Sanpete coronavirus scare is false alarm
By Doug Lowe
MT. PLEASANT—The leadership of Wasatch Academy showed wisdom and caution in their handling of a potentially dangerous situation last week, when a member of their community returned from a visit to Beijing and reported not feeling well.
After a few tense days, in which the individual went from Mt. Pleasant’s Sanpete Valley Hospital to the Intermountain Medical Center in Murray, good news arrived from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) on Sunday, Feb. 2. The test results came back negative, which meant that the quarantined patient from Sanpete County was not going to be Utah’s first case of novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV).
Sharing that good news on Monday, Feb. 3, Wasatch Academy’s assistant head of school for communications and marketing, Jim Detjen, announced, “All planned school-sponsored activities, including athletics, will resume as scheduled.” While many in Sanpete and Salt Lake are breathing a sigh of relief, thanks to the negative test results, the “abundance of caution” exercised at the school last week should serve as a model for all of us all over the U.S.
As one medical doctor in Mt. Pleasant put it last week, “It is like we are seeing a wall of water out there on the horizon and hoping it won’t come ashore as a Tsunami.” Fortunately, this time the wall of water disappeared before causing devastation. But, caution should still be the order of the day.
Last week, our nation’s first case of human to human transmission of the novel coronavirus occurred when a man who had not been to China caught the disease from his wife, who came down with the illness after a recent visit to China’s mainland. Also last week, some 195 U.S. citizens, who flew from China last week are being quarantined for 14 days in California. And, the first virus-related death outside of China occurred within the past few days in the Philippines.
Already, in less than two months the new strain of coronavirus has killed more people in China than the total that died during the 9-month long SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) epidemic in 2003. So, an abundance of caution would appear to be a good rule of thumb. However, panic and finger pointing are counter-productive emotions and behaviors that should be avoided.
To put things in perspective, it is helpful to note that a number of common viruses and other diseases are far more dangerous than the latest coronavirus. Measles is far more contagious and deadly, as is polio, and also diphtheria. However, the danger posed by those diseases has been mitigated by widespread vaccination.
At present, there is no vaccine against novel coronavirus—despite wild rumors claiming that the pharmaceutical industry is poised to make a fortune after they withhold the preventative shot long enough for prices to get high enough. The truth is that developing a vaccine takes so much effort and time that preventing the spread of this latest coronavirus will depend more on careful human interactions and scrupulous personal hygiene more than anything else.