Coronavirus has been sweeping the world for almost three months now. Grocery stores and retail stores are running out of supplies. Schools, borders, concerts, and theme parks are closing down around the globe. At this point in its existence, it's impossible to ignore. But before joining the bandwagon in the panic, I have some questions to be answered. Everyone around me is talking about it, and I have yet to form my own opinion on the matter. I'd like to bring you along on my journey of education about COVID-19, looking a little farther than the media and determining the facts. Although this article is biased to my opinion, I'll do my best to even out each contradiction.
WHAT WE KNOW
Coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, originated in Wuhan, China in a seafood market around the middle of December 2019. This virus spreads easily and causes symptoms similar to pneumonia and the best prevention is sanitization. The outbreak is causing global panic and is being considered a pandemic.
We know a lot of general information, whether we hear from the news, social media, coworkers, etc. My opinion on the matter is unstable however, I believe that this virus is nothing to be worried about. Precautions should be taken of course, since the severity of the microbe's spread and illness are still under study, but what can we learn upon further research?
What are the guidelines to classify a pandemic?
First, it is important to know the difference between epidemic and pandemic. An epidemic is an outbreak of an infectious disease in an area or community at a particular time. A pandemic is an outbreak of a disease over an entire country or world. Although it began as an epidemic in China and is spreading globally, the World Health Organization did hesitate to call it a pandemic simply because it had not yet caused epidemics in multiple countries, in other words, the disease wasn't spreading rapidly enough to meet the threshold of a pandemic.
There seems to be no definite guidelines to classifying a pandemic, I suppose the classification lies in the hands of the experts; which, during the middle of March, was not considered a pandemic. But as we are nearing April, COVID-19 continues to infect many more people, reaching the threshold and is now being considered a pandemic.
What's it like in affected countries?
Even though it is easy to say that Coronavirus isn't that serious, I have to remember that I am not experiencing this firsthand. Some countries, like Italy, are going on lockdown to prevent the spread of this disease since epidemics are breaking out. From social media sources, I've read stories about the hospitals being over capacity and I've seen videos of the Chinese SWAT team taking down a coronavirus dummy. The United States has recently had confirmed cases of Coronavirus, and although many precautions are being taken, its numbers are still increasing.
These precautionary steps to prevent the spread include closing all but essential businesses, closing schools, and self-quarantine for almost one month. It is obvious that the governments in multiple countries are taking action to protect public health. If a virus outbreak is bad enough to cause this type of reaction, it is necessary to follow the suggestion to self-quarantine not only to slow the spread but to have the world return to normal sooner rather than later. Even if you don't think it is necessary to continue social distancing, remember that COVID-19 is almost completely unknown and media is striking fear in the public more than lots of people have seen in their lifetime. Whether these precautions are necessary or not will remain unknown as the rise in the infection rate will still occur. However, these precautions are likely to at least slow the infection rate.
What characteristics does the microbe hold?
The microbe is the pathogen that determines disease. For a microbiologist or pathologist to determine a microbe, it's important to know its characteristics. Lots of sources compare Coronavirus (COVID-19) to severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV), mainly because it is another, recently discovered strain of the family Coronaviridae. However, scientists have classified COVID-19 in a subfamily called betacoronaviruses, since it is so different from SARS-CoV. The closest relation of the two strains is that they both came from animals, making it a zoonotic disease, meaning that this disease was accidentally passed to humans.
However, since humans have contracted the virus, it has been transmitted mainly by human-to-human contact by excretion, like saliva particles from coughing and sneezing. Symptoms seem to appear after about five days upon contraction and the disease can run a course up to forty-one days, where if death were to occur, it would likely be caused by increased inflammation in the upper respiratory system, dependent on levels of specific cytokines (proteins secreted by specific immune system cells) and chemokines (attract white blood cells to infection) within the patient. Although these aren't exactly the characteristics I was looking for, it does provide insight into how the pathogen works within the body.
Do other diseases follow the same infection rate?
At first, I figured that covid-19 would follow the same infection pattern as any other disease. However, looking at various graphs compared to the covid-19 infection rate graph, its obvious that transmission is exponential. Then I thought, "what makes this disease different from any other common disease?" Well, it's exactly that; this disease is newly discovered. Therefore, it is possible that every other disease has followed a similar infection rate when it was first brought upon the human race.
However, considering COVID-19's incubation period of nearly 5 days, people are able to carry and spread the disease before they even begin to show symptoms. Meaning this disease is very easily transmitted, so it doesn't surprise me that there is an exponential infection rate.
Does the impending election have anything to do with the virus outbreak?
My very first conspiracy theory is about the presidential election and a virus? Seems about right! Anyway, here's my theory. The government has seemingly always used similar tactics in similar situations thus, repeating history. If we look back at Franklin D. Roosevelt's presidency terms, he served throughout World War II providing him a total of three terms. That is literally against the rules, so how did he achieve this feat? The fear, panic, and famine of the war brought the public together to trust this authority figure who already, at least somewhat, knew what he was doing so why would they throw someone new in the ring and threaten their safety? Upon further research on other presidential elections, similar situations arise where there is breaking news media to distract from other issues concerning the election. Some previous viruses that broke out during election years include SARS (2004), Swine Flu (2010), and Ebola(2014&2018). Political parties could be using this to their advantage because everyone seems to be more concerned about the virus than the election.
Officials and the general public are concerned about the virus, and although I don't want to join the panic, I do think that these precautions are necessary to slow the spread. It's likely that the cause of precautions is brought on by how easily and discreetly the pathogen transmits. Although some precautions seem unnecessary, it's better to over-exaggerate and prevent a pandemic than to under-exaggerate and contribute to a pandemic.
Looking at various countries we know that many people are infected, hospitals are over capacity, schools are closing, and entire cities are being shut down. Some people think that their country took too long to react, so I think that the precautions being taken now are reasonable and necessary before it gets much worse than it already is. Keep up the social distancing and sanitization and don't forget to take care of yourself during these trying times.
Everything will return to normal soon if we keep doing our part!