Coronavirus and staying safe

Updates on the Coronavirus are unfolding hourly, and as is the case with pandemics and other developing crises, there is a lot of misinformation. For better or worse the media reports on the spread of this virus has caused people to take precautions, but it has also created unnecessary panic. As of this writing over 40 people have died (with the vast number of them over 60 years of age and already in poor health), all in China, the source of the outbreak. 

We are still at what could be the early stages of this new epidemic which the Chinese government has been struggling to cope with, particularly where the virus originated in Wuhan. Other countries have taken aggressive screening measures at airports, and while there have been three diagnosed cases in the US (with a few more suspected cases) so far matters seem to be under control.

What to look for

While a vaccine may be developed soon, to our knowledge one does not currently exist. When looking for symptoms of the disease it is important to understand the following as indicated by the CDC: “common human coronaviruses, including types 229E, NL63, OC43, and HKU1, usually cause mild to moderate upper-respiratory tract illnesses, like the common cold. Most people get infected with these viruses at some point in their lives.

 These illnesses usually only last for a short amount of time.”

“Human coronaviruses can sometimes cause lower-respiratory tract illnesses, such as pneumonia or bronchitis. This is more common in people with cardiopulmonary disease, people with weakened immune systems, infants, and older adults.”

The Coronavirus is alarming as many of the symptoms are like that of a cold or flu, and like a cold or standard flu there is an incubation period where the carrier may not be aware that they bear the virus. Particularly during the winter months, where many people suffer from these types of illnesses, it makes initial identification of the Coronavirus accordingly difficult.

As such, symptoms of the Coronavirus may include:

  • runny nose
  • headache
  • cough
  • sore throat
  • fever
  • a general feeling of being unwell

In addition, if you have traveled to China, and the region where the virus originated from then you are at a higher risk to contract the virus. While we are not doctors (and this may sound like common sense) if you have the above symptoms and have traveled to China, you may want to consider going to your medical practitioner. As with many illnesses, it is better to be safe than sorry, especially when it comes to viruses which are more contagious.

How to protect yourself

Business and leisure travel carry on so it’s important to stay vigilant but know there are travel implications as the US has urged travel to “reconsider” travel to China. Many tourist sites, including the Great Wall, have been closed and whole parts of the country are shut down and under quarantine. Until the virus’s spread is halted travelling to any province may leave you stranded there if the virus spreads to that area. There is still a great deal of misinformation on what exactly is happening in quarantined parts of China.

This online dashboard developed by the John Hopkins Center for Systems Science and Engineering is a real-time tracker for reported cases of the virus, as well as fatalities.

Also prepare for longer lines and wait times at major airports as international bodies are being extra vigilant on making sure the virus does enter other countries. If you do not need to absolutely travel to China we suggest you postpone your trip until further notice.  

Sadly, we cannot always expect governments to be transparent. They may withhold information in order to give the perception that they are in control when in fact they may not be. The reality in 2020 is that countries need to be open, especially as this outbreak is going to impact other nations across the globe. It is important to put things in perspective here as well, that while there is certainly risk involved in the spread of the virus we need to keep a cool head and put our trust in the international organizations who are working aggressively to contain the Coronavirus.