Take precautions, but keep threat of virus in perspective

Monday, March 9, 2020

The coronavirus crisis, like most similar events, is as much about perception as reality.

After health officials told us the most important things we can do are wash our hands and stay at home when we are sick, many of us responded by stocking up on toilet paper and bottled water.


Long overdue for a “correction,” the stock market has already given up a large fraction of last year’s gains, and dropped enough to stop trading for a time this morning in reaction to a feud among oil-producing countries.

At latest count, COVID-19 has infected more than 111,000 cases around the world, killing 3,892 people. About 564 people in the U.S. have been confirmed to have the virus, with 22 deaths, including 18 in Washington State, one in California and two in Florida.

Nebraska’s first case is a woman who traveled to the U.K., and two of her family members are presumed to have the virus, but she may have exposed many others in the state before being diagnosed. Several Nebraska schools are closing as a precaution as a result.

Public Health Nurse Melissa Prop reminds us “wash your hands thoroughly and often, cover your cough and stay home if you’re risk.”

Those same precautions are always in order for seasonal flu, the Southwest Nebraska Public Health Department registered nurse said, and that flu is still a risk to area residents.

Like nearly every other issue these days, politics has come into play with the coronavirus, with each side accusing the other of manipulations to use it for political advantage.

And, while we won’t downplay the importance of the danger of the virus and the need for precautions, some perspective is appropriate.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, while 22 people have died from COVID-19 in the United States, 480,000 people each year die from smoking -- which contributes to varying degrees in the other leading causes of death each year in the U.S.

That includes 730,000 who die from heart disease and stroke, 580,000 to cancer and 140,000 to chronic respiratory disease.

Some 130,000 of us die by unintentional injures each year, and while the CDC didn’t list obesity as a direct cause of death, it involves 34.3 percent of American adults 20 and over, making them more susceptible to sleep apnea, stroke, heart disease, pancreatitis, lung disease, liver disease, female disorders, gallstones, cancer, arthritis, inflammation, blood clots and gout.

Another 23,000 people die each year from antibiotic resistance.

Read a CDC report here: http://bit.ly/2IytJNa

Meanwhile, workers were reportedly being allowed to go back to work in Beijing today, where new coronavirus cases are tapering off.

It’s only a matter of time until that trend reaches our shores as well.

Until then, wash your hands, cover your cough, stay home if you don’t feel well and call your healthcare provider to see whether you might need something more than liquids, rest and over-the-counter pain relief.

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