The coronavirus, officially named “COVID-19” on Feb. 11, has infected more than 72,000 individuals worldwide as of Wednesday, Feb. 19.
As the COVID-19 outbreak spreads, multiple new studies attempt to determine the source of transmission for the virus. It has since been hypothesized that the virus has more than one transmission route, similar to that of the influenza virus.
The influenza virus, more commonly known as the flu, can be transmitted when individuals cough, sneeze, talk and so on. While flu symptoms appear two to four days after infection, COVID-19 symptoms take between two and 14 days to appear — 5 to 7 days being the average.
The Centers for Disease Control compares COVID-19 mortality and morbidity rates to the flu to demonstrate the similarities and differences between the two viruses.
While there are some similarities between the two, there are boundless disparities as well. The CDC states that the flu morbidity (hospitalization rate) is 0.5 to 1 percent, while the COVID-19 morbidity is 20 percent, approximately 20 to 40 times higher than the flu.
“We, as a community, need to send another message out that says ‘take your precautions, but put the situation in perspective,’” said Ed Carney, Chief of the Contra Costa College District Police Services.
While COVID-19 may seem like it is an immediate danger, it is much less critical than the flu at this point in time. People should stay alert but not be anxious about the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
“As of Feb. 13, there have been 15 confirmed cases in the United States, including four in Northern California,” according to Contra Costa Health Services. “There are currently no confirmed cases in Contra Costa County.”
It is suggested by medical professionals that anyone who feels like they may be sick should stay home and call a doctor before showing up at their office, to give them time to prepare and avoid the potential of infecting anyone else.
While there is a large gap between the morbidity of COVID-19 and the flu, there is a smaller discrepancy between their mortality rate. Flu mortality is 0.05 percent to 0.1 percent, while COVID-19 mortality is currently 2.5 percent, about 25 to 50 times higher than the flu.
For more information morbidity and mortality rates of the two viruses, please visit the official CDC website at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html.
Although it is highly unlikely that anyone in the Contra Costa Community College District will be infected by COVID-19, the District has developed official guidelines in response to potential virus outbreak.
The guidelines begin with steps for prevention, including “stay home when sick,” “use respiratory etiquette,” “routinely clean frequently touched surfaces,” and so on.
Regarding the use of face masks as a method of prevention, the California Department of Public Health states, “Face masks are most useful for preventing disease spread when they are worn by people who have symptoms. This is why people are asked to wear a mask at doctors’ offices and hospitals if they are coughing or sneezing.”
However, face masks should only be worn by people who are already sick, or by people who live or work closely with people who are sick (such as medical personnel). There is already a global shortage of face masks and the CDC suggests not using masks unless you are in close contact (six or so feet) with those who are sick.
Ways that both students and staff can prevent the spread of any sickness is by “wash[ing] your hands frequently for at least 20 seconds each time” or “wear[ing] gloves while grading or handling student paperwork,” wrote biology instructor Mark Lewis.