Healthy Lifestyle

Taras Zhyravetskyy - One of the Most Popular Doctors on Facebook

When the pandemic started, the urologist, andrologist, sexologist, and medical director at a private clinic suddenly took on a new job: coronavirus expert. Today, he has more than 75K followers on social media. He tells L'Officiel how he has become famous in an exclusive interview and what he has in common with Dr. House from the famous TV show.
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Dr. Taras Zhyravetskyy

You have become a famous influencer during the pandemic. Hundreds of thousands of people follow your advice. Your posts help them make sense of the barrage of information that can be incomprehensible to those without medical training. A lot has changed over the last year, and the entire planet has been hit by psychological trauma. Speaking of public health, has humanity become more health-conscious? Did more people choose a healthy lifestyle? Or is it the other way around — are people "self-medicating" with alcohol to overcome the circumstances, the trauma, and the crisis? What do your observations tell you?

According to my observations, people have become more health-conscious — especially those who haven't had COVID yet. Frightened by the pandemic, the majority understands that if your health isn't all that great, the disease will take a bigger toll. Plus, there's another, quite large group of people — those who realize that getting to a doctor will not be easy, as medical workers are overwhelmed. So people are trying to lead healthier lifestyles. They are choosing health.

What would be your recommendations as to diets and dietary supplements during the pandemic?

I'm all in favor of dietary supplements. But they must be prescribed by a doctor after an examination to make sure the patient has no gastritis or enterocolitis. Ideally, a doctor should do at least a minimal checkup before prescribing vitamins or nutrients that the patient is deficient in. But if you eat well and your body is functioning properly, there's no point in taking lots of supplements. You shouldn't put your trust in a "magic pill" that will prevent COVID or ease its symptoms. That's just advertising from pharma corporations.

As to diets, there's no food with healing properties either. Just remember that too much alcohol may lower your body's defenses against disease. And the patients who are overweight would do well to lose it. This will help their bodies function better. However, it still has to be supervised by professional dieticians, gastroenterologists, and endocrinologists.


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What would you say were the government's biggest mistakes in tackling the pandemic?

Everything was relatively fine until the British strain arrived. It threw everything out of balance since it spreads faster and is more contagious. There aren't enough beds in hospitals. In these circumstances, I find the EU and the US's policies somewhat weird: coronavirus sufferers have to wait for potential complications at home, hydrating and taking paracetamol. In the UK, for example, COVID patients are treated by the National Health Service. They aren't in the care of general practitioners. When a patient's condition worsens, they call an ambulance. So these patients may be in critical condition and require special therapy. But generally, both the tactics and the protocols for hospital treatment in Ukraine, the United States, and Europe are the same.

Wouldn't it make sense to impose another lockdown, mandatory for all countries for three weeks, to stop this massive nightmare? How realistic does that sound? And why hasn't it been done? After all, as you wrote in one of your posts, a match doesn't carry the flame further if there's no other match besides it.

I think it's a highly unlikely scenario. Plus, there's not much foreign travel now anyway. And people who aren't EU citizens can't enter the Union without good reason. In other words, we are already locked out. On top of that, some countries, such as Germany, use rapid antigen testing at the airports to make sure travelers don't have COVID. It's not enough to have a PCR test with you. You still have to undergo rapid testing as a precaution.

How much do you trust vaccinations?

There are two vaccine types already available in Ukraine, one Indian and one Chinese. We trust the manufacturers' assurances that their drugs work. But the way the vaccination awareness campaign was done, it's hard to trust it. Every day brings lots of news. Some say you should go and get the shot right now. Others talk of side effects. Someone who's not a medical professional is apt to take a step back and wonder if it's worth it after all.

Furthermore, vaccination requires two stages. Which currently means waiting three months, during which you are unprotected until the second shot. I personally haven't vaccinated because I've got antibodies. But it's a good idea to get inoculated if you haven't had COVID.

However, to stop the pandemic, vaccinations must be widespread, like in Israel, where 80 percent of the population have received their shots. Otherwise, it's pointless. Not like in Ukraine, with 100 thousand shots per month. At this rate, it will be quicker for us all to catch it. And the "natural" inoculation rate in Ukraine is already at least thirty times that of the "artificial" one.


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What's the biggest misconception regarding the pandemic?

The worst problem is that quite a lot of people don't believe in the virus. They claim it's a media hoax, and the hospitals are actually empty. Another source of chagrin is various folk treatments, all this "breathe through an alcohol-soaked mask to survive" stuff. Or take dubious "miracle cures" and "super supplements." A lot of trouble comes from self-treatment and ignoring professional medical advice. Many people take too long to go to a doctor when their lungs are too damaged, and the doctors can't help them.

What do you think of the idea that everyone must have a general physician who supervises their health? All of it, from nutrition to treatments. A doctor who coordinates and monitors the patient's every step.

Basically, the whole world is striving toward this model, but no country has achieved it yet, so it's still a thing of the future. There are family physicians, which is the model we're now trying to implement, where the physician is responsible for a family's health. But it doesn't always work.

Of course, some wealthier people try to get hold of unique doctors, of which there's only a handful in Ukraine — experts in healthcare, anti-aging treatments, preventive healthcare. The government has other things to do. In fact, people have to realize that their health is their own responsibility in today's world.

We are primarily a fashion magazine, and the fashion industry's capabilities are immense. How come no one has designed garments and headgear with plastic face shields and made them fashionable? I'm sure designers could come up with some fabulous creations. They have the capacity. What do you think of it?

I think such things would be trendy. But the pandemic is taking lives, and designers wouldn't want to exploit a subject that's so tragic for many people. It's about the ethical aspect first and foremost. So manufacturing personal protective equipment has been left to professionals. The main headgear now is the mask. A face shield doesn't really help all that much, so they're used mainly by healthcare workers.



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Where did the idea to start your own Facebook blog originate?

I started my blog over ten years ago. I was famous even before the pandemic, with 7K followers. My bid for attention was posting interesting stories from my job. Some got up to 40 thousand likes. I like to joke that some of the more complex cases will be televised in the new season of House. Once I had 22 stories, I had them published in book form. When coronavirus began a hot topic, I decided to write about it. My bona fides were rock-solid: I work as a medical director at a healthcare facility, while my father is a microbiologist and virologist. I also relied on international sources and my colleagues' experience, taking on a COVID public awareness officer's role. I wrote about tests, examinations, CT procedures. There wasn't much information on this at the beginning of the pandemic, so my Facebook page started gathering followers.

How much time do you spend on your blog?

Writing a post or making a video takes about half an hour, not long at all. I spend more time talking to people: if I see a serious problem, I always advise them or give quick tips.

You get thousands of questions and comments. Do you manage to deal with all of them?

It's difficult. It's also difficult to maintain balance: I have no right to say that everything's fine; there's no pandemic. And I have to be constructive because my knowledge and experience help others rise to the challenge, overcome their shock, panic, and negative emotions. If we are prepared and informed, it will be easier to deal with this. People say that after watching my videos or webinars, they find more energy to fight the illness.

Which social media platform do you think is the most influential?

Overall, I think Facebook has the most influence. Instagram is an emotional platform. It's more for videos and photos. TikTok, even though it has twice as many subscribers, isn't quite there yet. Facebook is the number one driver, the source of information that will soon replace TV.

What pandemic-related comments or news have made you laugh recently?

Sadly, there's a lot of very serious info around. And it doesn't raise a smile. So I have to work to create amusement to provide at least some fun and distraction for others. The other day, for instance, I posted this for all the naysayers on my page: "If you don't like my posts, take a hammer to my picture on your phone."




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