First things first. I’m not a doctor – I’m not medically trained in any way. What I do posses, though, is a fair amount (ish) of common sense, and the ability to digest facts and data and make fairly good decisions based on that.
So with that in mind, here’s some of my thoughts on the recent Corona Virus scare.
Firstly – the name. Coronaviruses are types of viruses that typically affect the respiratory tracts of birds and mammals (including humans). Doctors associate them with the common cold, bronchitis, pneumonia etc. They’re normally “created” when multiple strains of disease cross contaminate, in this instance, it’s thought that this particular Coronavirus came from a Seafood market in China – where live animals are stacked on top of each other in dirty conditions – bacteria transmits through water on the floor, blood and guts as the fish are slaughtered. Similar to the SARS outbreak (another Coronavirus) a few years ago (although SARS was contained quite quickly). Coronaviruses have been known of for years, and will continue to appear as new strains for years to come.
This particular strain of Coronavirus has been named COVID-19 – so lets call it that. If I see one more picture of a bottle of Dettol (that states it kills “coronavirus”) with a comment like “Oh so Dettol knew about it before it existed”, I’m going to get very cross 😉 . They even went out of their way to explain why they list is as something their product kills, just here. Well worth a read before you go and buy 50 bottles of Dettol!
Ok, so some facts to squash some of the myths:
- “A face mask will protect you”.
This is not true. Other than looking like an idiot, all you’re doing is, well, actually, nothing. Unless it’s a full on chemical protection mask, those paper ones are doing nothing for you, they’re not airtight, and they’re not filtering anything. You just look silly.
- “Antibac hand sanitisers are the only thing that will kill COVID-19”.
Again, not true. Simply washing your hands with warm soapy water, properly, and using tissues to sneeze or cough in to, then disposing of them, will be ample. Let’s not stockpile on things we simply don’t need, because those who genuinely do need them will be the ones who suffer.
- “It’s the worst virus we’ve had”
SARS had a death rate of 10%, but was controlled very quickly, and there have been no reported cases since 2004. MERS had a death rate of 34% (in 2,500 confirmed cases). Swine Flu, which still exists, killed between 150,000 and 500,000 worldwide, although the death rate compared to infection was only 0.02%. So far, Covid-19 has infected around 90,000, with a death rate of around 2%. That’s early day figures, the number of people infected is likely to rise significantly, the death rate will inevitably drop proportionally (more cases will be reported, but most people will recover. Those that have died currently have had underlying medical issues, or were very old). And lets not even talk about Ebola.
We don’t yet know (with much accuracy) how many of those infected will die from Covid-19, but a recent estimate is about 2.3% of those who are infected will die (based on 107 dying out of 4,600 infected). If we assume that the percentage of the population that will ultimately catch the new virus is 30%, then the share of the world’s population that would be expected to die would be about 0.76% – [(1/3) x 2.3% = 0.76%] 
I read earlier that the best advice going around is for people who are “At risk” to ensure they’ve had their flu-jab. It won’t protect you against Covid-19, but you are much much much more likely to get seasonal Flu, than to catch this Coronavirus. About one billion people catch Flu every year. Now that, that right there, is a pandemic.
As a side note – remember just how bad our press are when it comes to things like this. Think of all the scaremongering each year predicting “THE COLDEST WINTER EVER”, and what happens? Yeah, not much at all.
Look at how the papers covered Brexit and the General Election. If there’s an ounce of scaremongering to be had, they’ll jump on it. Stories about people being isolated, food supplies being cut off and so on, are simply out there to create more of a narrative – it’s pretty dull to write about people getting a cold – but people getting a cold and being kept inside and starving to death because the shops are all shut – that might just sell a few papers.
Yesterday, we saw an update from our local food bank, stating that they were low on the very basic supplies – Pasta, Tinned Fruit and Veg, Teabags (we all need tea!). And then I see on Twitter that people are heading to the shops and stockpiling supplies just incase they get Covid-19, or the country goes in to lockdown. Please, show a bit of common sense – just buy what you would normally buy – maybe buy a bit more and drop it off with your food bank – for those who simply can’t afford it. Let’s not get carried away with the media hype here.
Finally – I have a cold. I’ve had a cold for a few days. Typical thing, headache, blocked nose, sneezing, a bit of coughing. You know, the same symptoms of Covid-19, or, if you use your common sense (eg, think about where you’ve travelled recently, or who you’ve been in close contact with) – you’ll probably establish that you simply have a cold. If you’re suffering too, get some Lemsip, run a nice hot bath, and get better. Oh, and wash your hands, you should be washing them anyway, you don’t need an outbreak to tell you that, though, do you?
If, like me, you wanted to learn more about this Coronavirus, then I strongly suggest you listen to the NPR “Fresh Air” podcast from the 5th February 2020 – which can be found here. Informative and helpful with understanding how it’s come about, and what can be done to help minimise the risks. It’s better than reading twitter, that’s for sure.