Instructions for Patients

Posted by: Maria Atalanti

Published on: 19/09/2023

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Dr. V. Ortsai, the Chief Physician of Neapolis, provided the following precautionary guidelines against the Influenza, which we turned in poetic form to be remembered easily:

Early return home, and don’t go out in the morning.

Avoid theaters, gatherings, and dances.

Keep your clothing complete, clean, and warm.

If you don’t have, stay indoors, keep warm.

Don’t run against the wind like a fool,

In necessity, close your mouth to keep the cool air out,

Breathe through your nose if it’s open,

If not, go inside, stay  imprisoned willingly .

Don’t abuse food, drinks, or overexertion,

Maintain peace of mind, avoid anger and agitation.

Take regular walks for an hour or so,

Walk sensibly, calmly, not too fast, you know.

Keep your feet warm as much as you can,

Drink fluids, rest in bed, that’s the plan.

If you follow these with a vigilant mind,

The flu won’t be something to fear, you’ll find.

But if you feel some agitation in the whole body

Call he doctor at once and to your mattress ran,

Don’t get out of there.

If Influenza doesn’t leave.

This text, published in the newspaper “Salpix” on October 2, 1890, addresses the influenza epidemic, which seemed to be widespread during that time. All newspapers of the time included cases of the disease in all cities, some of which were fatal.

Influenza is a severe form of the flu that spreads easily through respiratory droplets from person to person. Cold weather is a significant factor in the emergence of the disease. It could lead to pneumonia, followed by secondary infections that could be fatal for the patient.

Using poetry as a method to convey instructions, especially to people who were mostly illiterate during that era, was an effective way to ensure they remembered the guidelines. Imagine a literate individual, perhaps the village teacher, reciting this poem to the customers of a coffee shop in a village or even in a town. People of that time worked hard but manually, and their minds were clear, making it easy for them to memorize texts simply by listening.

A similar method of information dissemination was employed by poets who traveled from village to village, reciting their poems, often about tragic events, spreading the stories orally from one person to another.

To go further back in history, think of ancient bards who recited stories of the Trojan War and the adventures of Odysseus. This was the primary means of conveying news and events during those times: through poetry.

Even the early radio advertisements, for those who remember, often consisted of rhymes or jingles. Personally, I remember an advertisement for a painkiller called “Aspro” that had a catchy jingle:

Aspro, Aspro, it’s the one to choose,

It beats any pain; it’ll chase away your blues,

Fever, headache, you will surely lose…”

There was more to it, but I can’t recall the rest.

So, if we were given instructions for COVID-19 in poetic form, perhaps we would remember them better and follow them more effectively.



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