The morning of December 31 started like any other day for the rest of the world, however, in the Chinese city of Wuhan, medical personnel identified a new strain of coronavirus, a viral family that infects the respiratory system.
On January 30, The World Health Organization (WHO) deliberated and decided to declare the current Wuhan coronavirus outbreak a global health emergency.
According to WHO Director-General, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the decision to declare the outbreak an emergency wasn't taken because of the rapidly growing number of cases in China, but because the expert panel was worried about the virus spreading to other countries.
The coronavirus outbreak has, as of today, claimed the lives of at least 362 people and infected more than 17,300 globally, as it continues to spread beyond China.
It has been reported that one person outside mainland China, a man in the Philippines, has died.
In India, 3 cases have been reported so far. The latest one is from Kasargod, Kerala. The second case is being monitored in an isolation ward in Alappuzha Medical College. The patient who first tested positive for coronavirus is currently hospitalised in Thrissur Medical College and her condition is stable.
All over the world, searches are being conducted for anyone coming from Wuhan, the central city at the epicentre of a deadly virus epidemic that has sparked fear -- even panic -- in China and beyond.
There are currently two contagious viruses plaguing the world and people's minds - the disease and our fear.
The disease is new. The fear, however, is not.
Both, however, need to be understood, because both are dangerous.
So far, the virus does not seem to be as deadly as the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), which killed 774 people from 2002 to 2003.
SARS had a mortality rate of 9.6%, whereas only about 2% have died from the new coronavirus.
But the number of people infected after one month has already surpassed the SARS outbreak's eight-month total.
According to Chinese officials, many patients of the new coronavirus have already made full recoveries, most of those who died were elderly or suffering other ailments that compromised their immune systems.
It Is The 'Unknown' We Fear
Psychologists are of the opinion that 'foreign' threats raise anxiety levels more than the familiar threats, and people tend to under-react to familiar threats.
We are prone to jump to conclusions based on the initial hints. We give in to the hysteria surrounding the new threat.
Studies show that risk in the modern world is confronted and dealt with in three fundamental ways.
Risk as 'feelings' refers to our fast, instinctive, and intuitive reactions to danger.
Risk as 'analysis' brings logic, reason, and scientific deliberation to bear on hazard management.
When our ancient instincts and our modern scientific analyses clash, we become painfully aware of a third reality—risk as 'politics.'
There is another phenomenon at play here, called the 'Social Amplification Of Risk.'
Being social animals, humans are programmed to be more attentive towards whatever a lot of other people are already paying attention to.
This is akin to a situation where, when everybody in the tribe looks in one direction, we consider it safer to look that way too, in case a potential threat is approaching from that direction.
Ergo, when the media houses and our social media timelines are being ruled by #coronavirus, that danger is where we automatically look, overlooking most other threats, despite them being far more dangerous.
Case In Point - The Flu
The flu is, without a doubt, a far more infectious and deadly disease, but since it is familiar, we tend to take it lightly.
Note that outbreaks like this do occur from time to time throughout the world. It is fairly normal.
While they can be very scary, the actual chances of you getting infected are very low, if you take precautions.
3 Ways To Cope With Coronavirus Induced Anxiety:
1. Refrain From Inflating The Risk
Our brains are wired to fixate on something that is made to sound scary and unknown. This inflates the risk of it actually happening to us.
Therefore, understand that the situation is not as bad as it seems.
Flu is far more infectious and has already claimed many more lives than Coronavirus.
2. Remember That Normal, Healthy Precautions Are Enough To Protect You
Coronavirus spread through everyday contact, through touch, a cough or a sneeze.
If you're sick, cover your mouth before sneezing.
If you're not sick, stay away from close contact with a person who is.
Engage in healthy habits when it comes to cleanliness, wash hands for at least 20 seconds.
Consume well-cooked meat only.
Maintain your immune system happy and healthy.
Have a balanced diet and get the right amount of sleep.
3. Overconsumption Of Media Should Be Avoided
The sensationalizing of coronavirus is a great opportunity for companies, as they work to scare you into believing that this outbreak is something you need to worry about constantly.
So, instead of playing into their hands, try to limit your consumption of media and stories related to the outbreak.
Scientists and public health officials are working overtime to better understand the virus and are looking at ways to limit its impact. The entire DNA sequence of the virus was coded in a couple of days and sent to research facilities all over the world. Have faith in their work and efforts.