Coronavirus Outbreak: What Does it Mean For Us?

Zoe Howell, Staff Writer

Lately there has been frequent talk of the “coronavirus,” a new virus plaguing people around the world, especially in China. Some of the rumors spreading about the virus are true, but others are false or exaggerated, such as the claim that the virus can be spread through Chinese packages. Many people are extremely paranoid because they do not know the truth about the coronavirus and how it could affect people in the United States.

The 2019 novel coronavirus, also known as the “Wuhan Virus” or simply “coronavirus,” is a respiratory illness that is currently spreading very rapidly in China. According to the CDC, as of February 5th, the Chinese death toll is nearing 500 people and 24,363 cases have been confirmed. In the United States, there are currently eleven confirmed cases, most of which are people who recently traveled from the city of Wuhan.

The risk of infection for U.S. citizens is highly unlikely unless you have recently traveled from China; however people coming from China are currently being quarantined and investigated. So far, the few people infected in the U.S. have not infected anyone else in the country, but the risk is still prevalent as little is known about the virus. NBC states that it can be contracted if you are “exposed to droplets from a sick person’s sneeze or cough. Those droplets can travel as far as 6 feet; outside that zone, the risk is much lower, experts say.”

There is currently no vaccine to prevent catching the virus, but the best way to prevent it is to sanitize or wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after coughing, sneezing, or being around others who are sick. Also, avoid close contact with people who are sick, and avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth. Keep personal environments (such as desks and doorknobs) clean and thoroughly disinfected using cleaning wipes and sprays. 

One popular myth is that packages delivered from China may contain the virus, but the CDC argues, “there is likely a very low risk of spread from products or packaging that are shipped over a period of days or weeks at ambient temperatures… Currently there is no evidence to support transmission of 2019-nCoV associated with imported goods.”

People in the United States should not be afraid of getting the coronavirus, as there is already a more deadly illness spreading here. Influenza has taken the lives of at least 10,000 people in the 2019-2020 season alone. ABC News elaborates, “While the flu might seem like a relatively minor disease because it’s so common, complications from the flu, which can include pneumonia, bronchitis, asthma flare-ups and heart problems, can be deadly.” Influenza is most deadly for elderly people, children, and those with weakened immune systems. 

The best way to prevent contracting influenza is to get vaccinated. Like with the coronavirus, practicing good hygiene, avoiding touching your face, and being conscious of others who are sick is important as well. Both viruses can be extremely dangerous and should be taken seriously, although the flu is a much larger risk for Americans.

Though the coronavirus is a serious illness affecting thousands across the globe, modern science could provide logical answers to our questions and concerns. As the situation further develops and our medical knowledge on the disease improves, the virus will be easier to manage. Those affected can be cured and spreading of the coronavirus will diminish, so few will have to worry about contracting it.