Sorry, guys, but I am going to be continuing to post about the Wuhan coronavirus situation on this blog. Given my background as a flu prepper, and despite my attempts to inject some laughter into previous potential pandemics, everything I have seen and read so far indicates that this is situation which requires all hands on deck.
Given that this blog gets between 600 and 6,000 views per day, I am hoping that I can use my little soapbox to help bring other people up-to-speed as to what is happening out there in the real world. Yes, we in virtual worlds do tend sometimes to use them to escape aspects of reality that we would rather not have to deal with. I am certainly guilty of this myself, and I suspect some of you, my readers, are as well.
But as a librarian who works at a university science library, I owe it to you to make sure that you are connected to the best, most up-to-date sources of information to make the best decisions. So here goes. Expect a new blogpost with updated information and links every day.
First: You Need to Put Things Into Perspective
To put the current crisis into some historical perspective, and to understand terms being thrown around such as R0, read this informative 2014 article by the World Economic Forum, How Ebola compares with other diseases, which obviously does not talk about the Wuhan virus, but discusses and compares previous epidemics and pandemics over the years. At this point, we do not yet know the R0 of the Wuhan coronavirus (which is essentially, a measure of how easy it is to catch it from an infected person). Scientists are working to figure that out as soon as possible, however, based on the early spread of cases.
Second: You Need to Prepare
Watch this one-and-half-minute video from TIME magazine, excerpts from an interview with Hong Kong infectious disease expert Dr. Yuen Kwok-yung, explaining in a calm and credible way why you need to take this situation seriously:
I’m just going to cut and paste a good argument posted to the China_Flu subReddit discussion group:
I’ve noticed that there are two dominant mindsets on this sub when it comes to gathering emergency supplies.
Group 1 thinks something like, “It’s fear-mongering to suggest anyone go out and get supplies. It’s paranoid to go get emergency supplies.”
Group 2 thinks something like, “The world is about to end and so I need as many supplies as possible. Why won’t people recognize the emergency and give real advice?”
I figured that linking to what the CDC [U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] has already recommended for ages might be helpful.
Group 1 needs to understand that the CDC wants literally everyone to have emergency supplies even at the best of times, and has already tried over and over again to convince people to prepare for emergencies, including specific emergencies like flu pandemic, which they have explicitly mentioned many times. The only problem they’d have with you running out to get a hand cranked radio is that they think you should’ve gotten one a long time ago, not that they think preparation is paranoid.
Group 2 will have some actual guidance instead of just getting told to stop freaking out. Or instead of being swept up by actual paranoid suggestions like bankrupting themselves to order hazmat suits in bulk. The CDC does not recommend that everyone have a bizillion N95 masks, but they do recommend many things that lots of us might not even think about beforehand. (Like: how good is your can opener? Because canned food is no good if you struggle to open it.)
If you are in Group 1, likely nothing I say is going to convince you to prepare until it’s too late. If you are in Group 2, like me, someone who went crazy during the bird flu scare and stocked up on face masks, tinned food, and Tamiflu (which, by the way, will be completely useless against the Wuhan coronavirus), then some actual, credible guidance on what to buy is a good idea.
Here is the CDC’s Guide to Personal Health Preparedness, which includes sections with handy shopping lists on:
- Personal needs (food, water, toilet paper, first aid supplies, soap and hand sanitizer, garbage bags, etc.)
- Prescriptions (essentially, talk to your doctor and pharmacist about creating an emergency supply of your prescription medications, and stock up on some over-the-counter medications)
- Power sources (flashlight, extra batteries, car chargers and adapters for your mobile devices, a battery-operated or hand-crank radio)
Third: You Need to Stay Informed
The University of California San Francisco published this excellent article, an interview with infectious disease expert Dr. Charles Chiu: As Mysterious Coronavirus Spreads, An Infectious Disease Expert Explains What You Should Know:
Right now, we don’t know the transmission efficiency for the new virus. A case was reported from China where one patient apparently infected 14 health care workers at the hospital, and it’s possible that some patients, known as super spreaders, are more infectious than others. We don’t know whether that particular patient was a super spreader or whether this reflects the fact that this virus is already very efficient at human-to-human transmission.
Based on the reports, the symptoms of respiratory infection from 2019-nCoV are very similar to those from other coronaviruses: nasal congestion, headache, cough, sore throat and a fever. In some patients, these symptoms can worsen into pneumonia, with chest tightness, chest pain, and shortness of breath. If you’re elderly, immunocompromised, or if you have other comorbidities such as heart disease, liver disease, you are at higher risk of developing severe pneumonia and dying from the disease.
We also know that there are documented cases of human-to-human transmission as shown by the hospital-acquired cases, and evidence of sustained cycles of transmission, as evidenced by secondary infections in household members who were not exposed to the markets from which the initial cases originated. We also know that there have been deaths from this virus, the majority in older men with underlying health problems, but also in a healthy young man. So it’s definitely something to worry about.
Again, I stress: all the experts are telling you that you need to take this seriously.
Now, if you want a single-screen, up-to-date statistics panel, which shows you the current information on the spread of the Wuhan coronavirus, you’re in luck! The Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) at Johns Hopkins University has created a panel with the latest information (updated every day at noon EST), including a global map of reported cases which you can zoom in and out on:
Here are a few other good, credible sources of information on the Wuhan coronavirus:
- the World Health Organization
- the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- the U.K. Department of Public Health
- UPDATE 5:28 p.m.: Ontario Ministry of Health (Canada)
In addition to these official sources, there are two other places you can check, which might have reports (including translated links to local social media in China) that have not yet made the mainstream news media. Please keep in mind that some of the information you find here might be gossip, rumours, misinformation, or disinformation!
- The FluTrackers.com discussion forum
- The China_Flu subReddit
- UPDATE 5:05 p.m.: The Intelliwatch Discord server (invite link) is a geopolitical events and crises discussion forum that has two channels devoted to 2019-nCoV/Wuhan coronoavirus news and speculation.