World threat: the coronavirus

Mulan Ma, Staff Reporter

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The new year has been wrought with a new plague that has infected over 31,000 and killed at least 636 people across the world.
Late 2019 to early 2020, the new year has begun with the threat of the recently announced coronavirus pandemic. Starting from Wuhan, the provincial capital of Hubei, the virus has spread from China, areas surrounding China and even to the United States.
In 2020, the first day of the Chinese New Year was on Saturday, Jan. 25 and opened with the new decade with the year of the Rat which signifies wealth and surplus in Chinese culture, but Westerners throw a shadow over them as they are associated with disease and as plague bringers.
People in China celebrate this change in time with red envelopes, red signifying good fortune and good health. Unfortunately, the recent outbreak has cut the celebrations short and brought a shutdown nationwide.
The Wuhan virus or coronavirus has its origins in the Wuhan wet market. These markets are notorious for keeping wild animals and raw meat in close vicinity, along with inhumane treatment of animals. These animals, such as crocodiles, snakes, koalas, and rats can be bought as a pet or eaten.
This closeness of wild animals with unknown pathogens in them and the raw produce that is by its area can create cross-contamination. Scientists have traced the virus to the market, claiming that the virus was spread by human consumption of a wild animal, many speculating it was a wild bat, which caused that human to develop the virus and then pass it on to another human. The disease is spread by airborne interactions with the infected person’s droplets from sneezing, coughing and also by body contact. It is extremely contagious. The word corona means crown, which describes the shape of the virus on a cellular level.

The coronavirus spread like the Australian bushfire, with almost 20,000 cases of infected people and a death toll of 362 people as of February 2nd, 2020. The majority of deaths have occurred in Wuhan, where the outbreak originated. Due to the Lunar Year, many Chinese people enjoy traveling around provinces and countries. Because of the sudden movement of people during this outbreak, many claim that the timing of the outbreak and festivities worsens the spread.
“Lunar New Year is a time of celebration for me. Starting out the year with the outbreak seems a little unlucky to me,” Bowei Li (10) said.
There is no cure or vaccine at the moment and many people are expected to recover on their own as the symptoms are much like the common cold. Many who perish from this virus suffered more severe symptoms such as pneumonia, severe infections like Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS).
As a way to combat this virus, surgical face masks are recommended to be worn and traveling outside of the provinces is banned. The government used to provide masks for people, but now supplies have run dry. The surgical masks that are used to protect against the disease are disposable and demand is increasing exponentially.
Many OHS students who have families overseas have found themselves buying masks from the United States to ship to China.
“My parents bought 300 masks to ship over my relatives in China. Amazon was actually sold out shortly after, although maybe they’ve restocked by now,” Li said.
Often, situations like these can bring rise to some very dark humor. Jokes on having the virus and calling it natural selection can often bring desensitized feelings in the mix. This can create a divide between peoples as insensitive comments can bring on xenophobic feelings and encourage negative emotions toward Asians.
“The jokes seriously aren’t funny. People really need to realize that there have been deaths because of the virus. This situation is comparable to when Ebola broke out and was joked about,” Catherine Li (11) said.
Li, on the other hand, says, “ I’m not super bothered by jokes — I’m sure people don’t really mean anything.”
Either way, a little sympathy can go a long way.
The pandemic is part of a pattern. In 1620, the Milan bubonic plague tore through most of the world. A hundred years later, the Marseilles bubonic plague came again and ravaged through people once again. The 1820 yellow fever or Savannah outbreak also followed. In the 1920s, influenza came and created a world wide panic as people struggled to find a vaccine. And now, we face the deadly coronavirus in the new decade.
Catherine Li casts a very optimistic yet serious approach to this matter.
“Even with the steadily rising death toll, if people take precautions and the Chinese government really cracks down on this virus, I do not think that this will be the new plague. It is highly unlikely that people will get infected if they stay away from dangerous areas and take care to be clean. Also, if you’re sick, please stay home! We don’t want anybody getting sick, even if you don’t have the virus,” Li said.
This was said the day before the World Health Organization announced the virus was a plague and is now considered an international emergency. The pandemic announcement has caused many countries such as the US to ban travelers from China.
There’s a lot going on in the world right now, and it’s about time we’ve learned from history. The donations to Australia, the small sacrifices we all collectively make to lessen plastic waste, and the doctors and nurses who risk their lives fighting the virus upfront are proof that as united, human beings can accomplish very much and hopefully we can all pull through this alright.