Some heartening facts about the China virus

Holidays: As millions go home for the Chinese New Year, travel restrictions have been expanded to 13 cities. © Getty

There is a lot of scary news about a new virus spreading from China. But scientists are pointing out that while we need to take the outbreak seriously, there is no reason to feel any panic.

What’s happening

A new virus has started to spread from China. It has never been seen in humans before and although the number of people affected is very small, it has started to spread more widely. Governments around the world are starting to take action to contain it.

Find out more

The virus (currently known 2019-nCoV) is part of the coronavirus family, which includes Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (Sars) as well as the common cold.

It started in a seafood marked in the huge Chinese city of Wuhan, although there have now been a handful of confirmed cases outside China, including Hong Kong, Thailand, Korea, Japan and the US.

Measures are now being taken to prevent further spread of the disease, including screenings and quarantine procedures at airports.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has announced it will not yet declare a “global emergency” over the new virus and is not currently recommending any travel restrictions, although it is monitoring the situation closely.

Chinese health officials warned that the virus could become more deadly with time. In fact, viruses usually change to become less deadly to preserve the host body and, hence, themselves.

So, how worried should we be?

Some say…

Not too worried. The virus seems to mostly affect those over the age of 60, or those who were already unwell. We have also seen similar panics before, such as Ebola and Swine Flu. As frightening as those were, they eventually died away.

Others think…

We should behave as we do in a fire drill – and react as if this virus really was a global emergency. Sensible ways to avoid getting virus infections, such as colds or flu, include avoiding touching your eyes and nose wherever possible. Regular hand washing is also a good idea.

You Decide

  1. Do we let bad news drown out all the good news?


  1. Make a list of three good things that happened this week. Explain a bit about each one.

Some People Say...

“The best remedy for all epidemics is perspective.”

What do you think?

Word Watch

A small infectious agent that grows by reprogramming living cells.
To contain
In this example, to control.
Named because they look as though they wear a ‘crown’ of proteins.
The capital of Hubei province, China. It is the largest city in Hubei, with a population of 11 million – larger than London (9 million).
A place where people or animals that have been exposed to infectious disease are kept on their own.
World Health Organisation
Part of the United Nations that deals with international public health. It was established in 1948; its headquarters are in Geneva, Switzerland.
The rapid spread of infectious disease to a large number of people within a short period of time, usually two weeks or less
A point of view. To get some perspective is to have some distance from something to become objective.


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