Coronavirus, as defined by the World Health Organization (WHO), is a large family of viruses that cause different types of illnesses ranging from the common cold to more severe conditions including Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SAR-CoV) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV). Signs of infection include fever, cough, and breathing difficulties. In more severe cases, an infected person can experience kidney failure, pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, and even death.
Since the first confirmed case in the United States was reported on January 21, 2020, by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there has been a lot of information circulating concerning the virus from the mainstream media. While the general public needs awareness to help reduce the risk of infection, it is more important to avoid sensationalism as that could stoke panic and misinformation. The following are some facts about the Coronavirus, or COVID-19.
Out of the 80,282 total cases, and 2,981 total deaths worldwide, the United States has 128 cases and 9 deaths in total.
In contrast, the three most affected countries after China are:
While studies to further understand how the Coronavirus affects people are still ongoing, the available evidence shows that most similar viruses don’t stay alive very long on nonorganic surfaces. Therefore, it’s very unlikely for a person to get infected with COVID-19 from a package that has been in transit for days or weeks.
Contrary to some rumors, Chinese Americans or others with Asian origin are not more likely to get coronavirus than any other person, according to CDC. It can affect anyone, irrespective of race or ethnicity.
Being in close contact (within about 6 feet) with an infected person can cause the spread of the virus or through respiratory droplets of coughs or sneezes from an infected person. One may also possibly get the virus by touching an object or surface that still has the living virus on it.
According to John Hopkins Medicine, wearing a mask cannot protect a person from being infected with the virus. While certain categories of tight-fitting, professional respirators like N95 can protect health providers while taking care of infected patients, it is not recommended for the general public to wear the commonly used lightweight, disposable surgical masks. Because they are not sealed, such masks can allow infected droplets into people’s nose, eyes, or mouth.
Of course, the coronavirus is dangerous, given the number of cases and the rate at which it is spreading. However, this is far from an unusually deadly epidemic. Influenza, or the common flu, remains a greater threat to the United States public health than the new coronavirus. The most recent flu season, which started in September 2019 in the U.S., has claimed thousands of lives as of February 2020. It has affected at least 29 million people across the country and caused 16,000 deaths and 280,000 hospitalizations within just a few months.
On the other hand, however, the total number of coronavirus cases globally is 93,168 as of March 4th, according to Worldometer. It has also caused 3,203 deaths so far, and China, its country of origin, makes up 2,981 of those with the remaining deaths were in other countries. All other countries have figures ranging from 1 to 9 deaths. The United States, for example, has recorded 9 deaths so far, which pales in comparison with the flu, which has claimed around 16,000 lives in the space of 5 months.
“In the U.S., it’s really a fear based on media and this being something new,” an epidemiologist at NYU Langone Health, Dr. Jennifer Lighter, opined about coronavirus. She noted that, in reality, “people can take measures to protect themselves against the flu, which is here and prevalent and has already killed 10,000 people.”
From all indications, the spread of the Coronavirus may increase in the coming months and there may be more countries that will be affected. Between January 23rd and March 3rd, the total deaths have risen from 25 to 3,202. Also starting as a case within a city (Wuhan), the virus has spread across the world, affecting 80 countries in all the continents.
From research focused on who is most at risk for both medical and public health reasons, it was found that the Coronavirus is more prevalent among older people. Findings showed that 87% of cases in China were people ages 30 to 79, according to the CDC in China. The study focused on the data of the 72,314 cases as of February 11th.
The results indicate that COVID-19 occurrences are more based on biological factors than lifestyle. In other words, frequent contact with other people isn’t as much a contributing factor compared to age, immune system strength, or other biological variables. For example, teenagers and people in their 20s also come into close contact with others at school, work, and other public places, but were not as affected.
Out of the confirmed cases, only 8.1% were people in their 20s, 1.2% in teens, and 0.9% in children ages 9 and below. The death rate is also much higher within those in the oldest age bracket.
From the confirmed deaths at the time of the study, 14.8% were people older than 80. Contrastingly, the death rate was 1.3% in those in their 50s, 0.4% in those in their 40s, and 0.2% in 10 to 39 years old. The huge age-related disparity in fatality rates may be related to a weaker immune system or the presence of other diseases.
Presently, there is no vaccine for coronavirus. However, observing good personal hygiene habits, avoiding contact with people who are sick and following these other preventive measures will help prevent respiratory diseases. Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap is not available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Also, be sure to stay home when you are sick and avoid contact with others.
While the Coronavirus may not be as deadly as the media is portraying, the flu and sickness in general are nothing to be ignored. Life is fragile and those with compromised immune systems are at greater risk than most of it being cut short. If that happens, you want to make sure that your family will be taken care of, especially if you are the primary breadwinner.
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