By Muna Al-Fuzai
In the past few weeks, everyone has followed the news of the spread of a new virus that leads to illness and death. This article is not medical or scientific, but it reflects general thoughts and concerns about the new coronavirus – a large family of viruses that causes illness. Common signs of infection include respiratory symptoms, fever, cough and breathing difficulties. In more severe cases, infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death.
The World Health Organization has declared the growing coronavirus outbreak in China to be a global health emergency. This announcement provoked the global community to respond quickly and galvanized resources of governments to do their best to stop the disease from spreading further across borders, which I think is needed until this virus dies out.
Although the numbers of those infected outside China are still relatively small, there is public concern that these cases hold the potential for a larger outbreak, because human-to-human transmission is a worrying matter, especially for many people who are not doctors or experts on how these viruses spread.
Various countries have implemented evacuation and quarantine plans for newcomers or nationals wanting to return from China, where the outbreak began in the city of Wuhan. Some researchers spoke to the media suggesting that if the transmission of the virus is reduced by a quarter, the outbreak’s growth rate would slow. The outbreak can also end with an invention of a new vaccine.
With the increase in the number of cases, reaching nearly 10,000 on Jan 31, people around the world started to buy more facemasks. So I believe it’s a fair question to wonder if we should buy a mask. Does it help? How can I protect myself from this virus that has no vaccine yet? These are legitimate questions.
There are some safety tips that were published for the public, which I believe is common sense, and people need to do it in all cases throughout the year to prevent all sorts of illnesses and not only this virus, especially in wintertime. This includes regular hand washing with soap and water or alcohol-based hand rub, covering the mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing and avoiding close contact with persons with cold or flu.
I personally use a face mask throughout the day, especially during winter, dusty weather or shopping in a busy mall to avoid contact with people with flu, because I don’t want to get sick. I believe that the best advice is to stay alert to updated information from reliable sources and certified medical statements and not panic or exaggerate matters.