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Fear spreads over COVID-19 outbreak

by Steven Daniszewski
Wed, Feb 26th 2020 12:00 pm
In recent weeks, sensationalized stories about the true extent of the coronavirus and the origins of the disease have been shared all over the internet, heightening tensions and causing more concern among the public.
In recent weeks, sensationalized stories about the true extent of the coronavirus and the origins of the disease have been shared all over the internet, heightening tensions and causing more concern among the public.

A meme is a cultural item that is transmitted by repetition and replication through language, such as religion and cultural identities, leading to mutations and changes in the narrative; somewhat similarly to biological transmission of genes through various reproductive methods. Memes refer to funny images, gifs and videos we text and send to one another, but viruses still hijack organisms and convert their cells into RNA factories, with mutations leading to worse or better adaptations for the virus — which often result poorly for the hosts.

Throughout history, we have always spread news about viruses, and with the first mass media, the danger of panic slowly became realized. While jokes spread online in Western countries about a squeeze of lime with your flu bug, the COVID-19 virus is becoming a very real epidemic in China, and now internationally. 

While “Chinese health officials have reported tens of thousands of cases of COVID-19 in China” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there’s been at least one instance of the virus in the United States, and the World Health Organization declared the outbreak a public health emergency of international concern in a recent meeting.

Behind the laughter, there is also panic, with forums, hashtags, simulated models and videos circulating depicting people claiming to be secretively from Wuhan discussing the suppression of the real scale of the disease’s danger by officials from the Communist Party of China. While the comment sections are ablaze with everything from Obama-focused conspiracy theories to the classic “New World Order” or replacement conspiracies, to accusations of a bioweapon that’s escaped containment. 

In reality, the disease was initially hard to gain information about due to the silence of the CCP. We do know some things now: the virus spread “animal-to-person” from a so-called wet market — a street market selling live animals as food or folk remedies, ranging from endangered animals to domesticated species, often kept alive despite disease through the use of antibiotics in cramped, oppressive and unhygienic environments. The same conditions that led to the SARs outbreak earlier in the century where the virus spread from animal to a consumer, then spreading person-to-person. 

As the Lunar New Year commenced, people travelled for family and celebrations, with many bringing the disease back to their homes and some to international airports. The incubation period ranges between two to six weeks before symptoms begin to show, during which it becomes contagious and transmitted through air or physical surfaces. 

The CDC has now declared Alert Level 2 with a Warning Level 3 which dictates that people avoid all nonessential travel to China, and be aware of community transmission of respiratory illness in popular destinations. The CCP has been effective in limiting the amount of information being released. Recently, China has changed the official count of sufferers and the dead. 

For those interested in reading more, the CDC has created a page of all information on the spread and the steps taken by both the federal, state and territorial governments of the U.S. In addition, it includes efforts by foreign governments and international cooperatives to monitor and contain the outbreak. And while MSN reports financial heads worry about the threat to the global economy, there’s potentially a larger, local risk in America. 

There is often little to no sick leave for the majority of the workforce, overworked doctors and many in a stressed healthcare provider situation, amid a growing pseudo-scientific movement that scorns whitecoats for the witch doctor.

At least, whether there’s situations like the present or peaceful days of no looming health scares, it is vital to remember that everyday preventive actions can still stop the spread of germs. 

These include flu vaccines, maintaining personal hygiene standards, washing of hands, polite sneezing etiquette and remembering to take prescribed medicines. If you are prescribed antivirals, as with antibiotics, do not stop taking them if you “feel better,” be sure to finish the full course according to the label instructions.

As a final closer, whenever you’re reading comments at 1 a.m. pointing out the BioWeapons Facility of China is located in Wuhan, or reading rumors about tens of thousands dead, and starting to panic, just think about the previous pandemics we’ve lived through, from the old to the recent Swine Flu and Ebola panic.  

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