Experts in the field have warned for years that a major disease outbreak and subsequent pandemic is overdue. It seems they may be proven prophetic with the explosion of the new coronavirus in China.
Having already spread to over 25 countries including the entirety of the West and infected anywhere from the official number of 20,000 confirmed cases to higher unofficial estimates of several hundred thousand this nasty virus has people worried and stocking up on masks and gloves.
And worried they should be. This new coronavirus has killed over 400 people worldwide. It doesn’t seem like much, but many more will surely die before this outbreak is quenched.
Many citizens around the globe and more than a few experts worry this could turn into a proper pandemic. You don’t have to be dealing with the Black Death for a pandemic pose a serious risk to health, to say nothing of your way of life.
In this article we are giving you everything you need to know about the Coronavirus: how it started, where it is spreading, and its symptoms and your chances if you catch it.
Table of Contents
Meet the New Germ, Same as the Old Germ
The reporting name in the media for this coronavirus is, er, the Coronavirus and is somewhat misleading. Coronaviruses are a class of virus, a category; it is not a proper name of a specific strain.
The actual temporary reporting name of this strain of coronavirus is 2019- nCoV (2019 Novel Coronavirus). If it goes on long enough or becomes bad enough it is likely to earn a catchier moniker.
All you need to know about coronaviruses is that they typically cause disease in animals which are sometimes capable of “jumping the gap” of infectivity to affect humans.
The majority will only cause symptoms akin to a cold or mild flu. Some of them though are worse. Far, far worse. Some are so bad you’ll have about a one-in-three chance of dying should you contract it.
Make no mistake, this outbreak is very serious and will likely get worse before it gets better.
But before you go racing off to dunk yourself in a livestock trough full of hand sanitizer, assess the situation. First, it will probably do you good to relax a little bit: this particular coronavirus is nowhere as severe as two of its cousins you have doubtless already heard of.
The first is the infamous SARS, or Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome. The other is MERS, or Middle East Respiratory Syndrome. Both of these bugs are serious killers, and have been around longer.
Even compared to something relatively pedestrian like the flu virus (H1N1, H1N2, other subtypes) this novel variant of the corona virus is far less lethal according to all projected models.
The CDC estimates that various flu strains are responsible for anywhere between 140,000 and 180,000 hospitalizations annually and a shocking 12,000 to 61,000 deaths.
But where the coronavirus in question and others like it supersede the flu is in sheer virulence; the coronavirus shows itself to be far more communicable under more circumstances that most strains of flu, and this “eagerness” to spread is what might see it turn into a far worse taker of lives than the annual flu season.
Interestingly, it is currently thought that all of these coronaviruses began in bats before jumping to humans via other mammals, cats in case of SARS and camels in the case of MERS.
The current novel coronavirus is unique in that it is thought to have gone directly from bats to human infection through the eating of bats, which is not altogether uncommon in China.
2019- nCoV Symptoms
As mentioned, most coronaviruses won’t do anything worse to you than a common cold or a mild flu would. Symptoms include:
- Raspy breathing
The 2019- nCoV strain is a bit more potent, though. Actually a lot more potent. You can definitely expect:
- Severe cough
- Sore throat
- Raging fever
- Labored breathing.
- Severe symptoms include:
- Kidney failure
The incubation time of this strain is uncertain, with some sources sighting anywhere between 2 and 10 days, and others saying two weeks.
What is known however is that there is evidence that asymptomatic people, meaning people who have contracted the virus but are not showing any signs of major illness, are capable of spreading the virus. This can make halting its spread and containing it extremely difficult.
While far less severe ounce for ounce than its cousins MERS and SARS described above, this is still a serious virus that poses a substantial health risk, and could become the next global pandemic if we aren’t lucky.
Even with a fatality rate hovering around 2% to 3%, if hundreds of thousands, or millions of people get infected that can result in a substantial body count.
Origins of the Outbreak
Wuhan, Hubei Province, China. Population: 19 million (metro area). The Wuhan Coronavirus is suspected to have infected its first human in the Huanan Seafood Market, a place where you can purchase any kind of animal from live wolves, crocodiles, peacocks and even koalas, all intended to be eaten.
If you’re unfamiliar with Chinese meat markets, sometimes called wet markets, they are places that will give any American food safety inspector screaming nightmares, and are uniquely novel and high-risk places where new and dreadful viruses can make the jump to from beast to man.
Regardless of whether or not the Huanan Seafood Market is ground zero for the coronavirus, it is almost certain that some kind of live-animal market was. Presently, U.S. and Chinese authorities agree on that much.
In these places, animals of all kinds, live and dead, are sold freely in crowded, jam-packed streets from a variety of storefronts and carts. Live animals are often butchered on-site right alongside the dead ones.
Proper sanitary controls are scarce to nonexistent. While China is denying that bats are sold in these places photographic evidence shows bats being eaten in abundance in country.
Some postulate the Wuhan Coronavirus might have come from snakes, but this is unlikely. at any rate, it does not take much imagination to see how places so unsanitary and containing so many various species right alongside enormously dense masses of humanity is an ideal breeding ground for a viral outbreak.
Those who were infected in such places would not have known until it was way too late, going home and going about their businesses and lives for some time before initial symptoms even began to surface.
This is made even more troubling if you consider that this new coronavirus potentially is transmissible from person to person even if the infected is not displaying any symptoms.
We’ll examine the response and spread of this virus in the next section.
Spread and Response
The virus is typically spread by moist droplets ejected by the nose and mouth, i.e. from sneezing and coughing, though scientists are warning that all other bodily fluids including blood, urine and feces are likely to contain the virus as well.
This results in a high transmissibility writing from person to person, and the virus can linger on infected surfaces, though not for very long.
The coronavirus is currently roaring its way across China, and it’s already spread as far as the Philippines, Europe, and mainland America. So Far, Western countries are having an easy time quarantining and locking down the spread of the virus.
China is not so lucky, though they are trying; the Chinese Central Government did not react with appropriate measures to the initial discovery of the virus, and their assessment of its symptoms (definitely at odds with those of doctors and specialists) led to a sluggish and unimpressive initial response.
This flubbed opening move no doubt led to a large initial outbreak.
After initial cases of the virus started to skyrocket, China responded by locking down 10 cities in the central provinces. major travel bans are currently in effect, with bus, boat train and Subway Services suspended.
All outbound flights have been put on hold. There are scattered reports of roadblocks in some of these places. This was largely too late; the virus had almost certainly spread to other Pacific Rim countries including the Phillipines, Thailand and Vietnam.
The Chinese government is currently desperate to bottle up ground zero in Wuhan, and as effectively as possible lock the city down from within and without, encouraging its citizens to stay in their homes for at least two weeks and minimize all contact with others.
It is hoped this would give the virus time to burn itself out, or at the very least be enough time for the infected to start showing symptoms and then be dealt with accordingly.
Hospitals and healthcare in major Chinese cities have been completely overwhelmed with patients in the months following the outbreak.
The Chinese government had already begun building a brand new hospital with a 1,000 bed capacity just to deal with the gargantuan influx of patients suffering from the coronavirus infection:
Currently, the World Health Organization and the United States CDC are most worried that the coronavirus might reach India and parts of Africa.
These low income areas are still nonetheless global trade hubs, and very ill equipped for dealing with a virus outbreak of this magnitude. If the virus gains a foothold there, a true pandemic is all but certain.
At press time, American and European expatriates are currently locked down under quarantine in some foreign cities besieged by the virus.
Their tales are harrowing, and they remain detained despite coordinated efforts by their home governments to charter them out of the country and out of hot zones.
See the video below for one such account:
There is presently no cure for this novel coronavirus, just like there is no cure for any virus, including the common cold and the flu. The virus is treated by treating the symptoms and supporting the patient as best as possible while the body’s immune system takes time to gather its strength and do its thing.
Palliative measures include oxygen therapy provided by mask, monitoring and adjustment of blood chemistry and nutrient levels and, in severe cases where pneumonia has struck, possible ventilation.
This is especially troublesome in severe cases that result in pneumonia, as antibiotics and other typical treatments for bacterial infections are 100% ineffective. To be clear, there are currently no antivirals or any other medicines that will work on this coronavirus strain.
Is the nature of viruses in general and this virus in particular to be so severe for the very young and the Very Old, since their immune systems are either not fully developed or worn-out respectively.
Medical researchers and scientists in the United States, United Kingdom and China have begun working on one. China has made a bit of a breakthrough in blueprinting the virus’ genetics, and has helpfully shared it with their counterparts in the West.
Don’t celebrate too early though: a proper, working vaccine is still months away with the most optimistic projections, and even if it is developed will need to go through trials before it is ready for primetime in the public.
Currently, your only defense against this coronavirus is following strict hygiene protocols and avoiding people. Once infected, quarantine and symptomatic care is all that can be done for it. Those suffering severe infection will need to be isolated.
Protecting Yourself from Infection
It must be emphasized that you have no medicinal protection against the Coronavirus! That means you’ll have to rely on old-fashioned manual methods, pun intended. your first, best and perhaps only line of defense is washing your hands regularly, religiously and well along with keeping your distance from people.
Just like any other bug, specifically cold and flu viruses, you’re likely to contract a virus when someone who is already infected coughs or sneezes.
If the droplets miss you and land on a nearby surface you can still contract the virus if you touch that surface and then touch your own skin, specifically vulnerable points like the mouth, nose and eyes.
Likewise, if you must sneeze or cough, be consistent about directing it into your sleeve, a tissue or a handkerchief so you do not unwittingly sow the pathogen in shared surfaces or on someone else.
Therein lays the solution: keep your hands washed and stop touching your face! Also keep away from anyone who you suspect to be infected.
This is easier said than done even when you remind yourself to not touch your face since the average person touches their face anywhere from 10 to 20 times every single hour. Nonetheless, it must be done.
Here are some other things you should institute into your antiviral protocols to make sure you don’t get infected with the Coronavirus:
- Keep your hands washed and for extra insurance carry and make frequent use of alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- Stop hugging, kissing and shaking hands for the duration of the outbreak.
- Keep all commonly used surfaces and regularly carried devices and tools sanitized; clean and disinfect them on a regular basis.
- Do not share food, period.
- Disinfect arms up to the elbows and your face prior to eating.
- Make use of tissues to cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze. Dispose of these used items carefully as they may contain viral microbes if you are unknowingly infected.
- Avoid if at all possible busy, crowded places and transit hubs- planes, trains, buses. Etc.
- Be especially wary of anyone who has been in or around China recently.
- Keep the air in your home and office dry and keep the air circulating; viruses and bacteria will have a harder time thriving in these environments.
Contagion, Mutation and Other Concerns
Viruses are highly mutagenic, and coronaviruses are no different. One major fear is that since this coronavirus has started to make itself at home within human hosts it will mutate, better adapting itself for infection or transmission from person to person.
In fact, it has already started doing that. While the likelihood of a mutation sparking a sort of wildfire outbreak of virus is low, the ramping up of either lethality, transmissivity or both is not out of the question.
Several historic outbreaks of viruses turned into epidemics or even global pandemics after a chance mutation saw the virus’ effects go from bad to worse.
Any virus that can infect quickly, take effect quickly, and present a high mortality rate is the stuff of nightmares, possibly even the end of the world as we know it.
Is this new coronavirus that harbinger? No. Might it be? We’ll have to wait, pray and see…
Even with modern nations bringing all possible resources to bear on containing and mitigating this virus, it will only take a few chance mutations or a single person to ferry the virus into a suitably underprepared and underdeveloped nation for catastrophe to result.
We might be facing a proper pandemic, and that means that things are going to get a whole lot more interesting.
We are talking mass evacuations, mandatory lockdowns, travel restrictions, the works. Basically, the same stuff we are seeing happening round the clock in China will be happening in most Western nations, too.
Let’s say you live in a populated area when the coronavirus is detected and confirmed. If the rest of the world has already been laboring under sustained assault and pandemic protocols, you can be sure the government is going to sweep in no time.
Remember: right now, this germ can kill. It might be far more lethal in the future. If you are flat-footed and unprepared when the order comes down, it will likely be too late.
There are people in China who have been bottled up for weeks without any resupply. A child even died because his dad was quarantined and there was no one to take care of him. Serious stuff.
You need to prepare right now before the virus has a chance to turn into a proper plague. Most of you preppers reading this are probably ready right now or at least real close to it. If you aren’t, time to act.
You will want copious supplies of food, water, medicine for common ailments, and lots and lots of disposable gloves, disposable face masks, absorbent media, bleach, heavy duct tape and plastic sheeting. You will need all of the above to self-sustain and survive what comes next.
You should expect to keep yourself and your family totally buttoned up for the duration. It is the only way to minimize the chances that anyone will track germs in from the outside world.
The bleach cleaner will help you sanitize any and all surfaces in your home, along with items and devices you commonly use. The plastic will let you seal off vulnerable points in your home’s exterior or create airlocked quarantine rooms for the keeping of sick or suspect members of your group. Remember that most bugs are spread by body fluids.
You should also prepare yourselves to ward off the desperate and the opportunistic that always seem to surface around times like these. Expect criminality and looting to increase.
You will need weapons, preferably those that will allow you to keep your distance from any hostiles like gun or pepper spray, flashlights and a solid plan. The gear does no good without the training.
Also, make sure you are able to decontaminate in the aftermath of a fight; it is likely you will need to clean up infectious fluids if you weren’t splashed with them.
Another point of consideration you’ll need to think about now is how you will deal with any strangers that might need help. Will you risk breaching your own seals and quarantine, risking infection, to help someone in need?
If you do, what will you do with them, how will you handle them? Do what you will but for goodness sake think it through now, not in the heat of the moment.
The new Wuhan strain of the coronavirus is not nearly as lethal as its predecessors, but it is still a highly dangerous infection with a good chance to turn into a global pandemic.
It is in your best interest to learn what you can about this virus and keep a sharp eye on the developing situation. If things do take a turn for the worse, you should be prepared to lockdown for a lengthy time.