While the Cornoavirus is a major medical threat, bad reporting and clickbait articles have distorted the crisis.
Virus 2019-nCoV, known as the Wuhan Coronavirus has captured the attention of the world since the first cases were announced to the world around a month ago. Originated in the Wuhan region at a meat and seafood market where wildlife were sold illegally, the Coronavirus is actually a series of viruses which can include everything from the common cold to Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS). They circulate in animal populations, but seven strains have crossed over into the human population, with 2019-nCoV being the most recent one.
It takes 1 to 14 days for the virus to incubate, with common symptoms including difficulty breathing, fever, and coughing fits. More severe effects, which have impacted older people and people with compromised immune systems, include pneumonia, SARS, and kidney failure.
According to the Independent.co.uk: As of 12 noon local time on Tuesday 28 January, there are 4,547 confirmed cases of the respiratory virus, 6,973 suspected cases and 106 deaths in the People’s Republic. China reported the first cases to the World Health Organization on December 31st and began enacting travel restrictions within the country. Millions of people are affected by these travel restrictions, which has done tremendous damage to China's economy. Despite this, cases of the Coronavirus has been reported in Australia, France, Japan, Malaysia, Nepal, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, the United States, Canada, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Germany and Cambodia.
So How Worried Should You Be?
The WHO has declared the Coronavirus outbreak an emergency in China, but that it's too early to declare it a worldwide epidemic. As to protecting oneself from the virus, the agency recommends:
Standard recommendations to prevent infection spread include regular hand washing, covering mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing, thoroughly cooking meat and eggs. Avoid close contact with anyone showing symptoms of respiratory illness such as coughing and sneezing.
The virus is dangerous and has claimed lives, but the online reporting has been sensationalized. While serious, the risk outside of China remains low, yet if you look at stories shared on social media you might believe that we're going to wind up quarantined in some makeshift tent hospital.
David Quammen, a journalist and author of "Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic" wrote an OpEd at the New York Times blaming the impact of the Coronavirus on human habits:
Current circumstances also include 7.6 billion hungry humans: some of them impoverished and desperate for protein; some affluent and wasteful and empowered to travel every which way by airplane. These factors are unprecedented on planet Earth: We know from the fossil record, by absence of evidence, that no large-bodied animal has ever been nearly so abundant as humans are now, let alone so effective at arrogating resources. And one consequence of that abundance, that power, and the consequent ecological disturbances is increasing viral exchanges — first from animal to human, then from human to human, sometimes on a pandemic scale.
We invade tropical forests and other wild landscapes, which harbor so many species of animals and plants — and within those creatures, so many unknown viruses. We cut the trees; we kill the animals or cage them and send them to markets. We disrupt ecosystems, and we shake viruses loose from their natural hosts. When that happens, they need a new host. Often, we are it.
BuzzfeedNews did a fantastic article on the disinformation out online.
No, this isn't a video of coronavirus protests in Wuhan. The video has been making the rounds since at least July 2019.
No, there aren't 23 confirmed cases of coronavirus in major US cities. The account that tweeted this claim calls itself a "parody" and has tweeted unreliable information in the past.
A story about children being abandoned in an airport has spread widely on social media thanks to the website 9Gag. However, it has not been confirmed by any credible sources.
The origins of the virus are attributed to a seafood and meat market in Wuhan. There is no evidence that connects these images to coronavirus.
We live in an age of apocalyptic fear. Between threats of war, climate change, idiot presidents, Twitter shouting matches, lack of health care, entrenched poverty, hoarded wealth, random shootings, and all the other things that makes the world such a dreadful place, there's a lot of reasons to be worried. But there is an entire industry of clickbait-y pseudojournalists that prey on that fear to make a buck. The enemy of fear is truth. So take everything with a grain of salt, and do your own research from reputable sources.
Even with this article.