Coronavirus: The Fuel for Modern Fear

Coronavirus: The Fuel for Modern Fear

Kathryn Beilstein

COVID-19. The name itself strikes fascination. 

It could be the name of the next box-office smash hit movie, with some famous actor or actress gracing the silver screen. It could be the title of the next upcoming dystopian style novel, made to sell thousands of copies nationwide. 

COVID-19. The name was given to the novel strand of coronavirus that is currently devastating Wuhan, China. 

While the recent outbreak is unique, the coronavirus itself is anything but new. The coronavirus family is a grouping of viruses classified for their halo or crown-like glycoprotein projections. The virus typically infects species of animals. Though in some rare cases (such as the coronavirus SARS outbreak in 2002 and this recent COVID-19 outbreak), viruses in this family infect humans instead. The virus itself is therefore labeled as zoonotic. 

The recent outbreak of coronavirus has been speculated to have originated in the Chinese markets. These illegal seafood and live animal markets involve interaction between humans and animals infected. Recent testing of the makeup of the COVID-19 virus has shown that genetic sequences are similar to strands of the disease associated with both bats and pangolins. Though more recent cases have shown that newer outbreaks have involved people who have not had contact with live animals, indicating that the virus itself has been able to spread via person to person. Transmission of the disease is speculated to occur both through contact and inhalation of infected respiratory droplets. 

While the Wuhan market may have been shut down for cleaning, the virus has still been more than capable of spreading. Symptoms often involve fever, coughing, and shortness of breath. These symptoms vary in severity and can appear anytime between two to fourteen days after exposure, (a similar incubation period to that of the MERS coronavirus strand from 2012). The main problem with the virus is not necessarily the symptoms, but the complications that can come with being infected. These are often respiratory illnesses, but they can be especially deadly for the elderly, young, or those with pre-existing conditions. 

The world has been set in motion to fight this virus, which has already spread internationally. Some cases have spread across the ocean, with countries like the U.S. and Canada with reported cases. Without any containment to borders, the World Health Organization has made further research into COVID-19 a priority, as we may not have yet reached a peak in its activity. Still, there is reason for concern outside of complications of worldwide health.

Around the time of the SARS outbreak, China upheld a position as the sixth-largest global economic power. However, China has been able to grow since that time and has moved to become the second-largest economic power in the present day. In the time of the SARS outbreak, China felt a large dent in its economy as a result of the disease’s spread. While COVID-19 may have lower fatality rates, the virus spreads much quicker. This could mean there is a slight possibility China’s economy could take a significant blow. 

Though it may be too soon to tell if COVID-19 has the makings for a pandemic, there are preliminary precautions being made worldwide to ensure people’s safety. So far in the U.S., there is cause for more concern over the influenza virus. While there have been 53 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the United States, that holds nothing to the 45 million cases of confirmed influenza. And while there have been globally 2,708 confirmed coronavirus fatalities, the statistics are paltry compared to the 291,000-646,000 global deaths due to influenza. 

While there is cause for some concern over COVID-19, experts are not fully certain that the world will be facing a pandemic.