Research-Walmaarts

The Progress of the Coronavirus

The date is December 31, 2019 and the coronavirus (COVID19) was identified at a local wet market in Wuhan, China. Wuhan is home to over 11 million people making it the one of the worst spots for the virus to start. Silently and undetected, the virus crept around China infecting thousands of people with flu-like symptoms and horrible respiratory and pneumonia effects. Being like the flu, the virus spreads very easily if not faster than influenza. The date is now January 20, 2020 and a cruise ship named the “Diamond Princess” docks on the coast of Japan. Multiple passengers are reporting flu like symptoms and a mandatory quarantine was held on the ship to ensure the virus was contained. The events that happened next shaped the coronavirus into what it is today. At the time, facts about the coronavirus were not yet confirmed and passengers were able to leave after a two week period of quarantine. Their method of travel after the quarantine was through commercial airlines. The incubation period for the virus is around 3-4 weeks meaning the virus can still be contagious within that 3-4 week period. With the average spread of the coronavirus being 3-4 people per every infected person, the coronavirus epidemic was born. On February 12, 2020, the United States reported its first death meaning the coronavirus was here to stay in the United States. These statistics may seem striking, but it’s important to look over the facts behind everything instead of acting irrational and panicking.  

To start with, the coronavirus is similar to the flu just with a higher mortality rate. Information from KWQC, a news outlet in Wisconsin,  quoted the CDC by saying that the mortality rate of the virus is around 2%, meaning that the whole population will not succumb to the virus. However, this is not entirely good news because the Spanish Flu had a similar fatality rate with far more devastating effects than early days of the Coronavirus. This silent killer, known as the Spanish Flu, infected 500 million people while killing nearly 50 million in its duration throughout the world. It is important to take into account the historical aspect and lack of technology that was around during the time when the Spanish Flu was running rampant. Now, doctors are devoted in coming up with vaccines and treating those with severe cases. In addition, the mortality rate per age group varies. For example, 10-19 year olds have 0.1% fatality rate (which is lower than the flu) whereas people over 80+ have a 14.8% fatality rate. While this is not ideal for the elderly, it shows that survival is within reach. Another piece of information to be aware of is the amount of people that die from the flu compared to casualties caused by the coronavirus. Currently in America, mass panic is already flooding the streets and popular news outlets. According to the President of the United States and the World Health Organization (WHO),  the flu kills on average “27,000 to 70,000 people per year in the United States”.  As of now in the United States, the coronavirus has affected “523 people with around 25 deaths”. While the virus is likely to develop exponentially throughout the upcoming months, worldwide panic may not be the most reasonable way to handle this situation.

Arguably, the United States has one of the best healthcare systems in the world. This is clearly shown when fighting the novel coronavirus. In other countries such as China, hospitals had to be constructed because of the overpopulation in Wuhan. On the other hand, in the United States hospitals are open and available for treatment as people contract the virus. With new information coming out daily about death rates, United States’ hospitals can manage their patients and only accept severely ill patients. According to an article from The Washington Post, “The fatality rate of the virus is expected to be in the range of 0.1 to 1 percent.” These numbers are nowhere near other countries. Italy (the epicenter of the virus in Europe) reports that death rates are reaching upwards of 3-4 percent. On top of this, other reports say that the virus results are being skewed by the first week due to the lack of preparation by the Chinese government. In the same article, the World Health Organization, Chinese reporters, and six United States reporters announced that: “People who became sick in the first 10 days of January experienced a 17.3 percent death rate, but among people developing symptoms after Feb. 1, the fatality rate has been 0.7 percent”. This means that about 1 in every 1,500 people will pass from the virus. This information could mean one of two things: The virus is slowing down and weakening as time goes on, or the United States and other countries health care systems are evolving and conquering the virus. These possible outcomes are promising in the sense that the world can collectively fight off the novel coronavirus.

In the meantime, it is still important to take the proper precautions to prevent the spread of the virus. To combat this, coronavirus testing just became available at the local level . According to an article written by Brett Samuels and Jessie Hellmann from The Hill, states that “Two point one million tests will be shipped by Monday to commercial labs”. These tests would then “translate to roughly 850,000 patients who could be tested”. This is crucial in containing the virus and preventing further cases from infecting people. As time progresses, the limit for tests in the United States will not be 850,000 as more test kits are being created by the CDC and other third party manufacturers, which can drastically limit the spread of the virus.

In the end, it is highly unlikely that the coronavirus will kill off the entire population. However, during times like this, people must come together, stay calm, accept any closures, and follow quarantine procedures. 

The date is now March 30th and information about the coronavirus has changed quite a bit. The United States is now the world’s leader in coronavirus cases passing Italy, Iran, and other countries. Americans are forced to stay at home, on top of school and business closures.  How did this happen?

To start, the coronavirus is similar to the flu in some ways but can cause mass infection and death, which are not commonly associated with strains of influenza. The symptoms of both the coronavirus and the flu can often overlap causing confusion for people with symptoms. According to the CDC, symptoms of the flu include “fever, cough, sore throat, muscle aches, headaches, runny or stuffy nose, fatigue and, sometimes, vomiting, diarrhea and pneumonia”. These symptoms are the exact same as the coronavirus, which makes it difficult to decipher which is which. On paper, the coronavirus looks like a copy and paste clone of the common flu, but the virus has one more trick up its sleeve when it comes to transmission. According to an article by Hopkins Medicine, “Both can be spread from person to person through droplets in the air from an infected person coughing, sneezing or talking.” The difference comes in aerosols. According to the same article, “COVID-19 might be spread through the airborne route, meaning that tiny droplets remaining in the air could cause disease in others even after the ill person is no longer near.” This means that a non-infected person could be exposed and infected with the virus without the presence of an infected person nearby. This makes everyday tasks become impossible, which has led to massive shutdowns of businesses, schools, and restaurants. The rapid transmission of the virus has led to millions of Americans cooped up in their homes, only allowed to leave for essentials like gas and groceries.

Currently, this is the condition of America, but scientists say that this could have been prevented. The president of the United States closed the borders to China, cutting off what the public thought was the only way of entry, but refused to quarantine and close businesses and events. The president later tweeted “So last year 37,000 Americans died from the common Flu. It averages between 27,000 and 70,000 per year. Nothing is shut down, life & the economy go on. At this moment there are 546 confirmed cases of CoronaVirus, with 22 deaths.” This statement heavily downplayed the virus which led to Americans traveling and going on with their lives, while European countries started to heavily contribute to the sheer number of cases that came to follow. Before the United States was the most infected place on Earth, borders could have been closed and quarantine measures could have been put into place. The hesitation and uncertainty of the president led to the mass amounts of death and panic based on misconceptions comparing the flu to coronavirus. 

Finally, vaccinations have a huge part to play in comparing the coronavirus to influenza. Every year, many Americans get vaccinated for the flu shot. Wikipedia states, “A vaccine typically contains an agent that resembles a disease-causing microorganism and is often made from weakened or killed forms of the microbe, its toxins, or one of its surface proteins”. Due to the constant need of flu shots every year, Americans have built up a response to the virus via a system called antibodies. This can “slow the spread” and give doctors an idea how to prepare “vaccinations against expected strains” of the flu. The same cannot be done when the coronavirus was introduced. The Jackson Laboratory states: “They have been known to be infectious for decades but were initially recognized for only mild illnesses such as the common cold.” Although the type of virus has been around for years, no attempt at a vaccine for the coronavirus has ever been developed in the United States as it was not needed. The only other coronavirus that is infectious, is the common cold, but it usually causes little to no deaths. Up until this point, there was never a need to develop a vaccine for any type of the coronavirus making the process even harder. This stops the flu argument right in its tracks. With no known vaccine or antibody treatment, the virus continued to spread while guidelines from scientists were ignored and schools remained open furthering the spread of the virus. It is not realistic to blame the problem on one person. Little was known about the virus at the time and it was a plausible thought to think that the coronavirus and influenza were similar. Now that the facts are known, Americans should follow guidelines and stay inside to prevent the spread of the virus. This problem will go away but not without the help of Americans. Because the virus is so serious, steps must be taken so that life can continue as usual. This can be achieved by staying home and listening to local and state guidelines about the coronavirus. 

As time progressed more knowledge about the virus became present to the public causing the public to stop down playing the virus. During these times of uncertainty is when scientists believe spread on the virus started to take effect. In the future pandemics and disease will be taken more seriously around the world and the public’s perception will change greatly. But points can be looked at that support the fact that with the lack of information COVID (in its early stages) strongly resembles the flu.

The president of the United States stated in late February that “The flu, in our country, kills from 25,000 people to 69,000 people a year. That was shocking to me.” This information isn’t entirely wrong. In fact an article from health.com states, “Overall, the CDC estimates that 12,000 to 61,000 deaths annually can be blamed on the flu.” This information convinced a lot of Americans that COVID was nothing to worry about. At this point in time to think this was normal. With the lack of information from China and the faulty testing kits in the United States. We never really knew the real severity of the virus.

Making statements comparing the virus to flu prolonged the exposure to the virus by downplaying it. With so much changing information and lack of testing in the United States. Counties and States had no good reason to shut down when looking at the information of confirmed tests in a particular area. According to an article by Live Science “The first case occurred in a 35-year-old man who was tested on Jan. 19”. This was the first known case inside of the United States. This should have been used as a warning sign to politics and other Americans but during this time it was thought that this man traveled to Europe or an infected area and contracted the virus. Transmision of the virus at the time was thought to still be through touching a contaminated surface. Later on the CDC changed this to state “COVID-19 is able to be spread through the airborne route.” Meaning that infections were popping up in places that the United States never knew about. Since only one case was reported at the time life went on as usual. Events like the Super Bowl, National Championship and multiple hockey and basketball games continued to pack arenas and stadiums with potentially infected people. With the thought that the flu and COVID were very similar the virus was thought to spread all around the country in the months of February and March.  The only problem was there was no way to find out. With the thought still drilled in the majority of the public’s mind life remained normal when in reality the virus spread like wildfire. To put things in perspective the virus was known to be in the United States started January 15th. An article by Life Science claimed that “the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in early February distributed 200 test kits.” When the virus starts in January and only 200 test kits are sent out, the probability that more cases exist than the ones reported get higher and higher.  On top of this during this time period COVID was misidentified as the flu which could’ve led to mass amounts of infected people. The CDC stated on their website that, “Elevated influenza-like-illness is likely related to COVID-19.” meaning that in late February elevated cases the flu really just spiked the cases of COVID-19.

The public and other politicians thought that the flu and coronavirus were similar and cost the United States so valuable time in determining the severity of the virus. But information at the time supported their claims. According to a symptom list by Hopkins Medicine. The flu and COVID share around 7 known symptoms. These can include “ fever, cough, body aches and fatigue; sometimes vomiting and diarrhea” along with pneumonia. This prompted some individuals to think that the viruses were both similar. 

The thing that the public didn’t take into account was the transmission. For every one person infected with the flu it is predicted that one more person will get infected. But on the other hand the coronavirus statistics are that for every one person three new people get infected. This may not seem like a lot but when repeated multiple times the virus gets harder and harder to contain. Let’s talk numbers. If you were to repeat the chain 10 times meaning 1 person infects another person. The number of infected people would be  10 people. With coronavirus it’s quite different. If you were to repeat the chain 10 times but now with the proper infection rate of 3 new people infected per every one person now 31 new coronavirus victims. The numbers only get worse as time goes on unless proper guidelines are put into place.

In conclusion, the United States and other countries will get through these tough times. Knowledge will be acquired. States and other countries will ease restrictions and life will be back to normal. 

References

CDC has tested 1,583 people for coronavirus.” The Hill. 8 Mar. 2020. Web. 10 March 2020.

CDC Reports 13 Million Flu Cases.” ContagionLive. 22 Jan. 2020. Web. 10 March 2020.

There’s a Virus Spreading in U.S. That’s Killed 10,000: The Flu” U.S.News 7 Feb. 2020. Web. 10 March 2020.

U.S. coronavirus fatality rate could be lower than global rate so far” Washington Post 6 Mar. 2020. Web. 10 March 2020.

I’ve Been Diagnosed With the New Coronavirus (COVID-19). What Should I Expect?John Hopkins 15 March. 2020 Web. 18 March 2020

Influenza vaccineWikipedia 15 March 2020. Web. 15 March 2020.

Italy demand help from European Union as crisis deepensGlobal News 15 March. 2020 Web 18 March 2020

Is the Coronavirus Worse Than the Fluhealth.com. 17 April. 2020. Web. 19 April 2020.

Coronavirus was circulating in France in DecemberLiveScience 14 April. 2020. Web 15 March 2020.

CoronavirusCDC 15 April. 2020 Web 17 March 2020

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