by Skye Harding
The world is waiting on the edge of their seats as the new strain of the Coronavirus worsens. The new strain, 2019-nCoV, was first traced in a seafood market in Wuhan, China in December 2019. It has rapidly spread, infecting over 30,000 people and killing over 600 people in China. Furthermore, it has spread to twenty five other countries. The spread has not only caused extreme fear across the globe, but the fear has translated to xenophobia. Rather than considering the facts of the disease, the internet and the mindsets of individuals across the world have acted on assumptions and panic. It’s crucial to understand the science of the virus rather than blaming those who aren’t responsible.
What is the virus?
The Coronavirus is a large family of viruses containing many various strains. The virus is zoonotic, meaning that animals can transmit it to people. A ring of spiky proteins surround the round virus and resemble a crown. This is why it has the prefix ‘corona’. In terms of structure, enclosed RNA makes up all the strains, while they greatly differ in their genetic makeup. The strains are separated into alpha, beta, delta, and gamma groups. Only the alpha and beta strains are able to infect humans. Typically, the strains cause the common cold. Differently, some strains cause more extreme effects: severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and the Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS).
Newly Discovered 2019-nCoV
The novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV), a third serious strain, has been identified in humans. This strain is among the three types known to be able to infect people through human to human transmission. The virus is mainly transmitted through droplets when someone infected coughs or sneezes. It travels like many cases of the flu and respiratory pathogens spread. As explained by Anthony Fauci, the director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, the viruses “latch onto proteins” on the outside of lung cells and “penetrate much deeper into the airway than cold-causing coronaviruses” can.
Differently from the death rate of around 10% of SARS and that of ~30% MERS, the fatality rate of the 2019-nCoV is ~4%. So far, the patients who have passed away were often people with previous organ challenges and other health conditions. The large number of those infected without pre-existing serious health conditions are much less vulnerable. In other words, those with weaker body systems and lungs that are infected are in much more danger. Much of the virus’ spread has been within the hospitals themselves. Forty-one percent of people have been infected at the hospital, which demonstrates the virus’ ability to pass between people in a close setting.
The World’s Response
A crucial distinction to make is that the people of Wuhan are not to blame. The virus is not selective based on race or any factor. The virus infects those within close proximity through human transmission. A huge amount of xenophobia has arisen across the world towards people of Chinese descent. Rather than listening to the science behind the virus, the internet and word-of-mouth has spread fear. This fear has mounted to such an extent that it has been directed towards China. Those afraid of the virus are alienating Chinese people across the globe and marking them as dangerous. This fear has caused China to face great economic and social repercussions. Dr. Joseph Wong, the founder of the Chinese Canadian National Council, perfectly sums up the rising discrimination: “People are not acting with evidence and face, people are acting with fear and panic”.
Steps Forward as Individuals
In conclusion, the coronavirus is a rising case on the social and scientific front. Ever since the virus became an increasing issue, I have heard many opinions based in fear rather than in science. Whenever I’m involved in conversations with others, I feel responsible to help create a better understanding of the issue. Directing blame towards a group of people as a way to cope with fear is completely unwarranted. As the coronavirus worsens, it will be crucial to support those around us in any way we can. The first step is educating ourselves.