Okay, so in the past 48 hours or so the freakout level of the world has increased a good bit over this coronavirus business. While we have touched on it in the past, the basic squirrelliness quotient of the human condition has got to the point where I think it'd do us all a bit of good to step back, take a breath and give this some serious thought.
First and foremost, be selective about your sources, people. Most of us have a Hitchhiker's Guide in a pocket and it's good for more than being a dumbass on Twitter or Facebook. Google and other search engines aren't that hard to use. Furthermore, the Center for Disease Control has a very lovely website that's easy to parse. And if you got some sort of hang up about using governmental sources for information, even though that's their job, private interests like John Hopkins University and the Mayo Clinic also have websites that even the dumbest stump could use.
If you're inclined towards media sources, I'm going to recommend The Guardian and Al Jazeera, but that's up to you. What you don't do, friends and neighbors, is listen to your racist uncle go on about biochemical weapons on Facebook or even your dumbass wingnut cousin claiming that it's all because we don't keep brown people out of America. Also, be selective in your YouTube choices. I personally like SciShow for my information. Do not, repeat, do not pay attention to some dingbat who spends most of his time complaining about a dearth white babies or female video game characters with reasonable-sized breasts. Those guys do not have your best interests at heart. Plus, they are, for the most part, extremely stupid people.
Now. Let's look into this a little bit. On December 29, 2019, four people in Wuhan, capital of the Hubei province in China, went to their doctors complaining of flu-like symptoms. In fairly short order, doctors realized they were dealing with something new and unprecedented. Not that coronaviruses themselves are "new and unprecedented". We actually know a good bit about them. "Corona" means "crown" and they look like little crowns under a microscope. Past epidemics like SARS and MERS are coronaviruses and we've dealt with them before.
Basically, they're respiratory diseases. Coughs, breathing difficulties and a fever come around and pneumonia can spring from since it lowers your immune system's strength. This particular little booger - dubbed CORVID-19 by the eggheads - is following this path so far. Infected complain of pneumonia-like symptoms and it does a number on their immune systems. In fact, the vast bulk of people infected with CORVID-19 who've died have done so because of that lowered immune system. They either have something like heart disease already and their not strong enough to deal with it or they develop full-blown pneumonia which knocks 'em out because, again, lowered immune systems.
Most of the people who've been infected with CORVID-19 or died due to it have been over 40. The youngest reported case was 13. At current count, 80, 598 have been diagnosed with CORVID-19 with 2,712 deaths. The vast majority of the cases are in China, though it has spread to Japan, the U.S., Italy and Australia, among other places. While the first four cases were in Wuhan and researchers do think it's very likely this virus jumped from animal to human, which isn't all that rare, they really don't know for sure. Even how it's spread we don't know, though researchers are treating it as if it's airborne.
And there lies the rub. We really don't know exactly what we're dealing with, we just know it's serious and needs to be dealt with. We all remember SARS and avian flu and Ebola, and what a massive bummer those were. In some places, the death toll was pretty staggering and, as with how these cases play out, we don't know exactly where will get the worst of it. For example, despite some chicken littles that we inexplicably paid too much attention to, Ebola in the States wasn't that big a deal but it kicked the living shit out of West Africa. Those same chicken littles are doing us a whole lot of not good right now and they really, really need to be ignored this time around. It's a shame they're in positions of power nowadays rather than just being the random goobers on Twitter they should remain, but one must play with the cards one is dealt.
But here's some good news. Of those 85,000 reported cases, only 49,776 are active with 28,110 discharged. The infection rate is something like 3%, as opposed to the 1917-1918 Spanish Flu pandemic which saw one-third of the world's population come down with it. Indeed, despite the CDC and other organizations being Johnny-On-The-Spot with this, the plain old flu is considered a much nastier bug. At last count, over 29 million Americans have come down with the flu this season and we haven't even got good and started on it yet.
So what should you do to protect yourself or if you think you've got CORVID-19? Well, treat it like the flu. Wash your hands a lot, don't cough on people, stay home from work if you're sick, and if you're feeling particularly rotten, go see your doctor. If you travel a lot or, indeed, live or work around people who travel a lot, be extra on guard about staying clean and safe like you would otherwise during flu season. Maybe go ahead and get that flu shot if you haven't so far. Ya never know. It's here already and will affect more people, but really, this is elementary stuff.
Though very serious and definitely worth paying attention to, this is not considered a pandemic so far. Furthermore, after dealing with SARS, Ebola and so forth the past 20 or so years, governments around the world are jumping on this and working very diligently to stay on top of this so we don't have another ugly situation like SARS, which saw a 10% mortality rate. Indeed, the Chinese government has been commended by the CDC for their swift, decisive action, giving the rest of the world time to get situated.
What you should NOT do is spread dumbass racist rumors about the Chinese government brewing up a bioweapon that got out of control. Yes, that is dumbass and it is extremely racist, and if that judgement offends, cry more and then wash your hands. This shit happens and it's happened since time immemorial, and it's entirely possible this virus has lain dormant for thousands of years and is just now deciding the be a pain in the ass.
Of course, there are some other concerns. Trump's approach to "governing" has left us as a country a bit under-defended and caught off-foot due to his hard-on for defunding anything that Obama had a hand in. It has affected the stock market, causing the largest drop in two years, and is probably got more surprises in store. Most of us aren't really as hip as we should be about our reliance on China to, well, make stuff, so the country clamping down has resulted in problems in everything from food to iPhone parts. That's just how it's going to be until the boffins get their heads around it. Settle down and quit your sobbing.
And yes, the quarantines have been a stone cold bummer and certain cities in certain states are coming off looking like buttholes for being so ugly about sick people. The former is just the way things have to be while the latter is merely another example of our shit-ass nature taking precedent in this, the Trump Era. A lot of folks are cutting down on travel, mainly because they don't want have to be stuck in their hotel room for weeks at a time. Furthermore, the dumb son of a bitch we have as president doesn't really inspire confidence, partly because he's run off anyone with any sense or spine but mainly because he's a profoundly stupid human being who wallows in his ignorance. Again, the cards we're dealt, what are you going to do.
Okay for all that. I hope this has been educational and, maybe, a bit comforting. While serious - and this is serious despite my light-hearted flippancy - it does no one any good to lose their shit over anything, especially when people who study this for a living are on the job. Wash your hands, cover your mouth when you cough, and don't spread racist bullshit on Facebook like a drooling moron, and we'll all be cool.
No, really. Calm down, have a candy bar. I wouldn't put the shuck on you. Relax.