As of March 4, 2020 at 11:50AM EST, there have been a total of 94,383 confirmed cases of this novel coronavirus with 3,221 deaths worldwide. The virus hit the world by storm when the Chinese began reporting a mysterious virus causing pneumonia-like symptoms infecting many of its citizens. We now know that the novel coronavirus of 2019-2020 (called COVID-19) originated in bats and jumped the species barrier into the human population (probably in a food market located in the Wuhan province).
When I first heard people talking about this outbreak, I was confused by everyone calling it a coronavirus because that term is a broad term to describe an entire family of viruses. The coronavirus family is known to infect a wide range of animals and humans, including the SARS outbreak in the early 2000s and the MERS outbreak more recently. This family of viruses can cause many different symptoms affecting the lungs, liver, kidneys, GI tract, and nervous tissue. COVID-19 is a respiratory infection spread by aerosol droplets like other diseases we often hear about.
But to understand what is currently happening with COVID-19, we should compare it to what we know about another virus transmitted the same way: the flu. What most people are unaware of is that the flu has been averaging between 9 and 45 million cases per year with 12,000 to 61,000 deaths per year since 2010. But are you as scared about getting the flu or are you more scared about getting COVID-19? When put in proper perspective, you can see that this COVID-19 is not as bad as the headlines are making it. I’m not aware of anyone who buys a surgical mask for the flu every year (on top of that, viruses are smaller than the holes found in those surgical masks and renders masks useless).
What we ought to be asking ourselves is: what can we learn about how the flu is spread each year that we can do to prevent COVID-19?
- First of all, washing your hands. The primary way we make ourselves sick is by touching our face. If you pick up COVID-19 by coming in contact with some contaminated surface, you will likely give it to yourself by touching your face. The CDC recommends washing your hands for 20 seconds (they suggest hand sanitizers work, but I’m skeptical as of today).
- Second, avoid touching common objects when out in public. When I first got out of graduate school, I got the flu for two years in a row, even though I knew better. After that, I became more vigilant with what I touched when out in public and haven’t gotten the flu since (in combination with handwashing of course).
- Third, stay away from people coughing to reduce your exposure.
- Fourth, if you are the person coughing, cough into your elbow and minimize how much travels through the air or gets on your hands.
- My fifth point relates to the flu and not COVID-19, get your flu shot this year and sign up for a COVID-19 shot if one is developed. While the flu shot does not work every year, I still get mine because some protection is better than none.
- Sixth, make those around you aware of any international travel you have done since December 2019 (making you potentially a carrier). And last but not least, conduct your life as you would any other day because we know that God is sovereign and can handle a disease outbreak like this.
What we should learn from this COVID-19 outbreak is that life is short and we’re not guaranteed tomorrow (James 4:13-17). While we all live forever, some will spend eternity in heaven and others in a real place called Hell. The difference between heaven and Hell is a relationship with the Creator of the universe: Jesus Christ. Click here to learn more about how to have a saving relationship with Jesus Christ today.
Dr. Andrew Fabich is an Associate Professor of Microbiology at TMU and frequent blogger in the science industry.Return to Blog Archive