Courtesy of The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
The coronavirus has made its way into Michigan as the country works to fight back against the contagious disease.
Originating in Wuhan, China, the virus has quickly become a global issue, infecting over 100,000 people and killing more than 4,000 since it’s start earlier this year.
Several nations across the world have been heavily affected by the coronavirus, most notably China, Italy and Iran, who all have thousands of cases with people in critical condition.
On Wednesday, March 11, the World Health Organization officially declared the coronavirus infection a pandemic, signifying the severity the disease poses to world health. The United States’ Center for Disease Control has also attempted to address the issue as the number of infections in the country has risen above 1,000, including 31 deaths.
On Friday, March 13, President Donald Trump officially declared a national emergency, allowing for the federal government to take additional actions to help stop the virus’ spread.
Several large events around the country have been affected by the outbreak. Ordinarily drawing large crowds, the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament will be played in front of empty seats and people are being urged not to take cruise-ship vacations.
41 states currently have confirmed cases, with Michigan joining the list on Tuesday, March 10. That day, Michigan’s Governor Gretchen Whitmer confirmed two people from Wayne and Oakland counties have been confirmed to have the virus. As of March 13, that number has risen to 16.
In the same press conference, Whitmer declared a state of emergency. By doing so, the state is able to take extra precautions that are otherwise typically unavailable, such as placing restrictions on transportation and large gatherings.
Many universities and K-12 schools around the state have either adjusted or canceled classes and events out of fear of potentially spreading the virus further. On Wednesday, March 11, Michigan State University, Central Michigan University, Michigan Tech and Wayne State, among others, all announced face-to-face classes, lectures and seminars will be canceled and moved to an online or alternative format, many of which extend until the end of their semesters in April.
After an emergency meeting with the Board of Regents Wednesday afternoon, University of Michigan President Mark Schlissel announced all three campuses will adjust classes and cancel large gatherings until the end of their semesters. For UM-Flint, this means face-to-face classes, many events and even commencement are either cancelled or rescheduled.
The coronavirus has become one of the most serious health issues the world has had to face in recent years. A highly contagious upper respiratory virus that is closely related to the SARS-CoV outbreak that killed 774 people in 2002-2004, the coronavirus has quickly overwhelmed health systems around the globe.
The symptoms of the virus closely mimic a cold or flu, such as a high fever, cough and congested breathing. These symptoms make it difficult to differentiate the virus from a common cold, making the coronavirus much more serious.
Another issue is relatively healthy people who are much more resistant to the virus may unknowingly carry it around and infect others.
“They [CDC] think that there may be a bunch of mild cases walking around, who don’t know that they’re sick or think they have just a small cold or an allergy, it’s the weather change or something like that. And that’s what’s dangerous,” said Dr. Michelle Sahli, a professor in the Department Public Health and Health Sciences who specializes in epidemiology.
The sudden rise of coronavirus is peculiar, considering the common flu typically kills significantly more people each year. However, what makes the coronavirus particularly dangerous, according to Sahli, is the “case fatality rate.”
In any given year, the flu typically has a fatality rate of 0.1%. However, the coronavirus currently has a fatality rate anywhere from 1.4% to 3.4%. That number rises significantly for those who are most vulnerable to the disease, such as the elderly and those with underlying health issues.
Sahli believes it’s unprecedented numbers like these that are driving the media coverage of the virus and thus the resulting anxiety and fear over it. “The thing I’m worried about is not just the disease, it’s the anxiety and the stress that this is causing, particularly in Flint, where we’re still dealing with the water crisis and all the stress around that.”
While the coronavirus does pose a potentially deadly threat, there are precautions people can follow to minimize it. Sahli said facemasks should be used by those who are already sick rather than the other way around as coughing is the most frequent way the virus spreads.
Additionally, people should wash their hands often. Sahli recommends using soap and water if available rather than hand sanitizer. Using soap and water can be just as effective and will help save dwindling supplies of hand sanitizer for others who do not have immediate access to hand soap and water. People are also recommended to wash their hands for more than 20 seconds, or about as long as it takes to sing happy birthday twice.
However, Sahli’s biggest recommendation is if you believe you are sick, do not go into the emergency room or clinic. By going into these places, those who are infected pose a serious risk to everyone else there.
“Call your doctor or call the hospital. There are people who have other stuff [health issues] and they’re immunocompromised. And if you do have it now, you’re spreading it around,” said Sahli. “But if you think you have this [coronavirus], you shouldn’t just walk into where you could get the people who are sitting there sick.”
Self-quarantining is also highly recommended to prevent the disease’s spread and to refrain from visiting relatives if you or they are also sick.
The WHO, CDC and other health organizations will continually update their websites as more information is gathered about the virus.