FILE - This undated electron microscope image made available by the U.S. National Institutes of Health in February 2020 shows the Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2. Also known as 2019-nCoV, the virus causes COVID-19. The sample was isolated from a patient in the U.S. (NIAID-RML via AP)

Editorial: Back it off the panic button, but treat the coronavirus with respect

Covid-19 is a threat, but it’s not time to run for the hills yet

Just how scared should you be of COVID-19, the virus formerly known as coronavirus?

The answer lies somewhere between terrified and not at all.

That’s helpful, isn’t it?

COVID-19 is an infectious disease that can be fatal and it’s spreading around the world, hopping from country to country. It deserves some respect as a serious threat. On the other hand, health systems around the world are working hard to slow its spread and develop a vaccine, though that is likely months away yet.

In a way, it’s like the Y2K bug.

Remember at the end of the last century, we were concerned that computer systems all over the world would all crash as we entered year 2000? But when clocks rolled over to Jan. 1, 2000, planes failed to fall out of the sky, bank machines didn’t start randomly spitting out money and, civilization continued on as before.

The failure of civilization to end led some to believe that Y2K had been a hoax all along. Nowadays, people would call it “fake news.”

Nope. Y2K was a very real threat. But a lot of money was spent and there was a lot of hard work to patch or update vulnerable systems.

The same goes for COVID-19.

Left alone, it would likely become pandemic quickly. So the time is now to take measures, not to sit back and pretend it isn’t going to be a problem. Luckily, some of those measures, like washing your hands, are pretty simple and, hey, you’re supposed to be doing that anyway.

COVID-19 is about 20 times as deadly as the flu that we deal with every year.

It’s about as deadly as the 1918 Spanish flu — but that’s only about a two per cent fatality rate. In various Ebola outbreaks, death rates ranged from 25 per cent to as high as 90 per cent.

But even at a two-per-cent death rate, the Spanish flu was responsible for an estimated 40 to 50 million deaths. That’s nothing to mess with.

Especially here in Canada, there is no reason to panic.

But ignoring the potential of COVID-19 would be just as poor a response.

Now is the time, individually and as nations to take all steps necessary to prevent us from getting to that panic stage.

– Black Press Media


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