By: Nicholas Sathi ’20
Human beings have been plagued by outbreaks of disease for thousands of years. As our understanding of science has advanced tremendously throughout history, we have found many successful ways to limit these outbreaks from taking more lives. Diseases, however, are constantly changing. New illnesses we have never seen before sometimes emerge and kill many before a cure or effective treatment plan can be developed. A premier example of this was the first outbreak of Ebola in 1976. This disease had never been recorded before, at least by modern public health professionals, and with its many outbreaks in Africa over the past few decades, tens of thousands of people have died.
Throughout the last few months, we have seen a similar, yet less severe occurrence, as a new coronavirus has infected tens of thousands of people in China, mainly in the region of Wuhan City. This virus has taken on several names depending on the organization that refers to it. It is being called 2019-nCoV, COVID-19, and SARS-CoV-2. This particular strain of virus has not made impacts on humans before, but it is still a coronavirus, a type of virus that has certainly made impacts in public health in the past. There are many coronaviruses, some which are severe and some which are mild in impact. This is not the only coronavirus that has killed many people in a massive outbreak before. Starting in China in 2003 and spreading to many other countries, a coronavirus called severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) infected 8,000 people. This new coronavirus and SARS are both transmitted from animals to humans, as well as between people. Animal transmission to human beings is likely what started both outbreaks. Officials believe that many people in Wuhan initially contracted the illness from a seafood market, however, other potential reservoirs for the disease may have existed. Many people believe that bats initially carried the illness, but how the illness infected humans from this point is not confirmed, as based on the SARS outbreak and an outbreak of another coronavirus called Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS), bats are not believed to have directly given humans disease. Rather, the bats gave the diseases to other animals, such as cats. These animals then transferred the viruses to humans, who transmitted them amongst themselves.
The new virus initially made its first impact in December 2019. Towards the end of the month, it was evident that a disease was spreading rapidly in Wuhan, as many people were ill with pneumonia. This new coronavirus was eventually discovered and linked to these cases. A physician named Dr. Li Wenliang tried to bring attention to this before the outbreak really strengthened, but he was forced to remain quiet by the government of Wuhan. He had suspicions before everyone else that this illness was likely a coronavirus, and that its impacts could be very deadly. He recently died after contracting the illness.
Throughout the month of January, the outbreak intensified tremendously. After taking its first life on January 11, it has now taken at least 2,800. The death toll for this outbreak is already higher than that of the SARS outbreak, which spanned a much longer period of time as well. In addition, the virus has infected 83,000 people, mainly in China, but some in other countries, including the United States. In fact, this illness has already made an impact in dozens of countries. In the United States, there are many confirmed cases. The virus has spread between people in our country as well.
The virus appears to only be getting worse. A global health emergency has been declared by the World Health Organization. The entire city of Wuhan has been shut off from the rest of the world. The fact that no vaccine or standardized cure exists for the disease makes this situation far worse. All that can be offered is supportive care. While this is enough for many people, unfortunately, it is not for all.
While the virus is certainly causing many people a tremendous amount of physical pain, as they experience fevers, difficulty breathing, coughing, and other nasty symptoms, this virus has also initiated a wave undue Sinophobia around the world, including the United States. This virus is not only killing, but it is alienating people. Stories across the world show this to be true. In fact, even on Long Island, Chinese restaurants claim to have lost a significant amount of business, likely because of this virus. People are in a state of panic across the world.
While this virus is certainly extremely dangerous, people are overlooking key information. Perhaps the most important fact they may not even know is that the flu is a more severe outbreak in the United States and a much greater threat to people at the current moment. In the United States alone, the CDC claims that at least 12,000 people have likely died from this illness, potentially 30,000. These deaths have occurred within the span of four months. Yet, it seems that more people are panicking over this coronavirus, which has only infected 15 people in the United States. In times of crisis, rational thinking is key. We need to take a step back from fearing an apocalyptic event and help solve the issue. By living sanitary lifestyles and making smart decisions, one can avoid both coronavirus and the flu. Additionally, we are all people of equal value—regardless of where we come from. We cannot let an irrational disapproval of the Chinese begin to tear down the multicultural social fabric that the United States has worked so hard to achieve.
With plenty of prayers and hard work, this coronavirus will likely cease its destructive impact on society. Our thoughts and prayers go out to those who suffered as a result of this virus.
“With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26)
Cover photo- Artwork by Trey Pryor