Crowning a new king

January 31, 2020

Without a doubt, 2020 has started with a bang. At the time this article was written, there have been over 6,000 confirmed cases of and 133 deaths due to coronavirus worldwide, with the vast majority of cases being in China, according to the New York Times.  Unsurprisingly, coronavirus has hit the headlines, and speculations of a worldwide epidemic are rampant. Fortunately, being at Brandeis University, we seem to be relatively safe: according to the New York Times, only five of these cases were in the United States. Moreover, the closest case of the virus to Brandeis is in Illinois, which is a safe 1,000 miles away.

You may have heard of coronavirus before, but in a different context, and this is because coronavirus is actually a very common class of virus that has infected humans for a very long time. These cause illnesses such as the common cold. However, sometimes viruses that make animals sick can evolve to infect humans as well, such as in the case of 2019 Novel Coronavirus (the one that is causing panic). These are often very dangerous because our immune system is attacked by a pathogen that it has never seen before and does not have the proper tools to deal with.

However, despite the fact Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said the risk of coronavirus to the U.S. public is relatively low at a news conference, you wake up one morning with a scratch in your throat and an unrelenting cough. Your mind begins to race and, being the person you are, you immediately think that you have contracted coronavirus and that you are going to die within the next few hours. How do you know whether you actually have it or not?

Unfortunately, since this infection is extremely new, scientists and researchers are scrambling to research and make a vaccine against it. What this means for us is that there is not a lot of research done on the symptoms for coronavirus. What we do know, however, is that symptoms often include a fever, cough, shortness of breath and other general breathing difficulties, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

No matter the case, if you suspect that you have coronavirus, it is better to be safe than sorry. According to WebMD, you should stay away from other people as best as you can and contact your doctor to get tested for coronavirus as soon as possible. If you do have coronavirus, then you should not leave your home, except for medical care, and avoid other people as best as possible, even if you live together. To minimize the spread of infection, they also suggest covering your coughs and sneezes to prevent the virus from being airborne, washing your hands frequently, and avoiding sharing items with others. If it is absolutely essential for you to be in the same room as someone else, then it is best if you and the people you are interacting with are wearing facemasks to prevent the spread of infection.

With that being said, if you do not have coronavirus (which, at the time of writing of this article, none of us at Brandeis do), then the easiest way to prevent the infection is simply to not be in contact with anyone who has contracted it. Unfortunately, according to bbc.com, the incubation period for coronavirus is estimated to be 1-14 days (yes, the range is that big because of so little research), so someone could contract the virus and just not show any symptoms. In general, but especially while a fatal virus such as coronavirus is in the air, it is essential to wash your hands often and avoid touching your face and other orifices of your body.

Right now, all we can do is sit and hope that other individuals follow proper hygiene and avoid the spread of infection for coronavirus and that we can contain the virus before it causes an epidemic. As for now though, remember, you can use coronavirus as an excuse to avoid your friends who are all getting strangely sick (even if you just want an excuse to be home and do nothing).

 (Note: These articles are good-faith attempts to be helpful to the Brandeis community and are by no means to be taken as universal. This article does not replace the advice of a medical professional. This article is not written on behalf of the Brandeis Emergency Medical Corps (BEMCo) and is not affiliated with BEMCo in any manner.)

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