5 Things To Know About Coronavirus

Unless you have been living under a rock (or in Antarctica), you have definitely have heard about the coronavirus. Otherwise known as COVID-19 and officially named SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus is actually part of a family of viruses that can spread from animals to humans and then person to person. The coronavirus that is making headlines today originated in Wuhan, China and is linked to a live animal market and may have originated from a bat, according to the CDC. With any news story, especially one with global implications, misinformation is common. Because this is a currently unfolding issue, the news is constantly changing. With this in mind, it is so important to be educated and prepared. Here are five things you need to know about the coronavirus.

  1. 1. Coronavirus in the United States

    There are doctors standing in the hallway of a hospital.

    For many Americans, throughout this outbreak, the idea of coronavirus may have been a thought in the back of their minds. This is no longer the case. According to NBC as of March 1st, there are 38 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States who were detected and tested in the United States and 47 cases from Americans returning from Wuhan, China and the Diamond Princess, a cruise ship quarantined in Japan for two weeks where 705 people were infected with the coronavirus. Of the 38 cases detected and tested in the United States, 22 have been confirmed by the CDC, while the other 16 were confirmed by local health officials and are awaiting testing by the CDC.

    On February 29th, the first coronavirus-related death occurred in the United States in Washington state. On March 1st, the second death occurred in the same county in Washington state. In response, the United States has increased travel advisories to China, Iran, Italy and South Korea. China and Iran are at Level 4 which means do not travel, and Italy and South Korea are at a Level 3 which means strongly reconsider travel. The director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, Dr. Nancy Messonnier, was quoted by the New York Times saying “We are asking the American public to work with us to prepare, in the expectation that this could be bad,” and “It’s not so much of a question of if this will happen anymore but rather more of a question of exactly when this will happen.”

  2. 2. Coronavirus Globally

    Chinese man with medical mask

    While coronavirus may have originated in Wuhan, China, it has now spread to the rest of the world. To clarify, coronavirus has not yet officially been deemed a pandemic, as of March 1st, by the World Health Organization (WHO). A pandemic is a worldwide spread of a new disease, and while this sounds like coronavirus fits the bill, there is the belief that this would cause unnecessary panic and it can still be contained. Regardless if it is a pandemic or not, WHO has deemed coronavirus' risk to be very high and a global health emergency. According to AlJazeera, as of March 2nd, there have been 89,000 people infected worldwide and more than 3,000 have died, with cases on every continent except Antarctica. Besides China, the most affected countries, as of March 2nd, are South Korea with 4,335 infected, Italy with 1,694, Iran with 978, Japan with 271, France with 130, and Singapore with 106 cases. 

  3. 3. Precautions

    girl sleeping in black and white

    This probably sounds very concerning, but it is necessary to remember that simple precautions can keep you safe from coronavirus and influenza, which has 5,000,000 severe cases each year globally and kills 650,000 people each year globally. It is also important to note that as of now, according to multiple studies reported by the New York Times, coronavirus is deadlier and more contagious than the flu. The flu typically kills 0.1% of those who are infected yearly while coronavirus has a 1.4-2% chance of killing infected people, and for every 1 person with coronavirus 2.2 are infected due to poor containment at the beginning of the outbreak while the flu’s rate is 1.3. So, it’s not quite Contagion, but still, definitely, something to be aware of and to practice precautions. 

    The CDC recommends that people wash their hands for at least 20 seconds after using the restroom, before eating and after a bodily function. Hand sanitizer can be a back-up in case water and soap is not nearby. Also, avoid people who are sick and avoid going in public if sick. Some other simple tips could be to avoid unnecessary international travel and keeping supplies at home, so you don’t have to venture out to Walmart to get ramen if you are sick. Face masks are generally unnecessary and very few can actually protect you and prevent you from spreading disease. They are only recommended if you actually have coronavirus or are caring for someone with this disease. According to The Seattle Times, the U.S Surgeon General tweeted, “Seriously people — STOP BUYING MASKS! They are NOT effective in preventing general public from catching #Coronavirus, but if health care providers can’t get them to care for sick patients, it puts them and our communities at risk!” The executive director of the health emergency program at WHO agreed stating, “There are severe strains on protective equipment around the world.” This rush to buy face masks has led to difficulties for actual medical professionals to have access to face masks. 

  4. 4. Symptoms of Coronavirus

    white ceramic mug on white table beside black eyeglasses

    It is important to note that the coronavirus is a respiratory viral infection. This means that the symptoms are very similar to the flu, which consists of fever, cough and shortness of breath. Also, one can have coronavirus without exhibiting symptoms from 2-14 days. This incubating period is part of the reason that coronavirus is spreading so rapidly as people do not know they have the disease and are spreading it. In fact, according to the Chicago Tribune, coronavirus may have been circulating for weeks in Washington state without detection. As previously stated, there have been two coronavirus-related fatalities in the same county in Washington - the first in the United States. 

  5. 5. Don't Be Racist

    Taiwan Night Market

    Yes, coronavirus originated in Asia. Yes, the outbreak is the largest in some Asian countries. No, you cannot discriminate against Asian people. First of all, coronavirus has spread worldwide. Theoretically, anyone can get it. So side-eyeing a Chinese person on the bus or refusing to sit next to a Korean classmate is blatantly offensive, prejudiced and rude. Second of all, people do not “look Asian.” There is no set way that Asian people look. Third, the fact that coronavirus potentially originated from a live animal market in China is not indicative of all Chinese people or Asian people’s practices nor does it give an excuse to claim that this is why Chinese people deserve coronavirus. This attitude and behavior, beyond just being xenophobic and racist, also has serious consequences. People of East Asian heritage have been verbally and physically assaulted in some places (which is a hate crime!), some people have refused treatment from Asian medical professionals and Chinese restaurants are experiencing a severe drop in business. To be clear, while coronavirus may be scary, it does not give anyone the right to engage in racist and xenophobic practices or to use coronavirus as a cover for deep-rooted racist beliefs.