By Madeline McCarthy
On Tuesday, Dec. 31, the first case of the novel coronavirus was reported in Wuhan, China. It is thought to have been originally contracted from bats at a live animal and seafood market.
Twenty-eight countries have confirmed cases so far, including Canada, Thailand, Germany, the United Kingdom, and more. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the first case in the United States was confirmed on Tuesday, Jan. 20. The states with confirmed cases include California, Washington, Arizona, Massachusetts, and Illinois. There are 36 states with cases being tested.
Symptoms of the coronavirus include fever, cough, and shortness of breath. In more severe situations, it can cause pneumonia or respiratory failure. The disease can be spread through contact with an infected person’s mucus or saliva, both airborne and on contaminated surfaces. There is no cure for the virus, just ways to treat symptoms while the body tries to fight it off.
I had originally written the coronavirus off as something I wouldn’t need to worry about, and it’s still true that this could die down before any astronomical consequences. But the constant news of cases being tested and confirmed have led me to feel some of the worries that this situation may warrant. The World Health Organization declared the coronavirus as a global health emergency on Thursday, Jan. 30, which has only happened with five cases of worldwide illnesses before.
The confirmed case of a student at Arizona State University falling ill emphasizes how close the virus could be to reaching more of the public. As a college student, this case had me really thinking about the seriousness of what is going on. Sicknesses can spread like wildfire at school, and because it is believed that the virus could spread from someone who does not yet have symptoms, I can’t help but imagine how detrimental it would be if it reaches any more college campuses.
Many people, including myself, are worried that the public is not receiving the correct information about the seriousness of the coronavirus. The CDC seems to be confident that the virus is not spreading to the U.S. public; however they did confirm that there has been a case in the states where a patient contracted the virus person-to-person, they got sick without ever leaving the country.
The WHO seems confident that China will be able to keep the coronavirus contained from here on out. But the most concerning information, in my opinion, is that the mayor of Wuhan claims that about five million people left the city when the outbreak first happened and before the heavy quarantine restrictions started. There is no way to know exactly how many of those people could have been exposed before traveling to other parts of the world.
The hysteria surrounding the coronavirus could be compared to that of Ebola or the Zika virus. Both were declared global health crises, and had many people concerned about how far they could reach worldwide. The CDC reported 11,000 deaths for the Ebola outbreak of 2016, which was accompanied with a mix of jokes and fears on the internet. It also came with a fair share of headlines with ridiculous claims that added to the uproar.
Hysteria will never be a useful way to deal with pressing matters such as a global health crisis. The best way to protect yourself is to wash your hands, clean up hard surfaces, and be aware of those around you exhibiting signs of illness. Be honest with your doctors about any symptoms you may have.
As the world watches and waits to see the true damage that the coronavirus causes, I feel it is important to remember to be aware of the situation, but to not take a screaming headline at face value. The CDC updates the amount of cases that are confirmed, being tested, or proven negative in the U.S., so stay updated on factual information and always be aware of possibilities near you or your loved ones.
Madeline McCarthy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org