Tens of thousands are infected in more than 50 countries leaving thousands dead. The new coronavirus now labelled COVID-19 is more infectious than SARS during the 2002-2003 epidemic. Extreme measures are being taken in the most intense areas with cities locked down, airports shut down, and even reaching global emergency status.
This is understandably one of the scariest threats in recent memory. Fearmongering, constant media coverage, and misinformation all feed into our fears, ultimately dividing us. We are a global community and we all depend on each other, all the more during frightening times. We can’t forget our humanity in the face of an inhuman threat.
I want to emphasize that news is non-stop and facts are constantly changing. COVID-19 is so scary because so much of the situation is unknown. It is imperative that we rely on credible sources like the World Health Organization or the CDC for accurate and up-to-date information.
What we do currently know is that the World Health Organization has said the global impact of COVID-19 is “very high.” Director-General Dedros Adhhanom Gheberyesus of the WHO was adamant that COVID-19 is not yet a pandemic. This indicates that there is still confidence that the disease can be contained despite the high infection rate.
It is important to keep in mind that, while the disease is highly infectious, the death rate is relatively low. For comparison, SARS had a 10% death rate while COVID-19 is currently around a 2% death rate. Most people suffer only mild symptoms similar to a cold.
It is important to remember that there are things we can do to protect ourselves. General tips to prevent COVID-19 are similar to steps to prevent the flu.
You should avoid dense crowds and sick people. If you are sick, please work from home to prevent the spread of disease. Similar to staying home, try not to travel if possible. Lastly, washing your hands thoroughly and often remains the most effective preventative measure. You may also see man people wearing face masks. There is limited evidence that face masks actually prevent diseases like COVID-19. But experts say it might help as long as the mask fits tightly around the face.
We also have tools that can predict and analyze infection patterns. The Canadian firm BlueDot has accurately predicted COVID-19’s path allowing global authorities to concentrate their efforts where it’s most needed. DARPA is also testing out a Pandemic Prevention Platform (P3) to act as an emergency defence against COVID-19 and any infectious disease.
Most importantly, there are thousands of health care workers and researchers tirelessly working to treat the infected and find a solution to keep us all safe. The dedication and compassion is what we should be concentrating on, not the fear that continues to divide us.