I think I might re-title this piece – My Thoughts On The Coronavirus Craze. Because to me, someone with a microbiology background, it really does seem like a craze.
It seems like the emergence of this new strain of coronavirus has presented a new opportunity to sell articles and accumulate ‘likes’, as is every other bit of news, whether it be true of false. Modernity is getting very close to winning the soulless abyss contest. And let’s not talk about the arousal of countless xenophobes that have launched into anti-Chinese campaigns that they feel completely justified in undertaking.
And rather than getting stuck in my existential black hole –I’ll keep that for the privacy of my thoughts – I do want to talk a bit about the new virus (here writing qualifies as talking – you know what I mean).
I’ve gone ahead and read four papers about the new virus, and I’ve linked them in the reference list at the end of this post. I did not read the Daily Telegraph, or the Sydney Morning Herald, or Aljazeera or the New York Times. I read four journal articles by scientists specialising in this research. Below I shed light on what I discovered.
As reported in the media, the initial cases were people who had contact with Huanan South China Seafood Market in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China. Or they’d had contact with someone who’d been at the market. Researchers tested environmental samples at the market and surfaces and animals came back positive for the 2019-nCoV (2019 coronavirus) (Gralinski and Menachery, 2020). Scientists know that most coronavirus strains originate in bats (like SARS and MERS), however they have not yet been able to determine which market animal is the vector involved in the outbreak (Gralinski and Menachery, 2020).
All the papers I read concur that human-to-human transmission is the most likely mode of transmission.Read et al, suggested the incubation period was 6 days, although this is based upon preliminary estimations and modelling with SARS (Read et al, 2020). Genomic studies conducted by Corman et al, discovered that 2019-nCoV is indeed closely related to SARS (Corman et al, 2020).
The symptoms of infection by the new coronavirus include fevers, coughing, fatigue, headaches, diarrhoea and sputum secretion (Huang et al, 2020). Elderly people of those with pre-existing conditions such ad diabetes, hypertension and heart disease are more susceptible to developing complications (which may be fatal) if they get infected with the virus (Huang et al, 2020).
The cut-off periods of research in these papers have very limited case numbers (as the outbreak is still occurring) so they mortality rates as per their samples are quite high. However, as more people become infected with the virus, the mortality rates will most likely decrease. Some of this information may seem daunting, but it’s only daunting because it is a new virus. Most viruses have fatal complications in the vulnerable. And, just remember that Tobacco smoking kills19,000 Australians a year. And no one’s making a vaccine for that.
Obviously, I’m not saying it’s not sad. I’m not saying don’t be cautious. I’m just saying there is no need for the hysterics and the xenophobia.
I wouldn’t go so far as to say that the masks are useless – because I’m not an expert. But I know that if the virus were airborne, a lot more people would be infected by it. So, my estimation – according to what I’ve read – is that the virus is transmitted via contact between persons –so far. So, these things that you need to pay attention to – and this applies to a lot of other viral and bacterial infections and modes of transmission:
- When you wipe your nose, dispose of your tissues. If someone else, like your mum, has to throw it away for you, she could catch the virus (or any virus).
- Wash your hands frequently.
- If you are infected, use your own towels and wash your hands before you touch anything communal. If you’re extra cautious you can wipe those down.
- Once you’re better, wash all of the towels and bedding you’ve been using while sick.
- Most importantly, don’t sneeze on people (this may be obvious but still) and don’t touch their faces – this is essentially what the masks are really protecting you from.
Be safe. But be reasonable. And don’t gawk at East Asian folks as they pass by you at the grocery shop.