This is likely one of the words we’ve heard
the most so far in 2020: “Coronavirus”. And it is no wonder, as this disease has been
at the front of all the news outlets around the world. Thus, it’s no surprise for people
to ask: Where did the virus originate, and how is it affecting people? The coronavirus is a family of viruses which
usually only affects animals, but sometimes can mutate and affect human beings. This is
what happened on December 2019 in the market of Wuhan, China, a city with a population
of eleven million people. A week later it was confirmed that a new strain of the disease
had formed, provisionally named 2019-nCoV. It all started like a normal flu. In fact,
the symptoms are very similar to other diseases: runny nose, coughing or a sore throat. It’s
so similar to a common respiratory disease that without a full analysis it’s practically
impossible to distinguish it from a common cold. But then the infected victims started to develop
fevers and respiratory issues, such as pneumonia. After tracking down the origin, authorities
concluded that a new disease was the cause, which they sequenced and published on January
9. Apparently, it is a lot less lethal than previous variants such as Severe Acute Respiratory
Syndrome, or Middle East Respiratory Syndrome. Two days later, the first death by the coronavirus
was confirmed. Moreover, 41 more people were declared infected with the virus, while contemplating
about other 700 possible cases. This confirmed that the disease was easily transmitted from
human to human through the air, such as through saliva drops from coughing or sneezing. The
infections started to multiply, and the coronavirus started to be treated as an international
emergency. A few days passed, and the first infection
cases were detected in other countries such as Japan, the United States and France. In
fact, it’s possible that the virus has already spread to other places because of how easy
it can spread among airplane passengers. So… should we worry?
The answer is… of course! At the end of the day this is a disease, but we shouldn’t
fall into alarmism either. The truth is that the mortality rate of this
new virus is of around 3% – not so worrying if we compare it with some strains of the
common flu. Moreover, so far most deaths due to the coronavirus have occurred in patients
who already had other health problems. Now, something we CAN do is follow some advice
by the World Health Organization: Avoid getting too close to other people who we suspect might
be infected, cover our nose and mouth when sneezing or coughing and wash our hands frequently. Optionally, we can also wear medical masks when going out. The coronavirus is a real problem, and surely
all of us have worried, at least a little bit, when hearing about it on the news. However,
we need to remember that all the measures taken so far regarding the virus are all typical,
as we are dealing with an unknown disease. Let’s trust that our doctors and authorities
will be working diligently to keep us safe, and let’s help each other by taking all the
precautions that are under our control!

Dereck Turner

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