On the last day of 2019, when people gathered and celebrated the arrival of the new year, a viral outbreak in China grew into a major public health concern. The crisis began when multiple cases of pneumonia in Wuhan, a highly urbanized city with eleven million residents, were discovered. The virus has since been identified as the coronavirus.
Before the world was ready for it, the coronavirus spread exponentially. As of January 31, more than 11,800 people have been diagnosed with the coronavirus in mainland China. Infections have been reported in other countries, one of which is the United States.
The danger felt distant from the suburban neighborhoods of Philadelphia until rumors circulated of an exchange student from China at another Inter-Ac school who was believed to be a carrier of the virus. Although the student later tested negative for coronavirus, news of the illness felt more relevant to our local community.
While coronavirus might be new to Americans, it bears important similarities to more common infections.
“It is very similar to many respiratory cold viruses coming around,” Science Department Chair Dr. Daniel Goduti said. “It’s related to both SARS and MERS, which were other outbreaks of coronavirus in the last several decades.”
According to data from The New York Times, the Wuhan Coronavirus is said to be “moderately contagious, similar to SARS in 2003,” but is estimated to have a fatality rate below 3%, a much smaller quantity than that of SARS.
As the coronavirus continues to worry the school community, some believe that the scale of the outbreak has been exaggerated.
“I’m not sure if we should broaden the scope to target such a large population,” Fourth Former Juliuas Huang said. “There are quite a lot of people in Wuhan. In fact, the Chinese government has always advised people to stay away from wild animals, because you never know what they could be carrying. The people responsible for this outbreak are those who did not listen to the advice. And that would be a very small portion of the Wuhan population.”
American media suggest that bats, which have spread the virus, are a popular dish in Wuhan. Fifth Former Xiaolong Huang disagrees.
“I don’t think bats or other wild animals are popular dishes in Wuhan or in China. This phenomenon only exists among a very small portion of the population,” Huang said. “There are always some people who just want to make themselves special. They believe that trying rare dishes made of rare materials differ them from others, and that satisfied their vanity.”
Nonetheless, the outbreak has already entered the next stage, where viruses pass from humans to humans directly without animal involvement. At this point, it is best just to keep oneself healthy and be vigilant about avoiding infections of all kinds.
“In this time of the year, you see a lot of respiratory diseases going around, especially in the winter. What you want to do is ensure you are washing your hands, coughing into your arms,” Dr. Goduti said. “It also helps getting as much rest as you can and keeping yourself healthy. This helps your body battle diseases. And don’t forget your vaccine shots.”