Mad About Science: COVID-19

By Brenden Bobby
Reader Columnist

Preface: This article was researched and written on Monday, March 9, 2020. This is important, because by the time you’re reading this now, the numbers will have changed. In researching this topic, I used the World Health Organization website, as well as the Centers for Disease Control And Prevention website .

Youtube personality, board-certified family medicine doctor and real-life McDreamy Dr. Mike says it best: “Be alert, not anxious.”

COVID-19, commonly referred to as the novel coronavirus, is sweeping the headlines and blowing up everyone’s social media feeds. It’s a dangerous disease, but not for the reason you might expect. As the number of cases skyrocket on the news ticker, the level of misinformation, irrational behavior and hysteria explodes, leading to a host of bad reactions from racism to denying legitimately sick people access to health care they really need and much, much more. Tried to buy some toilet paper, recently? You can thank mass hysteria for that.

So let’s look at some facts from real doctors and researchers that spend their lives safely studying and treating diseases like COVID-19 instead of random clickbait on Aunt Sally’s timeline.

COVID-19 is the disease caused when someone becomes infected by the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus that popped up recently in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China. This is similar to how acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) is the disease that can occur when someone is infected with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). SARS-CoV-2 has been traced to bats, just like the SARS outbreak in 2003 and MERS outbreak in 2012, respectively. Both SARS and MERS are also beta coronaviruses.

The symptoms of the COVID-19 infection are very similar to that of influenza, presenting with fever, cough and shortness of breath. In some cases, aches, sore throat, congestion and diarrhea also occur. The important takeaway here is that more than 80% of people infected recover without specialized treatment.

The people most at risk for serious complications from COVID-19 are the immunocompromised, such as the elderly, people suffering from AIDS or are on lifelong immunosuppressant medication after an organ transplant as well as people that suffer from chronic high blood pressure, heart disease, lung cancer or diabetes.

These same facts are true of influenza, which rips through America every year and killed 34,200 people last year.

What is also true of both influenza and COVID-19 are the methods in which it spreads, and how you can prevent catching it with simple practices that take no extra time out of your busy schedule.

COVID-19, as with most respiratory diseases, is spread when the virus hitches a ride on respiratory droplets expelled by infected individuals during coughing, sneezing or cleaning mucus drainage from the nose. These droplets are microscopic and stick to our hands, which get transferred to uninfected people by shaking hands, hugging, kissing or any other social action humans do. 

Most commonly, the droplets are transferred to someone else’s hands, and that person will scratch their face, rub their eye or eat some food without having washed their hands, granting the virus a new host. The easiest way to prevent catching COVID-19, the flu or the common cold is with these three easy steps:

1. Avoid sick people. It’s flu season and we’re in the middle of a pandemic. Your friends will understand why you don’t want to high five, especially when one is hacking up a lung.

2. Wash your hands thoroughly. As Dr. Mike says: Wash your hands, including under your fingernails and between your fingers with soap and water for 20 seconds, or about as long as you need to sing the “Happy Birthday” song twice. Hand sanitizer is not a cure-all, and has actually been found to strengthen certain strains of resistant bacteria in recent studies.

3. Stop touching your face. I get it, when you’ve got an itch, you scratch, but hands-to-face contact is the primary means in which viruses spread from host to host.

These following tips won’t cure you, but will help your general health. Eat more fresh fruits and vegetables — I saw the empty snack aisles at the grocery store and I’m judging. Be more active. Now that the ice is melting away and the sun is coming out, it’s a perfect opportunity to walk, jog or just generally get your blood pumping outdoors. Drink and smoke less, preferably avoid it altogether. Take a little time off (especially if people are sick at work) and de-stress.

If you’re questioning some of my advice in this article for legitimacy, good. That’s the sign of a curious and skeptical mind, and statements in the public eye should be questioned. However, every source should be questioned. Just because someone is rich and famous, the validity of their statements should not be taken for gospel. Just because someone is on TV shouting at you doesn’t mean they know what they’re talking about. Ask yourself: “what do they have to gain by shouting at me?”

Most importantly: don’t believe everything you see on social media. In fact, don’t believe most of what you see on social media. If you need help disseminating facts, doing research and filtering out the steer manure from your social media feed, get help from your local librarians.

And for the love of all that is holy, please leave some toilet paper for the rest of us.

Stay healthy and curious, 7B.

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