If you do an internet search for coronavirus, you will get about 4,290,000,000 results in 0.76 seconds. Is that overkill? Is that feeding the panic? Too much information is not always a good thing and we humans tend to not think clearly when we panic.
Let’s start with the basics. The coronavirus is not anything new. Coronaviruses were first discovered in the 1960s. The earliest ones discovered were an infectious bronchitis virus in chickens and two viruses from the nasal cavities of human patients with the common cold that were subsequently named human coronavirus 229E and human coronavirus OC43. Other members of this family have since been identified, including: SARS-CoV in 2003 (do you remember that outbreak? Was there this much hysteria?); HCoV NL63 in 2004; HKU1 in 2005; MERS-CoV in 2012 (did that outbreak catch this much news and cause this much panic?); and SARS-CoV-2 (formerly known as 2019-nCoV) in 2019. Most of these have involved serious respiratory tract infections.
We, by no means, want to make light of this illness that has in fact taken lives and, of course, the elderly and people with compromised immune systems or underlying health conditions should all be extra vigilante in self-care and cleanliness. But the question still remains: Is the outbreak prevalent enough to be called a pandemic? Is the panic of people stocking up on toilet paper, paper towels and hand sanitizer a psychological response to the anxiety over something we fear we have no control over? Are skeptics and conspiracy theorists correct when they suggest this might also have a political spin? Will the government (health department) come out with an effective treatment plan or even a vaccine (which must have been in development for decades by now) just before this fall’s election so Don John Trump can take credit and glee in his narcissistic God complex while picking up more supporters and votes along the way?
Amongst all the hype, please stay calm and remember a few things; we, as a country, have gained control over strains of this virus before, the aforementioned SARS and MERS. This strain is stronger so of course, so you should take extra precautions, but a lot of these guidelines are things we should be doing as civilized human beings anyway: wash your hands, (if you’re a user of hand sanitizer, please know that it must contain 60% alcohol which rules out any “botanical” hand sanitizers), don’t touch your face too much (think of how many things you touch in any given day; door handles, railings, money, ATM buttons, gas pumps) and cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze. Some of the most germ-infested things we own are our cell phones, remote controls, purses and backpacks, and computer and tablet keyboards. Again, it bears repeating — shouldn’t we be cleaning these things we seem to use so much anyway?! This strain can live on hard surfaces for up to 3 days and although San Diego is a dog-friendly city, dogs can carry the virus as well so it’s probably a good idea to leave your four legged friends at home for now.
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) is updating their website almost daily with new recommendations and updates about the outbreak. They do suggest certain plans of action if you have elderly family members or friends who are at higher risk of complications from the coronavirus. You can read and listen to their briefings at cdc.gov.
Let’s all take care of ourselves and each other and calmly get through this. If you are feeling sick and you’re not sure if it’s allergies, the common cold/flu or worse, quarantine yourself. Know that the three main symptoms of the coronavirus are fever, cough and shortness of breath. Also be aware that the test results for the coronavirus take up to 48 hours. And lastly, follow the suggestions of the CDC and be aware of your surroundings.
Source: CDC/Mayo Clinic
*Editor’s note: The information in this commentary/opinion piece is “as of” our print date 3/13/20. This story is continually developing. This is by no means to be used as advice from any particular physician. If you have any concerns about your health, please contact a healthcare professional.