Coronavirus no laughing matter

Since its rapid rise around the globe, people have been poking fun at the coronavirus because of its name and the lengths to which some people will go to prevent being infected.

But officials with the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say the disease is no laughing matter.

The virus has been named “SARS-CoV-2” and the disease it causes has been named “coronavirus disease 2019” (abbreviated “COVID-19”).

Coronavirus is a respiratory illness that can spread from person to person. Symptoms are similar to that of the flu, fever, runny nose, headache, sore throat and cough. Some patients get pneumonia in both lungs, multi-organ failure, and in some cases die from the disease. 

Let’s put into perspective just how this compares with other remarkable disease events in our nation’s history.

There have been about three influenza pandemics in each century for the last 300 years, the most recent one being the 2009 flu pandemic.

The 1918 influenza pandemic in the U.S. remains a benchmark for being the most severe in recent history. It was caused by an H1N1 virus. Although there is not universal consensus regarding where the virus originated, it spread worldwide during 1918-1919.  

In the United States, it was first identified in military personnel in spring 1918. It is estimated that about 500 million people or one-third of the world’s population became infected with this virus. The number of deaths was estimated to be at least 50 million worldwide with about 675,000 occurring in the United States.

As of Friday, there were 100,713 coronavirus cases; 3,412 deaths and 55,995 people who have recovered from the virus across the globe. But without a known cure at this time that number could skyrocket. 

People need to remember that advances in medical technology may lead us to a vaccine sooner rather than later.

Within two weeks of the recent outbreak, scientists had identified it as a coronavirus, sequenced its genome, and discovered that the most likely animal hosts were bats. This information, which was published by a Chinese team, was instantly shared across the scientific community, allowing research labs around the world to begin the long and complicated process of understanding the virus, and finding a vaccine and a cure.

The South Dakota Department of Health is being proactive in fighting the spread of the disease.

On Wednesday the DOH gave an informational briefing for the Legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee. Then, on Thursday, the DOH hosted a webinar for healthcare providers statewide about the coronavirus. They also have launched a website with information about the coronavirus at doh.sd.gov/news/Coronavirus.aspx

You can do your part to help curb the spread of the virus, said Dr. Joshua Clayton, South Dakota’s state epidemiologist.

“South Dakotans can help stop the spread of germs by washing your hands often, covering coughs and sneezes, cleaning surfaces regularly, and staying home if you are sick,” he said.

So, be safe, practice good health habits and take warnings about the virus seriously. This is no laughing matter.  

Black Hills Pioneer,

Editorial Board

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