When I was a kid growing up in Columbus, Nebraska, I remember the sheer terror the idea of polio was to our parents. If one of their children got a sniffle, mom and pop held their collective breaths, hoping and praying that it was just a cold. Eventually, a vaccine was developed, and I clearly remember going to the high school gymnasium to drink the magic concoction that would prevent the polio virus from changing our lives forever for the worse.
I definitely didn’t go out last night and get my medical degree. I’m pretty sure the Biology class I took in high school doesn’t qualify me to be an expert on epidemics. Or, pandemics, as the media has begun calling the coronavirus. But I’m keeping my fear in check. I have trust in the scientists, not just in the United States, but the world. I’m predicting a vaccine by the beginning of flu season in autumn of 2020.
Here’s what I’m reading, and therefore telling myself: Coronaviruses are relatively common, and should the average person become infected with this virus, they will have symptoms similar to the common cold. The CDC (which unlike me actually DOES understand medical conditions) says that somewhere in the neighborhood of 56,000 people die from flu or flu-like illnesses each year. And yet, how many people don’t even bother to get flu shots? I, for one, proudly got my flu shot in October.
The Washington state person who news reports say died from the coronavirus actually died from COVID-19, which is a type of coronavirus. And that person had “underlying health issues.” Thus far, that’s the only U.S. death related to this virus. At least as of my writing this blog post.
I’m not taking the coronavirus lightly. But if I’m going to wear a mask on the airplane when we fly home in a week-and-a-half, it’s going to be something much more eye-catching than a cotton mask on a string. According to what I read, those masks are nearly as ineffective at fighting viruses as a halloween mask. Nevertheless, I might wear a Joker mask just to make it interesting. I’ll work on my laugh between now and March 12.
In all seriousness, I have become much more conscious of washing my hands frequently. I especially try to remember to wash my hands when I return from places frequented by a lot of people, like the grocery store, or church, or restaurants (especially restaurants that serve Corona!). I hope this habit sticks with me even when the news media has moved on to topics like UFO sightings or presidential elections.
My brother traveled by plane to California this past week. He said he wasn’t worried. “I’m not afraid of any virus named after a beer.”