With the emergence of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, has come a worldwide panic fueled by sensational headlines, misinformation and a failure to keep things into perspective. COVID-19 should absolutely be taken seriously. We should be doing everything we can to prevent the spread of the disease and watch out for those who are most vulnerable like the elderly and immunocompromised. However, there is a very important thing we need to remember as we navigate through this strange and disorienting time: WE WILL GET THROUGH THIS.
As far as pandemics go, this isn’t humankind’s first rodeo. History has taught us that we are a clever and resilient species. Through similar experiences we have learned to identify viral diseases. We’ve developed vaccinations, antivirals and anti-biotics. We have discovered the importance of hygiene and how vital it is to stop the spread of disease. We continue to learn more about how nutrition impacts our immune defenses and we will continue to learn more about ways to keep ourselves safe and healthy.
In 1918 the world suffered one of the deadliest flu seasons in recorded history. The influenza pandemic claimed about 50 million lives worldwide with about 500 million reported cases. Unfortunately, at that time scientists didn’t know viruses caused diseases and as such, there were not many lines of defenses. Though this was a devastating period in history, the pandemic did end about a year and half later mostly due people developing higher immunity levels.
In 2009 a new type of flu known as the H1N1 strain emerged infecting nearly a quarter of the global population with recorded deaths over 284,000. The H1N1 virus was fast moving, highly contagious and as a novel strain, humanity had zero immunity against it. However, by the end of that year, scientists developed a vaccine and the pandemic ended in August 2010.
An estimated 9% of seasonal flu infections are reported worldwide every year which claims up to 600,000 deaths annually. To combat this, we have vaccines, antivirals and many of us have residual immunity from experiencing the flu in the past. We are still in early observation of COVID-19 and though it seems to have a lot of commonalities with the seasonal flu the concern is that it is spreading faster and may have a slightly higher mortality rate, but we need to be patient and wait for more analysis to fully understand the impact of this new virus.
This is probably the most concerning part of COVID-19. It’s new and naturally, we have a fear of the unknown. The lockdowns, the social distancing and quarantines may seem alarming, but they are smart strategies to slow down the spread of this disease while we learn more. It may feel like a scary time. It may feel like we are on the verge of global catastrophe. However, if there is anything that history and past pandemics have taught us, it is that WE WILL GET THROUGH THIS.
Some important things to note so far are that the majority of COVID-19 cases are presenting as mild. The people who are at highest risk for developing moderate to severe cases are the elderly and immunocompromised. For those who are most vulnerable to this disease, it’s important that we all do our part by following the instructions of health care professionals and washing our hands consistently, coughing and sneezing into a tissue, staying home when you’re feeling sick, socially distancing to prevent transmission of the disease and taking good care of yourselves to maintain strong and healthy immune systems. Most of all, avoid fear mongering news articles, stop getting your news from social media and keep up to date with the World Health Organization and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention for accurate information on the progression of the COVID-19 virus. We may still have a long way to go and there may be some adjustments that we have to make but most of all, never forget, WE WILL GET THROUGH THIS.