• Arwa Hanin Elrayess

The Corona-virus: What We Should Be Afraid Of

Updated: Jun 28, 2020

Supposedly originating from a seafood market in the Chinese town Wuhan, the corona-virus (which has already claimed the lives of over 170 people and infected thousands) has attracted world-wide attention and puzzled scientists across the globe.

Spreading at an increasingly alarming rate, it has sparked panic in the hearts' of millions and has caused us to disregard the true dangers of this situation.

In this article, learn how and where the corona-virus came to be, what the world is doing about it, and whether something else is to be feared; something much more sinister.

What is the corona-virus?

Usually spread from wild animals to humans, corona-viruses are types of viruses that typically affect the respiratory tract of humans.

These viruses have caused widespread panic before, taking form in diseases such as MERS and SARS. However, the type of corona-virus we are experiencing today is completely new to science.

It can cause symptoms as minor as a cold or as severe as organ failure, however, is considered milder than its 2 previous counterparts.

In spite of this, scientists are becoming increasingly weary of the whole situation.

Unlike SARS and MERS, this virus is thought to be able to spread from infected individuals, even if they are not exhibiting symptoms, making containment an uphill battle and increasing the rate of global infection.

Where did it come from?

The corona-virus has been linked to wild bats and snakes, which may explain why it spread from China.

Often called the food capital of the world, nothing is impossible in China’s food markets. The population have long dined and handled exquisite creatures, driven partly by beliefs of their supposed health benefits.

The seafood market in Wuhan (where the disease originated) was selling and handling a wide range of wild animals including live cats and dogs, turtles, snakes, rats, hedgehogs and marmots.

And, considering the virus is zoonotic, we can safely assume that patient 0 caught it due to direct contact with a wild creature at this market.

The disease then spread through human to human contact, reaching as far as the U.S. and the UAE.

Who is most at risk?

Unfortunately, this virus infects anyone it comes in contact with.

The severity of its symptoms, however, completely depend on patients’ previous health.

Due to their weaker immunity, children, seniors and those with pre-existing health issues will likely suffer severe symptoms from this virus and are at a higher risk of death.

Additionally, even though this virus has a relatively low mortality rate, it comes at a problematic- and quite chaotic- time.

The disease, which has very similar symptoms to that of the flu, has appeared at the heart of flu season, increasing the likelihood of misdiagnosed patients and further spreading the disease.

The virus has also appeared during one of the most important occasions for China: the Chinese Lunar New Year.

Millions of Chinese citizens will travel in and out of China to celebrate, posing a significant threat to neighboring countries and increasing the risk on countries offering popular Chinese transit routes- such as, Qatar, India, America and Algeria.

What is China, and the rest of the world, doing about it?

Fortunately, severe preventative measures have already been put in place to combat the spread of this disease.

In China alone, air and rail travel in and out of several Chinese cities has been banned, more than 60 million people have been quarantined, long-term emergency supplies have been reserved, and food markets, similar to the one where the disease originated, have been shut down.

Wildlife trade nationwide has also been banned until the epidemic passes, whilst the Chinese government have begun constructing special hospitals for those infected.

Other nations have begun screening for the disease at airports and have requested their citizens to return from China as soon as possible.

Nevertheless, specialists have been quick to criticize China’s quarantines, stating that encasing tens of millions of citizens is near impossible, especially during such an important time of celebration.

Screening travelers at airports has also shown its flaws, as the virus is contagious regardless of whether an individual shows symptoms.

Health organizations and governmental officials have re-assured the public that the disease is being handled in a confident manner and that there is no cause for fear or panic.

The disease has been described as: 'a cause for caution- not for alarm.'

What we should be afraid of:

Viruses are complex mechanisms that mutate very, very quickly.

Many of those mutations have no noticeable effect. But every once in a while, one might help the virus pose even more of a threat to human life.

For example, if the virus incubates in the same cell as an airborne virus, the 2 viruses could exchange their genetic material, mutating into an airborne corona-virus.

The longer this corona-virus remains in our bodies, the more chance we give it to mutate into something harder to combat, and the less likely we’ll be able to produce enough anecdotes for everyone infected.

So, really, it’s a race with time.

But even if this virus does not take that path, and we find a cure in time, there’s no telling whether coming viruses will follow the same trend.

This corona-virus is the second of its type to spread from China and will likely not be the last if local citizens continue to trade and handle wild animals with the same carelessness.

Even though the wildlife industry plays a vital role in China’s culture, we must recognize that it threatens our very existence.

We should not be afraid of challenging tradition for the greater good of the global population.

Instead, we should discuss how to better protect ourselves from this virus and confront the reckless habits of those who encouraged it.

Health organizations must encourage the Chinese government to enforce stricter regulations on wildlife trade by ensuring that this wildlife originates from licensed sources, therefore, supplying local citizens with disease-free livestock that will (hopefully) not cause a future epidemic.

Finally, wide-spread and unnecessary fear has never, and will never, solve global problems. Rather, it'll spark anxiety between nations, complicate the process of recovery and extend the whole issue considerably, something which (as mentioned before) could cause the severity of this situation to magnify exponentially.

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