NWHU answers your questions

Dr. Ian Gemmill is the acting medical officer of health for the Northwestern Health Unit (NWHU). Jon Begg, communications and public relations specialist at the NWHU administers and conducts weekly public meeting streamed on either NWHU’s Facebook page or GoTo Meeting sessions to answer questions. To find out how to participate in the next Question and Answer session with Dr. Gemmill, visit the NWHU online, or see the About Town listing on Page 3. Here are some of the questions Gemmill received.

To mask or not to mask?
“We need to be very reasonable and rational about this. In practice, the mask is not to protect us from getting infected from somebody else. The intention of the mask is to protect us if we happen to be ill and not knowing we are infectious. I see it as a respectful thing to do. It is an additional measure to the ones already mentioned. The two metres is the distance we need to keep in case somebody unexpectedly coughs or unexpectedly laughs. The best advice I have heard about the use of masks is if we are in close base or in close quarters or in a situation where we cannot keep our two metres, then you may wish to wear a mask. If you go shopping, you may want to wear a mask to show respect for those who work there. I would probably not wear a mask in a car, walking outdoors or in a house with my family. But I might consider wearing a mask when I am going inside a retail space as a show of respect and in the off chance that you are a carrier and unaware.

What are false positives and false negatives?
“All tests can have false positives and false negatives. That means if you test somebody and it is positive there’s a possibility that the person is truly infected or the test read it wrong. Same thing goes for a false negative test where someone is infected and the person is not picking it up. Both these things can happen and the more people that we test, the more likely it is that the test is going to show up as false positives or false negatives. Even if 99.99 per cent of tests are accurate, if we test a million people there are people who will end up showing a false positive. Having said that, if somebody comes to me they are sick and I get them tested and the result comes out positive. To me, this test is acting as a laboratory confirmation of what I am already suspecting as a positive case.”

Does the test hurt?
“I have not had this test, but I can tell you I have seen it done several time. I think I would not be honest with you if I said you did not feel it. It is uncomfortable, clearly uncomfortable. How uncomfortable it is depends on the experience and expertise of a person doing it. A person that does a lot of these is going to be good at it. The swab is being put into very sensitive tissue at the back of the nose where there are nerve endings. People do feel it. Let’s put it this way: it is unpleasant. But it will not cause long term pain. Once the test is over, the test is over.”