Tuesday, 17 March 2020

Some Thoughts on the Coronavirus Outbreak

As the sheer reality of the Coronavirus Outbreak has become apparent, I've had plenty of time to ruminate both on the nature of our preparedness itself and the challenges that such a pandemic actually puts on our society.

For my own perspective, I was one who thought that this viral outbreak in China would be rather similar to other outbreaks we as a society have faced in the past. Another shot in the arm to the WHO and various health organizations as predictions of mass death and social shutdown alarm us. Invariably these would all come to naught as global health agencies were able to crack down on the disease and some minimal social disruption. We would muddle through.

I was incorrect.

With the current outbreak we have seen a very fast spreading virus which shows, quite alarmingly, how unprepared our interconnected world is for the spread of a very infectious virus. While the current outbreak has nothing on the truly severe diseases of the past, especially the 1918-1920 Spanish Flu epidemic of one hundred years ago, it shows quite alarmingly how vulnerable we are to one similar to it. We are merely fortunate that the virus, while infectious, is not quite so deadly as it could be.

In my own experience this has been one which has been worse than either the SARS outbreak, or the H1N1 outbreak a few years ago. None of these caused, in my country at least, the widespread social disruption and shut downs as this current outbreak. I think that is probably a comfort mindset of "it only gets bad somewhere else" which I had become used to. This was a foolish error, and I ought to have prepared more accordingly.

Mind you, I did take precautions. I always have food on hand, I was well stocked in toiletries, and I made sure to cancel international travel plans. Fortuitous as the day of cancellation there was an outbreak right where I would be travelling to! I prided myself on some foresight for that one, but I did not pride myself on how little thought I had given to the outbreak in general. That was an error on my part.

Given the absolutely massive panic buying and hoarding going on the world over, I am happy I didn't have to make any extremely necessary trips to grocery stores right away. Truly, that same panic buying and hoarding of supplies proves that one of the most dangerous parts of any outbreak, or really any disaster, is human stupidity. People overreacting and putting their needs above others or simply making poor choices which adversely effect collective society as a whole. It is that kind of thing which is probably inevitable any time these crises pop up, and is arguably one of the most damaging. Almost as damaging as idiots who disregard social distancing to prevent the spread of the disease in the first place.

This article here though has also given me something to mull over. It exposes that in times of crisis we accept that certain issues we take for granted are very ridiculous. For instance, the American TSA is now allowing large bottles of hand sanitizer on planes, which begs the question was there any good reason for not doing so? There are many other issues put on display in the article which we, in any country, ought to ask ourselves why in times of crisis they can be relaxed but in normal times have to be encouraged? Food for thought.

As a final thought, if you haven't seen the film Contagion you should really take the time to go and see it on Netflix. It isn't meant to scare you, but it is a wonderful look at peoples reactions in a worst case scenario and how you can do yourself some good and isolate during times like these. The only scary thing you should take away is that the film presents a best case scenario for stemming the tide of infection. Viruses and vaccines can be tricky, and sometimes it takes time to fight them. So I encourage people to stay vigilant and stay safe, even in a regular flu season.

So please, wash your hands, cough into your elbow, and practice social distancing if you're concerned about being sick or getting sick. Stay safe everyone.

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