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The Coronavirus: Should We Be Worried?

Just recently, the World Health Organization announced the coronavirus outbreak as a global health emergency. However, the agency emphasized that the declaration does not necessarily mean that there is a need for drastic interference with international trade or travel; instead, the announcement acknowledges that the virus, which originated from Wuhan, China, has the capability to spread to countries with weaker health systems.

In this past month that the coronavirus first emerged, there are now more than 9,700 cases worldwide (the majority of them in China), and 213 have died in China as a result of the virus.

According to the WHO, the virus is transmitted through human contact, through droplets in the air from sneezing and coughing, or through germs left on inanimate objects. About 20% of the patients develop severe illnesses, including pneumonia and respiratory failure. Due to the fact that it has only been a month since the virus first appeared in humans, the mortality rate of the coronavirus cannot be accurately calculated at the moment. However, it does not appear to be as deadly as SARS (also known as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, this viral respiratory illness was caused by a coronavirus called SARS-associated coronavirus and sparked an epidemic in 2003), which had a mortality rate of about 11%, though the coronavirus is spreading significantly faster.

There have been no cases of death from the virus outside of China. In fact, according to Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,

“Our assessment remains that the immediate risk to the American public is low”.

When compared to the annual influenza virus (commonly known as the flu), the effects of the coronavirus on the US population is miniscule. The flu kills roughly 35,000 Americans every year, and it has already sickened an estimated 15 million Americans and killed 8,200 this season, according to C.D.C. estimates. In comparison, there have only been six confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the US. Other countries affected by the virus include: Australia, Cambodia, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, India, Japan, Malaysia, Nepal, the Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Thailand, the United Arab Emirates, and Vietnam.

This declaration of a global health emergency concerning the coronavirus is only the fifth of all emergencies the WHO has declared—the most recent one was in 2019, when the Ebola outbreak in eastern Congo killed more than 2,000 people. Other global emergencies were the 2016 Zika virus, the 2009 H1N1 swine flu, and the 2014 polio and Ebola outbreaks. WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has commended China’s quick and aggressive response to the coronavirus outbreak despite potential economic effects, saying that the declaration was by no means a  “vote of no confidence in China”. Instead, Tedros has urged the public to stay calm:

“This is the time for facts, not fear. This is the time for science, not rumors. This is the time for solidarity, not stigma”.

He emphasized on the need for the public to stand together in the face of adversity, saying, “To the people of China and to all of those around the world who have been affected by this outbreak, we want you to know that the world stands with you”.


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