It’s a relief to know that the virus that has broken out and caused many deaths in China — “novel coronavirus pneumonia” or NCP — commonly called “coronavirus” — hasn’t yet become a major problem in the United States. And it’s a relief to know that our medical authorities are taking proper, competent steps to keep it that way.
That’s not to say that the deadly virus hasn’t touched us. So far, 12 people in the United States have been reported infected. Another 13 Americans are among 64 confirmed cases on a cruise ship anchored off the coast of Japan.
And one American citizen — a 60-year-old — died Thursday at Jinyintian Hospital in Wuhan, on mainland China, the U.S. Embassy said Saturday.
The spread of the virus is much more serious in mainland China, where some 35,000 have been confirmed as being infected and another 28,000 suspected cases were reported Saturday.
As of this writing, 723 Chinese deaths have been recorded, 86 in one day alone.
Worldwide, more than 40,000 cases have been reported in more than 25 countries.
And though the World Health Organization has found that 82% of the cases were “mild,” that leaves 15% that they call “severe” and 3%“critical.” That 3% equals quite a few people.
No later than today, a WHO-led international team should be on its way to China to conduct an investigation of the outbreak, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said last week. Tedros says he hopes the team will include officials from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
And several U.S. institutions with contacts in the Chinese mainland, including businesses and universities, are discouraging or canceling trips to China to help contain the virus.
Chinese authorities are increasing the production of face masks that prove somewhat effective in stopping the spread of the virus, and the General Motors partnership in China in joining the effort.
Though we often think of ourselves as political and economic rivals, the U.S. has partnered with China in many endeavors, especially in the business arena. Our sympathy goes out to the Chinese people.
Needless to say, as connected as our world is now, preventing further deaths in China could help prevent deaths here and elsewhere.
Back in North Carolina, a more immediate problem faces us as the flu continues to spread. As of Thursday, 63 North Carolinians had died from the flu, the N.C. Division of Public Health reported. Thirty-seven of those victims were 65 or older; 15 were ages 50 to 64; 10 were ages 25 to 49; and one was 15. This year’s flu strain is especially virulent, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Last week, a seasonal peak of 5,729 flu-like cases had been reported in North Carolina for that week alone. Ashe County Schools closed Friday because of a flu outbreak on all of its campuses.
The most effective deterrent to the flu is the readily available vaccine — it’s not too late to get a flu shot. It also helps to practice good, healthy habits — exercise, adequate rest and nutritious diet — and to wash one’s hands frequently.
Anyone who experiences flu-like symptoms — a fever of 100 degrees or higher (though not everyone with the flu has a fever); a cough and/or sore throat; a runny or stuffy nose; headaches and/or body aches; chills, fatigue, nausea, vomiting and/or diarrhea — should see a doctor immediately, rather than risk one’s health or even life — or those of loved ones.