As one of the most talked-about viruses in the world, the 2019 coronavirus has brought panic to the United States and the world. But sensationalization has caused misconceptions about the reality of this recent outbreak.
“Although I think that the coronavirus epidemic in China is alarming, I think that appropriate measures have been taken to contain the virus. So students should not be overly concerned,” said senior Sarah Emerick, a biology major.
Along with the panic comes myths and conspiracy theories about the virus. Assistant Professor of Chemistry Crystal Young-Erdos shared her knowledge about the coronavirus.
“One of the conspiracy theories I’ve read about said that the virus was controlled in a lab in Wuhan and thought to be undergoing testing for warfare use and that somehow it escaped from the lab into the community,” Young-Erdos said. “But due to the sequencing of the virus, this is completely untrue.”
This form of the coronavirus was sequenced and traced back to a market in Wuhan, China. The actual birthplace is unknown, but scientists have said an infected animal would have spread the virus to other animals in the market and then to humans, or directly from the infected animal to humans, according to Young-Erdos.
The virus is compared to the common flu since it can be spread through respiratory droplets such as a sneeze or a cough. The virus does not survive long without a living host, so the main preventative is to wash your hands and keep your immune system healthy, according to Young-Erdos.
In the U.S. the flu had an estimated death rate of about 34,000 in 2019, while the coronavirus has resulted in no deaths as of Feb. 15, 2020 according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention website. The more deaths a virus causes, the more panic and myths. A recent myth that’s false has caught social media attention is that Chinese and Asian people around the world are contaminated and should be avoided.
“This is a virus that affects all races, not having any preference for any racial background,” Young-Erdos said. “Everyone has an equal chance of getting the virus, but the elderly and the young are more at risk of contracting the virus.”
Fewer than 1% of the confirmed cases of coronavirus are outside China and, according to CBS News, there are 15 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the United States.
“As a country, we are taking the right precautionary steps in order to minimize the outbreak,” Young-Erdos said. “We are limiting the amount of contact of the quarantine patients.”
There is a 14-day quarantine period for suspected patients. The United States has begun refusing flights from China, as well as quarantining cruise ships from foreign countries for the 14-day period.
“Students are much more likely to contract the flu or a different communicable disease at Eckerd, which can also kill hundreds and thousands of people each year. I think that getting your flu vaccination is extremely important because although you can still contract the virus, the symptoms tend to be much milder and not land you in the hospital,” Emerick said.