Saturday, February 1, 2020

Talking About the New Coronavirus


Our subject this week is a favorite feel better recipe for the flu or other bugs. I can’t help you much because I favor sleep, a cup of hot sweet tea and chicken soup. Simple stuff with no recipe! I also get the flu shot without fail every year and have had all the various pneumonia shots.

It is a timely topic with the 'novel coronavirus' on the news right now, and everyone waiting to see if the relatively few cases (so far) outside China will turn into the great pandemic we’ve all been dreading for so long. On the one hand I feel like we’re living in the early pages of an End of the World As We Know It scifi novel (a genre I enjoy but have no desire to encounter in real life or to have anyone anywhere have to deal with)…and on the other hand, I’m clinging to Mark Twain’s old saying about most of the things he worried about never happening.

This outbreak seems to resemble the opening scenes in the 2011 movie “Contagion,” right down to the way the Patient Zero in that one caught the virus. “The wrong bat met the wrong pig...” as a CDC scientist says in the film. CNN published a list of movies with this kind of plot, should you be in the mood to see how the world fares in fictional mode, some plots being more realistic than others. Lucky for us there won’t be zombies or vampires rising from the after effects of the virus. I’m pretty confident of this.

(I‘d skip the scenes involving bone saws – just a word to the squeamish like me.)

I’d also add the TV series “Containment,” which only lasted one season but which dealt pretty effectively with the results of a deadly outbreak in Atlanta. Of course there were all kinds of conspiracy theory level shenanigans going on too in that one, which I don’t believe are happening here. As another scientist says in “Contagion”, “The birds are weaponizing the flu,” in answer to a question from the Homeland Security official as to whether someone intentionally set the virus loose in the world. All the wild animals and birds passing viruses back and forth are Mother Nature’s toxic laboratory at work.

I’ve been watching the excellent Netflix documentary “Pandemic,” which is not about the current coronavirus but everything the doctors and scientists are discussing is quite applicable to the situation we’re watching unfold today. (There was also a made-for-TV series with the same title in 2007 and there’s no connection.) The documentary “Pandemic” shows the amazing lengths to which scientists all over the world are going to try to study the evolving viruses in the nonhuman sector. It also shows what steep odds doctors are up against in developing countries and those with less than robust health care infrastructure.
These outbreaks have patterns, going back thousands of years. There’s a good article on detailing what they consider to be the Top 10 epidemics in history.

Yes, I’m kind of a geek on this stuff, but I think it’s good to know as much as a layperson can without getting utterly terrified, and to consider different scenarios.

I even wrote a scifi novel about a deadly epidemic breaking out on an interstellar luxury liner, STAR CRUISE: OUTBREAK. I did a lot of research into various viruses and other medical conditions which can seem similiar and created my own nightmare scenario for these travelers of the future.
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Here’s the website for the US Government’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which is a good source for updates. Here are the CDC’s tips for what a person can do to protect themselves, bearing in mind as yet there’s no vaccination for the novel coronavirus, nor is there a specific medication to cure it:
There is currently no vaccine to prevent 2019-nCoV infection. The best way to prevent infection is to avoid being exposed to this virus. However, as a reminder, CDC always recommends everyday preventive actions to help prevent the spread of respiratory viruses, including:
Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are not available.
Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
Stay home when you are sick.
Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.

Personally I think one of the most important things to remember is to avoid touching your face if you possibly can. The opening minutes of the movie “Contagion” are pretty chilling and true to life about how easily these viruses are transmitted  just by touching a cup, a credit card, or anything an infected person has recently handled and then touching you mouth, nose or eyes.

Additionally, some people are contagious with this new virus before they run a fever or show any symptoms at all, so the hand washing component of self-care is very important.

Wishing you good health!

1 comment:

  1. Ooo, I've got to check out that Netflix documentary! Viruses are my JAM!