Everywhere you turn people are talking about or reacting to news about the CORONAVIRUS, usually with a lot of panic and hyperbole. This outbreak is technically known as the COVID-19. The stock market alone has reacted strongly to the increasing number of cases, first the seemingly uncontained outbreak in China with its significant impact on the United States supply chain, and then the ongoing spread of the virus to other countries including most recently the US itself. Reactions are highly visible ranging from people wearing face-masks in airports and stores, to discussions of school closings in major cities like Seattle and New York, and cancellations of trips planned well in advance, potential cancelation of major sporting and other entertainment events such as the music festival South by Southwest, a huge annual event in Austin, TX. Other major national and international conferences and trade shows, including medical conferences, have been or are expected to be cancelled soon.
"Symptoms of [the COVID-19] infection include fever, cough and difficulty breathing or shortness of breath. The illness causes lung lesions and pneumonia. But milder cases may resemble the flu or a bad cold, making detection difficult.
Patients also may exhibit other symptoms, such as gastrointestinal problems or diarrhea. Current estimates suggest that symptoms may appear in as few as two days or as many as 14 days after exposure to the virus," (The New York Times, 2020).
If you begin to have a high fever, shortness of breath or any more serious symptoms typical of a respiratory virus call your doctor’s office. Not all providers even have the test kits for COVID-19. They are only available on a spotty basis, so ask for guidance on what you should do before you risk infecting others. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website may have the most current information on where to get tested.
It is very important to separate the facts from the hype, because there is a significant amount of reactive drama caused by sensationalized news stories and rumors. However, the COVID-19 is nothing to sneeze at (pun seriously intended). It is fast becoming a global pandemic and needs to be taken seriously but also needs to be dealt with rationally. Here are some facts about how this version of the coronavirus CAN and CANNOT spread, to the extent that scientists have been able to determine and some things that you can do to prepare and protect yourself and your family.
The coronavirus, technically known as COVID-19 for the outbreak first appearing last year, has actually been around for a long time, but hasn’t been active and spread in this form. In fact, there is a Facebook post by a physician and molecular virologist named James Robb, who did early research of coronaviruses in the 1970s at the University of California San Diego and wrote a Facebook letter intended for family and friends. It is, in fact, good advice and went viral, way beyond what he intended and was verified by Snopes Did a Noted Pathologist Write This Viral Coronavirus Advice Letter?.
As of March 7, 2020 the virus had infected over 100,000 people in at least 90 countries. There were 164 cases in the US in 19 states and 11 deaths, mostly among those who had other underlying conditions. The CDC website has an interactive map and daily updates regarding locations in the US and around the world, as well as travel warnings if you have concerns regarding upcoming travel plans. If you are planning to take a cruise, I suggest being especially diligent. Cruise ships are notorious for being great places for viruses to take hold and spread like wildfire. Several major cruise companies are taking action because of the COVID-19, either being more liberal with their cancellation or reschedule policies or stepping up their sanitation measures drastically. Airlines and airports are also publicizing improved sanitation efforts. The bonus out of all of this may end up being that airplanes may finally be cleaner than they have been in awhile. It’s about time! But exercise an abundance of caution regarding your vacation without panicking unnecessarily. It is unfortunately quite possible that we will still have this coronavirus in 2021, though one can hope that there will be more effective ways to deal with it by then. If you are traveling, there are some things you can do to help reduce your risk of contracting any virus while on an airplane. This New York Times article provides a few hints that are practical at any time, even when we aren’t facing a potential pandemic crisis.
In addition to all of the above regarding your health and that of your family, I feel compelled to add a comment regarding the increased levels of hateful actions against innocent people who appear to be Asian. This is xenophobia, a form of racism...blaming people who come from a certain country, or are of a certain ethnicity, for an event which they as individuals had nothing to do with. This xenophobia only makes a difficult situation worse.
Wishing you a healthy and peaceful March!
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