How scary is it really?
Over the last few months, you must have seen hundreds of mentions of the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19.
The virus is “spreading across the world,” “infecting hundreds,” and now the WHO has classified it as a pandemic.
It sounds scary, that’s true. Coverage over the last month might reminisce of the video-reel shown during the first minute of a post-apocalyptic movie to explain why everyone has suddenly turned into zombies.
Well rest easy, take a deep breath and read on.
Does ‘highly infectious’ mean ‘highly dangerous?’
A common mistake that is made in a lot of media reporting is that something highly infectious must be very dangerous. In fact, there is no relation between the too. Something can not be very infectious but life-threatening, and vice versa.
The fact that the coronavirus is highly infectious means that it spreads easily from person to person, but has no relation to how dangerous it is. In fact, the WHO says that COVID-19 has a 3-4% mortality rate, and the unfortunate people that make up this percentile were mostly older people who already suffered from chronic illnesses.
Am I at risk of contracting the virus?
This comes back to the infectious versus dangerous question. Yes, there is a chance that you might contract the virus. But that does not mean you are going to die, and you might not even feel very sick.
So before you start wearing a hazmat suit or start hiding out in the mountains, please remember: If you are not in a high-risk group, getting coronavirus likely doesn’t mean you are going to die.
I’m young and healthy, why should I care if I get the virus?
It is true that for young people, the virus is not very dangerous. But having the virus means you can spread it to loved ones, or even your local librarian, who may be at an elevated risk of serious or even fatal health complications. In order to make sure you don’t make anyone sick around you, read on to see what to look out for, and if you are symptomatic, visit your doctor.
I’m older and have a chronic condition…
Well, this is the time to ask friends and family to help you do groceries and pick up the medicine you rely on. Make sure to ask them to buy some credit for your mobile phone so that you can call or Skype with loved ones instead of meeting them face-to-face.
Now, read a good book, watch some TV and try to avoid contact with others for a while, and you will have successfully reduced your risk-factor dramatically.
But what about my children?
Ah, children, they look so sweet and fragile, don’t they?
In reality, children are actually quite resilient with their agile immune systems that resist many infectious diseases.
Data from China’s outbreak has shown that children have been nearly untouched by the virus, with many not showing symptoms even when they had contracted the virus. Again, please bring sick children to the doctor for a check-up, if not for them, then for you and others around you.
Children who suffer from asthma do have a disadvantage with COVID-19, as the virus can trigger asthma attacks, but there is no evidence that the virus itself would do much harm outside of the symptoms.
But, I just ordered a dress from China…
There is no reason to believe that Chinese products can carry the disease.
In fact, China is currently sending millions of face-masks and other aid to countries in trouble. Would they do that if there would even be a tiny chance of infection?
While surfaces in public places could, for a time, be contaminated, there is no need to fear that your gadget or t-shirt will make you sick.
What can I do to prevent infection?
Even though COVID-19 is most likely not going to seriously harm you, there is still a need to contain the virus in order to protect those that could be harmed by it.
Wearing a face-mask is not important unless you are a medical professional that deals with COVID-19 cases all day. Wash your hands regularly and properly. Cough in a tissue or your sleeve. Try not to touch your face too much and stay away from people that are unwell.
I’m showing symptoms, what do I do?
Are you feeling feverish? Are you coughing badly or are you short of breath? You might have coronavirus.
Don’t panic. Visit your doctor and in case the virus is detected, bring a laptop or tablet with you. Because now you will have a couple of weeks in quarantine to re-watch Game of Thrones, start learning a new language, or simply soak up all the attention that you will get on social media.