Fact Check

Did an Infectious Disease Specialist Write 'I Am Not Scared of COVID-19'?

Readers inquired about a viral Facebook post amid an outbreak of the new coronavirus in 2020.

Published March 9, 2020

 (Facebook, screen capture)
Image courtesy of Facebook, screen capture
Article 1 of 12 in Collection
Dr. Abdu Sharkawy, an infectious diseases specialist, penned a viral Facebook post warning about the loss of reason in the face of panic over the new coronavirus in 2020.

On March 6, 2020, a Facebook post by Dr. Abdu Sharkawy, internal medicine and infectious diseases consultant with Toronto’s University Health Network and an assistant professor at University of Toronto, went viral, garnering over 1.3 million shares at the time of our reporting. The post began with this text:

I'm a doctor and an Infectious Diseases Specialist. I've been at this for more than 20 years seeing sick patients on a daily basis. I have worked in inner city hospitals and in the poorest slums of Africa. HIV-AIDS, Hepatitis,TB, SARS, Measles, Shingles, Whooping cough, Diphtheria ... there is little I haven't been exposed to in my profession. And with [the] notable exception of SARS, very little has left me feeling vulnerable, overwhelmed or downright scared.

I am not scared of Covid-19. I am concerned about the implications of a novel infectious agent that has spread the world over and continues to find new footholds in different soil. I am rightly concerned for the welfare of those who are elderly, in frail health or disenfranchised who stand to suffer mostly, and disproportionately, at the hands of this new scourge. But I am not scared of Covid-19.

The post, which can be read in full here, implores the public not to succumb to panic in response to the new coronavirus, which is responsible for the disease COVID-19 and first discovered in Wuhan, China, in late 2019. Sharkawy's post continues:

Covid-19 is nowhere near over. It will be coming to a city, a hospital, a friend, even a family member near you at some point. Expect it. Stop waiting to be surprised further. The fact is the virus itself will not likely do much harm when it arrives. But our own behaviors and "fight for yourself above all else" attitude could prove disastrous.

I implore you all. Temper fear with reason, panic with patience and uncertainty with education. We have an opportunity to learn a great deal about health hygiene and limiting the spread of innumerable transmissible diseases in our society. Let's meet this challenge together in the best spirit of compassion for others, patience, and above all, an unfailing effort to seek truth, facts and knowledge as opposed to conjecture, speculation and catastrophizing.

We reached out to Sharkawy via a University Health System email address found in the University of Toronto directory to confirm that he was indeed the author of the post. In response he told us, "I’m your man."

According to the University of Toronto, Sharkawy completed his training in internal medicine at the University of Toronto and in infectious diseases at the University of British Columbia. A biography of Sharkawy penned for his role as a judge for a scholarship competition suggests his extensive volunteer experience is factual, as well:

Abdu Sharkawy is an Internal Medicine and Infectious Diseases consultant and Assistant Professor of Medicine at the University of Toronto. He has been a longstanding volunteer with experience involving several charitable organizations and those committed to social justice pursuits, including Amnesty International, the United Way and Doctors without Borders. He is a founding member of the Welcome Medical Clinic which served countless ... refugees and newcomers to Canada who had no medical insurance coverage prior to recently reformed legislation.

Because he confirmed his authorship of this viral post, we rank it as "Correctly Attributed" to Sharkawy.

Article 1 of 12 in Collection


University of Toronto.   "Medical School Directory: Abdu Sharkawy.”     Accessed 9 March 2020.

MAX Gala.   "Portfolio: Abdu Sharkawy.”     Accessed 9 March 2020.

Alex Kasprak is an investigative journalist and science writer reporting on scientific misinformation, online fraud, and financial crime.

Article Tags