Do We Really Need to be Afraid of the Coronavirus?

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You can’t go a whole day anymore without hearing about some global disease. I was sick last week, and everytime I coughed, it was “You have the coronavirus!” or “Don’t give me the coronavirus!”. Of course these people were joking, but there really are people dying of this just an ocean away. That being said, is there really any particular reason why we in the US should worry about getting the coronavirus?

The easy answer is no. However, there is legitimate cause for concern. This particular strain of coronavirus has just been named: it is now called COVID-19 (for the purpose of this article, I will continue to refer to it as the coronavirus). So far what we know is that it has been confirmed to be spread through everyday human contact and that the biggest area of concern has been quarantined. The CDC has confirmed a handful of cases in the US, but those cases have also been isolated, as has the now famous Japanese cruise ship that now has more than 40 confirmed cases of the coronavirus aboard the vessel. The progression of the virus has become so severe that other countries have taken measures to further prevent the spread of the virus. This includes the US shutting down flights to and from China, which includes major carriers like American Airlines. However, a small light of hope is that representatives from the Tokyo 2020 Olympics have declared that amid concerns about the coronavirus, they will continue to host the Olympics. With all this in the news, it isn’t hard for fake news to spread panic.

Remember that case of coronavirus that cropped up in Lawrence a week or so ago? It has recently been confirmed that whatever was ailing that person in Kansas was not, in fact, the coronavirus. That didn’t stop people the panic that would ensue from the rumor that the coronavirus has reached the heart of America. More and more people began flooding clinics with concerns that they might have the coronavirus, or barricading themselves in their homes to either prevent themselves from spreading it or to keep from getting it themselves. At this point, it’s worth noting that the vast majority of the US has very little to worry about.

The symptoms of the coronavirus closely mimic that of a cold or flu, and given that we are right in the middle of cold and flu season, it’s easy to go into panic that your cold or flu is actually something much worse. Googling things doesn’t help. I Googled ‘sore throat’ last week, and Google wanted to tell me I had laryngitis. Obviously I don’t have laryngitis, but the fear lingered. I had accidently convinced myself that I didn’t just have a cold, that I could potentially have something much worse. Googling my symptoms didn’t help. So, I would advise against such measures under most circumstances, but especially these. You can’t go to any bathroom on campus without running into a “is it a cold or flu?” poster. Just check the list, whatever is ailing you is probably just a cold or flu. Why am I so sure? Because we’re college students. Yes, our immune systems are suddenly exposed to new pathogens every time we come back from break because we’re interacting people that aren’t from where we grew up, but other than that, we are young and our defence against disease ought to be strong enough that even if there’s the slimmest chance that we could catch the coronavirus, we could likely fight it off. The biggest risk, as it is with most diseases and viruses, is in young children and the eldery. Therefore, there’s really very little to worry about.

Of course, there are warning signs that ought to be addressed. If you or someone you interact with often has been to China recently, it would be a good idea to stop by the nurse or a clinic to get checked out. If you feel sick, avoid going to class so as to not risk spreading what you might have. You could buy a surgical mask for extra protection, but you’re probably just going to waste your money.

All things considered, as college students in Missouri, the odds of us contracting the coronavirus are slim to none. The government has ceased transportation to and from China, Wuhan has quarantined itself to avoid spreading it, any other isolated cases have also been quarantined, and we’re all at a healthy age to fight off most viruses. If you somehow contract the coronavirus, then yes there’s cause for concern, but I’d like to reiterate that the odds of that happening are astronomically small. I won’t say there’s nothing to worry about because people are dying, but I’m fairly confident in saying that we’re safe here.

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