Covid-19: think prevention, not panic


Photo by Jennifer Gerdes

Fiona Roach cleans her hands, showing how classrooms have been restocked with hand sanitizer and bacterial wipes.

Emily Sackley

Winter has become synonymous with flu season and scores of people rushing to get the flu shot to try to prevent it. However this winter, there is a worldwide concern surrounding the new Coronavirus, which is the cause of the disease Covid-19. 

Unlike the flu, there is no vaccine at this time to prevent this virus, and much about the disease is unknown. Many feel that the world is unprepared to handle this ever spreading outbreak, which is causing great concern and in some cases, hysteria.

There are many degrees of the panic surrounding the Coronavirus and Covid-19, starting with the fact that around the world, medical face masks, hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes are at times hard to come by. 

Taking the hysteria to a much higher degree, on February 21, violent protests broke out in Ukraine, fueled by misinformation on the outbreak. 

The trouble there started as a plane carrying evacuees from China landed in Ukraine on the 20. As the evacuees were preparing to be taken into quarantine, locals began attacking police and even tried to blockade the convoy carrying the evacuees, according to ABC News.

This violent conflict sparked more panic and outrage, and residents at the village of Novi Sanzhary set the buses’ tires on fire, smashed their windows, and barricaded the road. Officers battled with the protesters and had to use armored vehicles to clear the roads. 

In other towns, people blockaded hospitals out of fear that infection would spread if infected patients were admitted.

In reality, Ukraine didn’t have a single case of the virus at the time.

As cases of Covid-19 continue to spread around the world and within the US, the hysteria has snowballed. There are widespread reports of shoppers stripping supermarket shelves bare of canned goods, water, medicine, and toiletries and the stock market is plummeting.

The CDC has deployed staff members around the world as of the end of February. “Of these CDC staff members, 497 (37%) have been deployed to 39 locations in the United States and internationally, including CDC quarantine stations at U.S. ports of entry, state and local health departments, hospitals, and U.S. military bases that are housing quarantined persons, as well as The World Health Organization (WHO) and ministries of health around the world. CDC staff members are working with state, local, tribal, and territorial health departments along with public health authorities to assist with case identification, contact tracing, evaluation of persons under investigation.”

Common signs of infection include: respiratory symptoms, fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. In more severe cases, infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death.

To prevent infection, the WHO recommends: “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.”

Nazareth Administrators addressed parents this week via an email from Principal Therese Hawkins. “Nazareth has implemented the following as preventative measures for both flu and Coronavirus,” said Hawkins.

  • “Personal hygiene prevention reminders have been posted in all bathrooms and classrooms in the school.
  • All classrooms have been restocked with hand sanitizer and antibacterial wipes. Hand sanitizer dispensers are located in public areas of the school and are refilled as needed.
  • Our school nurse is tracking student absenteeism.  Currently, we have no cases of Coronavirus reported and our reported flu cases is very low.
  • The  entire school is cleaned on a daily basis. In addition, dining hall tables are wiped down after lunch periods and our evening cleaning crew is making sure to wipe down door knobs and handrails.”

To put this illness in perspective, the WHO estimates that worldwide, annual influenza epidemics result in an average of 500,000 deaths. The Global Burden of Disease estimates that every sixth death in the world is due to cancer, and around 9.56 million people died of cancer in 2017. 

As of March 9, Worldometer, an independent company that tracks and reports world statistics says of the over 111,000 cases, there are currently just over 3,800 deaths and over 62,000 people who have recovered from this novel Coronavirus infection.

Most recently, the 7th case was confirmed in Illinois. This after a Chicago Public School employee who recently returned from a cruise in Mexico was diagnosed as the 6th case last week.