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Coronavirus panic

Let’s bust some myths about the coronavirus. 

Despite trending internet searches like the “corona beer virus,” the coronavirus has nothing to do with beer.  Although it’s natural to feel the desire to turn to humour when there are scary or uncomfortable things happening around the world, this virus isn’t a laughing matter. The coronavirus has now killed more than 2,000 people, including eight deaths outside of mainland China. Since the outbreak, it has infected more than 75,000 people, and there are currently over 1,000 cases outside of mainland China.  

COVID-19, otherwise known as the coronavirus 

Before the World Health Organization declared an official name for the disease in early February 2020, COVID-19 was widely referred to as the coronavirus. The coronavirus is an umbrella term that refers to a family of viruses that can cause lethal respiratory disease in humans and mammals. You may have heard about two members of this malicious family, SARS and MERS, which have both caused pandemics in the past. Being a close relative of the notorious two, we shouldn’t underestimate the public health threat that COVID-19 has the potential to pose.  

COVID-19 is transmitted through respiratory droplets from coughing and sneezing over short distances. The recommended precautions against COVID-19 is the same as regular flu: washing your hands frequently, coughing into your sleeve, sanitizing doorknobs et cetera are all vital to disease prevention. For people who have recently traveled to a high-risk area, it is also recommended that they wear a mask to protect others.  

There are still many things unknown about this virus. Like many viral infections, there are currently no vaccines or cures for COVID-19. Once infected, it is a battle between the host immune system and the virus. Those who are younger and healthier tend to win the battle while those who are older or have multiple chronic diseases or conditions tend to lose. As of now, more than 10,000 people have recovered from COVID-19 after receiving their official diagnosis.  

Paranoia vs. reality 

That being said, in North America, the recent media frenzy and mass paranoia doesn’t match the reality. Since the virus erupted in Wuhan, China in December 2019, there have been 18 confirmed cases: three in Canada and 15 in the United States, with zero deaths on this whole continent. In the meantime, the influenza virus has insidiously hospitalized and killed thousands this year. While people are obsessed with this mysterious, foreign virus and the epidemic situation thousands of miles away, there is not adequate media coverage about the necessity of getting a flu vaccine. Where is the voice that is addressing the public health issue happening right here, right now? Unfortunately, in healthcare, we are constantly battling with misinformation that distracts the public from the facts.  

Consequently, while the silent killer is mentioned casually here around dinner tables, COVID-19 is demonized, along with Chinese nationals. Over the past month, there has been a dramatic increase in anti-Chinese racism.  

Be cautious, not racist 

During this time of the epidemic, it is prudent to be nervous and take precautions. However, COVID-19 does not justify racism. It is worse than the virus when internet trolls say that this is karma or when racists throw dirty looks at people wearing a mask on public commute, screaming ethnic slurs and telling them to go back to their country. After all, racists never have a valid reason to discriminate, they just need an excuse.  

Hating on the most vulnerable does not give people the solution they need. A visit to the psychiatrist may help as the lack of empathy is pathological. What makes us human is the ability to look beyond the death toll number and see that this dying, suffering population are real people with loved ones, just like you. 


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