Opinion: Iowa shouldn’t panic about the coronavirus

The outbreak of the disease is something to be proactive about, but panic is its own kind of plague.


Becca Bright, Columnist

Remember the Ebola virus? What about the Zika virus? 

Both were epidemics during the 2010s that caused considerable anxiety for many Americans — and reasonably so. When there’s an outbreak, wherever it’s coming from, being wary is a smart response. But the real impact of these viruses in the U.S. was tiny.

Right now, it’s the same with the coronavirus.

With the constant news cycle on the development of the most recent coronavirus virus, it’s easy to feel a buildup that leads to panic.

Seriously, don’t panic.

Panic is oftentimes its own kind of plague, and the best treatment is information. Keep away from over-reporting to the point of sensationalism typical of American news media, and stay close to factual updates. We know that several cases of severe pneumonia began to appear in December, all in the city of Wuhan, China. As the number of cases increased in January, health experts in China identified that this disease was a new virus. It’s a disease very similar to pneumonia, but it has the potential to kill if untreated.

Also like a bad cold, the coronavirus is very contagious. This is what has our attention.

Within the last few weeks, the World Health Organization declared a global health emergency. Which of course they should do, as Wuhan is a city of almost 12 million people and a major landing point for travel. Too many people are exposed for this to not require global attention by medical professionals and science experts.

Keep away from over-reporting to the point of sensationalism typical of American news media, and stay close to factual updates.

Since December, cases of the coronavirus are appearing in countries outside of China, including here in the U.S. Last week, there was a case reported just a few hours away from Iowa City, in Chicago. University of Iowa Vice President for Medical Affairs Brooks Jackson shared Wednesday at the state Board of Regents meeting in Urbandale that the UI campus is monitoring seven travelers from China for coronavirus symptoms. No confirmed cases have been reported in the area. 

Combined with the recorded spread of the coronavirus, and the high numbers of those infected in China because the coronavirus is as contagious as the common cold, we can see why fear would also spread. But it really has no reason to.

Not only is fear unnecessary, it’s simply unhelpful.

On Monday, the BBC published an article reporting that the Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying criticized the U.S. as “only creating and spreading fear.”

Essentially, the Chinese government is frustrated that instead of offering medical assistance to Wuhan, the U.S. has ordered the departure of all U.S. personnel under 21 years old in China. The U.S. has also ordered that any U.S. citizen who has been in or near Wuhan be quarantined for two weeks upon return.

These orders, while with intention for the health and safety of Americans, is not the best response.

While there is currently no vaccine for the coronavirus, much of the world has the medical resources to help treat the illness.

There’s ample treatment available here. If an Iowan somehow became infected with the virus and sought immediate hospital care, they would recover within days. What about the case of the coronavirus in Chicago? That patient has already recovered.

Instead of isolating the Chinese government because of this coronavirus outbreak, we should push our government to assist. Right now, there is no reason to panic for Americans’ safety about this virus.

Stay informed through the World Health Organization. Support global efforts to treat and cure those affected. It’s the responsibility for public concern to be productive, but not panicky.

Columns reflect the opinions of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Editorial Board, The Daily Iowan, or other organizations in which the author may be involved.