The problem with COVID-19

I didn’t want to write about COVID-19 because unless you’ve been hiding underneath a rock, or are on Big Brother Germany, you will have read at least half an article…or more on this disease that has for the time being, changed the way we connect with each other.

Just in case you have no idea what COVID-19 is and why it’s called COVID-19, here’s a short-as-it-can-be, summary. Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2, a.k.a. SARS-CoV-2 is the causative agent for COVID-19. The virus is genetically similar but different, to the coronavirus responsible for the SARS outbreak in 2003. Coronaviruses are so named because microscopically, these viruses have a spiky edge that looks like a crown. Coronavirus disease 2019, also known as COVID-19 is a therefore the disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

The virus is responsible for causing respiratory illness with symptoms identical to the flu such as a cough, fever and in more severe cases, pneumonia. As of today, the most affected country second to China where it was discovered, is Italy. In addition to this, as scientists learn more about this virus, a few things have been established:

1. While there is no vaccine, the global population will have to practice responsible methods of isolation and quarantine in order to minimize the spread of the disease.

2. The most at risk groups are the elderly and individuals with a compromised immune system. Therefore the measures that we take now are not just to protect ourselves but to protect a population of people with underlying immune illnesses who may only find this out in the midst of this pandemic.

When I first heard of COVID-19, I had to repeat to myself countless times, ‘do not panic.’ As the disease started to spread throughout Europe, I felt paranoia and anxiety creeping in as I thought about my husband who lives in the U.K. My anxiety levels were not helped by the the fact that in 2 weeks my husband was due to fly to South Africa. Prior to the president of South Africa announcing travel bans, I woke up on most days with a sick feeling in my stomach. The closer the disease got to South Africa, the more anxious I felt. Not necessarily because of the effect it would have on me, but the effect it could have on my parents, the effect it could have on a very large portion of the South Africa population who have a co-infection of HIV and the respiratory illness that IS the leading cause of death in South Africa, TB. At 29, (soon to be 30) I’m on the lower end of the spectrum but my social recklessness could lead to someone who isn’t in the low-risk category potentially contracting an illness that could be detrimental.

I am appalled at how people are increasingly revealing the inner racist/xenophobic moron (soz there’s no other word) that lives in them. In the early days of the virus, I saw a post on FaceBook illustrating Chinese people locked in a cage, while being laughed at by animals. Recently with Donald Trump referring to COVID-19 as the ‘Chinese virus’, I am realising that common sense, and intelligence is really not that common after all. There is a time and place to advocate for animal rights and the legislation that should be there to protect them. There is a time and place for lighthearted joking. When a disease has a death rate of ~3.6% with severe illness in 16% of all cases, you’ve got to activate the switch in your brain that rings loudly to tell you that NOW IS NOT THE TIME!!!

The problem with COVID-19 isn’t that we haven’t found a vaccine for it. The problem with COVID-19 is that people are using a global crisis to spew out the vitriol that is embedded in their hearts. If you’re wondering whether there is ever a time to be a racist moron…guess what? There never was a time. Furthermore, if I catch you on MY timeline spreading your moronic behaviour, I will not hesitate in reporting you, and then swiftly proceed to block you! If you have to ask yourself whether a post may be received as racist…it probably is!

As we are called on by leaders in our countries to exercise social responsibility, it is important that we heed to the measures being put into place. What does social responsibility look like? I’m glad you asked! Social responsibility means washing your hands due to the amazing ability (some people are only discovering now), that soap has to destroy the lipid layer of the virus, thereby preventing infection. Social responsibility looks a lot like coughing or sneezing into your bent elbow because COVID-19 can be present in the small liquid droplets released when someone coughs or sneezes, which may contain infectious virus material. If you’re on the receiving end of someone coughing in an uncouth way, you can breathe in the droplets, including the COVID-19 virus if the person coughing has the disease. Social responsibility looks A LOT like giving a damn not just because of how it can affect you, BUT most importantly the effect that your actions could have on others, and in the grand scheme of things, the economy. We are ALL responsible for what the world will look like post COVID-19.

As we tackle this pandemic, the spread of fake news cannot be ignored. My advice: IF you’re going to read anything, go to reputable sources: The World Health Organization, the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, and in South Africa, the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD). For the love of all things holy, stop reading articles from unreliable sources, stop using this pandemic as a reason for your racist illiterate traits. And please, listen to the people with the science degrees who ACTUALLY know what they’re talking about!

References:

Baud D, Qi X, Nielsen-Saines K et al. Real estimates of mortality following COVID-19 infection. The Lancet Infectious Diseases (2020)

Guan W, Ni Z, Hu Y et al. Clinical Characteristics of Coronavirus Disease 2019 in China. The New England Journal of Medicine (2020)

Ng O, Marimuthu K, Chia P et al. SARS-CoV-2 Infection among Travelers Returning from Wuhan, China. The New England Journal of Medicine (2020)

World Health Organization. Novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV): situation report – 12. February 2020 (https://www.who.int/docs/default-source/coronaviruse/situation-reports/20200201-sitrep-12-ncov.pdf?sfvrsn=273c5d35_2. opens in new tab).

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