Was your christmas cold the coronavirus?
Updated: Jul 1, 2020
Put on your face masks and batten down the hatches. A new virus is on the loose! It seems the world has fallen into a coronavirus echo chamber, and everyone is planning to never leave their houses again… just in case they catch it.
We all like to think we know whats going on when there’s a big scientific news story. We all become scientists, googling all of the latest update articles.
The truth of the matter is coronaviruses are EXTREMELY common.
Your Christmas cold was most probably a coronavirus. Youve probably had one! The name itself should not make you scared.
Alright, so this one has mutated. You've not had this type and it’s probably come from an animal, but so do many viruses. And when we think about the relative danger of this new coronavirus and the flu, there’s just no comparison.
If we are going to get picky - the flu virus poses a far greater threat to the UK than the coronavirus from China.
“Coronaviruses will be a blip on the horizon in comparison to the flu … the risk is trivial” says Dr Schaffnew – a professor of preventive medicine and health policy.
If you aren’t afraid of the flu, perhaps that’s because you are conditioned to the yearly warnings.
For us, the flu is old news. Yet viruses that are named after foreign places – like EBOLA, ZIKA and WUHAN – they inspire terror. So, unsurprisingly that’s what we are going to hear about.
Familiarity breeds indifference.
It's new, it's mysterious and it comes from an exotic place… these are the reasons why coronavirus is creating such anxiety.
OK, I hear you, there's a flu vaccine. It gives us about 19-60% protection in previous years stats. Simply having the choice about whether or not to have the vaccine can give people an illusion of control.
But we aren’t. Flu cases are eight times higher than they were a year ago. Last year in the UK 2,000 people died from the flu virus.
Its normal to feel powerless about new viruses, because we have no antibodies against it, no time to develop new treatments or vaccines.
But think again about a virus like measles, its killed 5,000 people in the Congo in the last ten months – more than twice as many as Ebola, more than the new coronavirus...yet UNICEF scientist have noted that measles, which many of us no longer fear, has hardly any attention even when nearly all of the measles victims are under 5.
But, to be clear with you, the coronavirus outbreak should be taken seriously
It can cause pneumonia and its blamed for around 26 deaths so far and its spread outside of China, which is a worrying but not an unexpected development.
Its Chinese new year, so families were going in and out of China, they’ve probably taken the flu with them too. The people that are going to be affected the most are those who are elderly, extremely young or those who are already poorly with weak immune systems. Most of these people are already aware their immune systems are lowered and work with their doctors to prevent infections.
But I thought this new virus was spreading really fast?
It might look as though cases have absolutely soared, from 40 to more than 2,000 in just a week. But again don’t be fooled.
Many of these new cases have come to light as a result of China improving its ability to find infected people. Because they’re worried about it spreading.
There’s actually very little information on the growth rate of the outbreak. Experts are saying the number of people becoming poorly is likely to be far higher than the reported figures, but this is the same for many viruses.
So unless you’ve come into direct contact with someone who has coronavirus, which in the UK, for now, means – being with someone who’s been at ground zero of the outbreak – it’s unlikely you’ll catch it.
But isn't the whole world panicking?
This week the world health organisation chose not to declare this new virus as an international health emergency.
Although I don’t want to tell you it won't happen.
Scientists have estimated that each patient with the new coronavirus appears to be infecting about two other people.
For that reason, I’d be surprised if the virus doesn’t make its way to the UK.
Am I worried that I might catch it? Of course not, taking sensible precautions such as keeping my distance from others will put me in good stead.
Am I worried that if it does make its way to the UK, that my friends and family with weakened immune systems are at risk? Of course I am. Because it’s a virus, and like any other virus, especially ones we don’t have vaccines for, I’d ask them to be careful.
Admittedly, if the virus does come to the UK it would put the NHS under strain, but I suspect many of us perhaps wouldn’t know the different between this new virus and the flu.
But I have absolutely no doubt that, when it comes to doing what is necessary to stop the spread of the virus and keep the public safe, our doctors and nurses will do exactly what they need to do.
So how can I keep myself safe?
WASH YOUR HANDS. COVER YOUR COUGHS AND SNEEZES. BE HYGIENIC.
Id like to think this is nothing new. At all.
And if someone says they’ve just got back from Wuhan, I’d steer clear....