If you had fun during the recent SARS outbreak, I have some great news for you. It looks like there is a new coronavirus in town and the World Health Organization has been warning health professionals worldwide to stay on high alert. According to this press release by the global alert and response team at the WHO, 6 total cases resulting in two deaths have been reported so far, although the implication of the release is that there may be many more out there.
A Perfect Storm
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Saudi Arabia. This is not news, but the timing may be shocking to some. This outbreak comes on the heels of thanksgiving season, where many Americans abroad may have been returning home for the holidays. Airports all over the world passing through the middle east or adjacent to airports that do could be exposed and bringing people directly to the US.
In addition, the season is about to begin for the hajj, an annual pilgrimage to Mecca taken by 2-3 million Muslims every year. People will be flying from around the world directly to the site of the outbreak and then returning to their home countries. It is a scary thought.
Coronaviruses are a type of disease related to the common cold. They affect the respiratory systems and upper gastrointestinal tract with symptoms similar to pneumonia. The most devastating coronavirus in recent history was the SARS virus, which infected 8000 people and killed 800, a mortality rate of 10%. They have a particularly nasty habit of jumping from species to species which allows them to incubate unnoticed among livestock and in the wild before jumping to humans.
Are you prepared?
Depending on your current level of preparation there are a number of options in terms of emergency supplies.
When the masks start coming out, the best plan is to stay away from the general public as much as possible. Some activities such as work cannot be avoided, but taking regular trips to the grocery store or market are something you can do without. If you have been preparing your food stores, it might be a good opportunity to turn them over. Take this as an opportunity to eat some of your older food stores – it will prevent them being wasted if they go bad and will allow you to experience what a real disaster will be like!
While Doomsday Preppers such as Donna Nash may be into the concept of creating barriers to adapt to life among potentially infected people, there is no perfect suit. Even the highly touted n95 mask is based on a 95% level of efficacy. So statistically, if you go within 1m of 20 infected people, germs will get through once.
Studies have been done on the efficacy of n95 masks and have come to the conclusion that they are at best an imperfect solution. The main recommendation on the one cited is that the recommended 1m radius needs to be expanded, and that eye protection needs to be included.