I’ve been pinged severally about the coronavirus in the last week or so, and I’m mostly going to point you at expert articles here, but first: there is no need for panic. This is certainly not the outbreak of 1918 flu, and while the projections do show a likely global spread, it’s not going to be the end of the world.
That being said. Masks will do little, unless you are worried about infecting others, in which case, please do wear one. Wearing one when you are uninfected is unlikely to help much at all, contrary to popular myth. What will help is keeping a distance – what I’ve seen referred to as the American space bubble. Americans as a rule have one of the largest ‘personal space’ requirements in the world. The Chinese are much more comfortable with very close human contacts, which aids in droplet transmission of the virus. Wash your hands – not with the antibacterial alcohol squirts, but actual handwashing using water and much friction to shed off any hitchhikers on your skin. Try not to touch your nose, eyes, or mouth with unwashed hands. Avoid crowds. Politely decline to shake hands with everyone you meet. Definitely don’t hug them.
The virus causes a viral pneumonia, and unfortunately there is not going to be a vaccine, or a treatment, in time for this season. There might, and I emphasize might, in time for the next. Because experts are predicting that this epidemic is unlikely to go away again.
“The more we learn about it, the greater the possibility is that transmission will not be able to be controlled with public health measures,” said Dr. Allison McGeer, a Toronto-based infectious disease specialist who contracted SARS in 2003 and who helped Saudi Arabia control several hospital-based outbreaks of MERS.
If that’s the case, she said, “we’re living with a new human virus, and we’re going to find out if it will spread around the globe.” McGeer cautioned that because the true severity of the outbreak isn’t yet known, it’s impossible to predict what the impact of that spread would be, though she noted it would likely pose significant challenges to health care facilities. (Read more)
A lot of what I’ve been tagged in on have been weird sources – random twitter threads, ‘news’ sites of dubious parentage, so I highly suggest that if you see a source that looks panicky, you keep looking. We aren’t looking at something that is more fatal than the current flu strain here in the US. Which, by the way, is highly underreported, as it kills thousands or even tens of thousands a year, but still we give the antivaxxers airtime to argue against the flu shot (which doesn’t always work, no, but it doesn’t hurt and if you can cut the death toll? Why wouldn’t you? Ok, that answer is a whole ‘nother blog post). I’ll let Derek Lowe put it best:
The signal/noise on this whole story has been suboptimal, as well it would be, so it’s important to have good sources. Vast amounts of junk information have already been circulating. For one thing, no, this particular virus was not patented in 2015, and it is not some engineered bioweapon. There are no “natural” cures or preventatives that you can buy from friendly merchants trying to sell you some. I have been forwarded clips of what are purportedly Chinese workers spraying some sort of white stuff around to supposedly block the spread of the virus, but this is also spurious – there are no virus “disinfectants” to spray around, and we’re not even sure how this virus is most likely to be spread. (read more)