What You Should Know About The Coronavirus And Why You Should Be Careful

I am sure by this point we have all heard about the Coronavirus that has hit the world. Everyone is anxiously waiting to see what happens with the outbreak of the Coronavirus that originated in China. Though the Coronavirus has been only recently discovered, it has spread through multiple countries and has reached the United States. There are currently 6 confirmed cases in the U.S. spread across 4 states (California, Washington, Arizona and Illinois), as presented by the CDC. As the World Health Organization votes on whether or not to declare the Coronavirus a global health emergency, it could be another Ebola outbreak. We should educate ourselves on the Coronavirus and prepare to help ourselves and the people around us. 

The Coronavirus was first determined to be transmitted by animals, but has recently been confirmed to also be transmitted person to person. According to Pharmaceutical Technology, the Coronavirus has currently spread worldwide with 9,776 confirmed cases (120 of which are outside its origin country of China). In addition, 213 deaths have been reported as a result of the Coronavirus.  

Because the Coronavirus is caused by a virus, no amount of antibiotics can be used to treat the disease. Bacterial infections are caused by bacteria inside of humans, which can be attacked by antibiotics that target specific characteristics of those bacteria. However, viruses only infect individual cells and, therefore, cannot be cured as easily. People with viral infections can only treat the symptoms and wait out the disease. Since the Coronavirus is a viral infection, it appears similar to another common viral infection, the common cold. The Coronavirus has similar symptoms: cough, headache and sore throat. It can also be accompanied by a fever and potentially even progress into a respiratory infection, which could become pneumonia.  

As we learn more about the virus and watch anxiously to see how bad this outbreak gets, we are all waiting to see what the public policy will be. Unfortunately, based on past history, it appears that if this outbreak truly becomes severe we may be confronted with panic and pressure for law enforcement to stop the spread of Coronavirus. 

Unfortunately, all infectious diseases are often met with panic. The swine flu and Ebola both presented the public with large amounts of panic that turned into politically motivated quarantines unjustified by science. Each new disease we discover should yield different public health responses based solely on science. Since Ebola was determined not to be contagious until symptoms set in, science would not recommend quarantines before symptoms appear. Since the Coronavirus appears to be contagious even before an infected person appears symptomatic, science would likely lead to a different response.  

Much of the time, law enforcement may respond to infectious disease with overreaction. Past responses include forced treatment and large-scale quarantine, which may not have been the best response. Public panic often leads law enforcement to make decisions like these and. According to ACLU, civil liberties should come first and no responses not based on science should be enacted. The ACLU continues by saying that travel bans and quarantines are not the solution, and “targeting and stigmatization of vulnerable populations” only serves to frighten the public further.

Overall, because the virus is spreading so quickly, most countries are implementing their own plans to try and stop the transmission of the disease. In Wuhan, China, the market where the virus originated has been shut down and all people in Wuhan are required to wear face masks in public places. Because Wuhan is such a large travel hub, there is disease screening at public transit stops. Authorities are using precautions like thermal readings to check people for fevers. However, people are still being allowed to travel, which is how the disease has spread to other countries. The US has mandated similar protocols towards travel centers like LAX and JFK.  However, the first confirmed US case was in Washington state, so these protocols clearly will not stop all transmission of the disease. Wuhan has now stopped all travel to help stop transmission.

The Coronavirus is the center of a very serious outbreak that may soon be declared a global health emergency, so it is of the utmost importance that each of us educate ourselves and protect ourselves from what could be a dangerous worldwide epidemic.