By Arnold Bogis
The coronavirus is almost certainly coming to Buffalo. Even though the Chinese government took bold, unprecedented action to contain the virus, it didn’t stop the virus from spreading. This is evident as news of large numbers of patients emerge from South Korea, Iran and Italy.
Scientists are doing their best to determine how easily the virus spreads, if it can spread when there aren’t visible symptoms, and how severe or deadly it is. These factors taken together will determine how this story turns out. Currently, we know the virus spreads pretty easily, and it may do so when symptoms aren’t present or are very minor.
“It’s not so much a question of if this will happen in this country anymore but a question of when this will happen,” Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said this week in a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention briefing.
In the meantime, there are two key steps everyone can take before its possible arrival in Western New York: be careful where you get your information from; and act like you’re worried about the flu.
It’s a cliché to point out how the internet and social media have changed the ways we get, react to and share information. Trolls, bots and your retired uncle all compete for attention with doctors, scientists and other experts. Everyone likes to be on a team, and most of us get our news from sources that align with our political leanings. However, a possible global pandemic is not the time to yell “fake news.”
Get information directly from trusted sources like the CDC and the World Health Organization. Pay attention to news reports that interview scientists and doctors from respected institutions like Johns Hopkins and Harvard or, locally, UB and Buffalo General. Resist the urge to share or retweet articles and videos simply because they seem to “tell you what the government won’t.”
It’s still too early to know whether coronavirus will become a deadly pandemic. However, we should all take the same precautions we already do to avoid the flu. Wash or sanitize your hands often, especially after touching communal objects such as door knobs, shopping carts and elevator buttons. Don’t rub your nose or eyes. Practice proper sneezing and coughing etiquette, and avoid those who don’t.
If you haven’t, get a flu shot. It won’t protect you from the coronavirus, but it can decrease your chances of getting the flu. Vaccines are safe, influenza is not. Every new flu patient adds strain to the health system, making dealing with a possible pandemic even harder.
And yes, it’s still OK to eat at your favorite Chinese restaurant.
Arnold Bogis is an emergency preparedness consultant in Buffalo who works on health security and public health issues.
Story topics: Covid-19