Are We at Risk in the Coronavirus Epidemic?

CDC/Dr. Fred Murphy – This media comes from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Public Health Image Library (PHIL)

About 1500 people have died and tens of thousands have been infected by the new Coronavirus that has dominated the news for weeks. The virus is a respiratory illness that can be passed to others by person-to-person contact.

The new strain, which has been labeled COVID-19 by the World Health Organization (WHO) for the year in which it was discovered, was first detected in Wuhan City, located in the Hubei Province of China in December of 2019. The Federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has reported that symptoms may appear between 2 and 14 days after exposure. The symptoms are difficulty breathing and shortness of breath, fevers and cough. 

On January 30th, 2020 the World Health Organization (W.H.O.) declared the outbreak a “public health emergency of international concern.” 

According to the New York Times, the COVID-19 has infected more than 60,000 people in 24 countries and taken the lives of more than 1,400 worldwide.

Only 15 cases of COVID-19 have been reported in the United States, in the states of  Texas, California, Massachusetts, Washington, Illinois and Wisconsin. Only two of the fifteen cases were from person-to person contact: one in Illinois and the other in California. 

There are currently no active cases in New York. A total of 22 people have been tested for COVID-19 and all produced negative results. 

To minimize the risk of further infection, President Trump signed a “Proclamation on Suspension of Entry as Immigrants and Nonimmigrants of Persons who Pose a Risk of Transmitting 2019 Novel Coronavirus” on January 31st, 2020. By that date, nearly 10,000 people had been contaminated. 

As of February 13, the CDC identified the origin of the coronavirus: bats. Bats were also implicated in the origin of the 2003 Severe Acute Respiratory System (SARS) outbreak and the Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) of 2005. 

The coronaviruses are commonly found in various animal species, including camels, cattle, and cats.

The infection began and spread rapidly across China after being first identified in a Wuhan seafood and poultry market. An ophthalmologist named Li Wenliang warned citizens about the virus in the Chinese messaging application called WeChat. 

Shortly after sending the messages, Wenliang was among several people arrested by Chinese authorities for being a “rumormonger,” all while Chinese State media downplayed the severity of the virus.

Wenliang was hospitalized on January 12 after testing positive for COVID-19 and died on February 7th, 2020. His death led to a massive online protest about censorship and freedom of speech in China, which was quickly censored by “The Great Firewall.”

Multiple citizen-journalists have also been reported missing by family members who claim they have been detained by Chinese authorities. 

As of late, China has been taking serious measures to avoid further spread of this virus by enacting mass roundups of people who are sick or are possibly infected. They are quarantined in Wuhan City and surrounding hospitals.

Now, China is employing talking drones to warn citizens about the dangers of COVID-19. The drones have cameras that instruct citizens to put on masks, stay out of public places and to wash their hands. 

World Health officials give the same advice as the Chinese drones: wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds (or use alcohol-based hand sanitizer), stay home when you are sick, cough and sneeze into your elbow, and avoid close contact people who are currently sick. 

The risk at home is low. According to the CDC, the seasonal flu is far more of a threat than the coronavirus. As long as appropriate preventative measures are being met, the chances of a COVID-19 infection are slim. 

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