to come out of this devastating pandemic.
(a) Anosmia / aguesia do not appear to be features of the disease, as the recipients of the unspecified pink liquid he administers, possibly an antiviral or antimalarial, frequently comment on its unique flavour (‘like an old shoe full of jam’).
(1) Bell, C. ‘Does Peppa Pig encourage inappropriate use of primary care resources?’ BMJ 2017;359:j5397. https://www.bmj.com/content/359/bmj.j5397
(2) Menon DK. Re: ‘Does Peppa Pig encourage inappropriate use of primary care resources?’ BMJ 2017;359:j5397 (Rapid response 12/12/2017) https://www.bmj.com/content/359/bmj.j5397/rr-2
Competing interests: No competing interests