Coronavirus has caught global attention and caused immense distress in the last few weeks. Although the breakout occurred in the city of Wuhan in central China, there are now a handful of cases in other countries. Just last week the World Health Organization declared the outbreak of Coronavirus to be a global health emergency. It's not shocking that people are afraid.
However, some of the fear around Coronavirus is being created by the mass amount of content on social media showing overrun hospitals, people collapsing and going to other drastic measures to protect themselves from illness. Alexis Madrigal from The Atlantic put it brilliantly stating "while public-health researchers are doing their best to distribute scientific evidence, viral Twitter threads, context-free videos, and even conspiracy theories are reaching far more people."
That being said, it's important to recognize that Coronavirus, while still frightening, is not much more dangerous than the flu. According to CNN, Coronavirus deaths hit "1,115 out of 45,171 cases", which is just a small percentage of the people infected. What's more, is that of the 48 cases confirmed outside of China 40 of them are aboard the Diamond Princess Cruise ship, which is currently being quarantined. In contrast to Coronavirus, the CDC says that there have already been 12,000 deaths from the flu this flu season , which began in late September.
It makes sense to be cautious whenever there is a new outbreak, especially one that's been declared a global health emergency by the WHO. However, people are resorting to blatantly racist and xenophobic comments out of their fear. For one thing, people seem to be particularly up in arms about the fact that the virus was likely introduced to humans from a bat that was sold at a Wuhan market. It's worth noting that while in western cultures eating bat may be seen as unsafe, other cultures may view our eating habits as odd. To some, the thought of eating lamb meat, or pork is atrocious.
Another thing worth mentioning is that there have been questions surrounding the Chinese government's case reporting or Coronavirus. While not a completely unfounded fear, as the country supposedly unreported cases during the SARS outbreak in 2003, China is currently facing thousands of more Coronavirus cases than any other country. A shortage of necessary medical supplies such as masks and protective gear, and "many (coronavirus) cases have not been diagnosed because of a shortage of testing kits." The Chinese may not have the capacity at this current moment to fully report cases even if they intend to, a problem that almost any country in their position would run into.
The moral of the story is to protect yourself against sickness! Wash your hands often and stay home from work or school if you are sick. While it is important to be an informed global citizen, it is honestly more likely you will die from the flu than the Coronavirus. That being said, do not let the Coronavirus outbreak paralyze you with fear.