Every few years, a dangerous disease emerges in the world and spreads rapidly enough to warrant international attention. In ancient history, these epidemics could devastate entire nations. Now, our global community keeps a sharp eye on these illnesses to reduce the harm they can inflict.
We’ve seen diseases of this magnitude before during the SARS epidemic, as well as the Swine Flu, Avian Flu, MERS and Ebola. Each of these illnesses were highly contagious and deadly, but quick action from all levels of society helped contain the spread. Tap or click here to see how you can track this year’s flu virus.
But now, a rapidly-spreading virus has emerged within China that has health officials around the world concerned. It’s already infected hundreds, and with its delayed incubation period, the number might even be higher. If you want to keep track of this new disease’s spread, this digital map can help.
Coronavirus: The first pandemic of the 2020s?
The Chinese government confirmed the spread of a new strain of coronavirus in the city of Wuhan. Coronaviruses are a family of pathogens that contains a few familiar faces like SARS and the common cold. They’re notorious for being contagious and the ability to rapidly mutate.
This particular virus is a respiratory illness with symptoms much like a cold, and can be moderate to severe in intensity. Youths, elders and immunocompromised people are most at risk.
In this case, the illness, called “2019-nCoV,” is a zoonotic virus, meaning it’s transmissible from animals to humans. This is likely how the disease began to spread, and is why health officials are urging people to avoid contact with livestock until it’s contained.
Currently, the virus is mostly contained within Wuhan and a handful of other cities in China. Several of these cities are under quarantine, and certain methods of transportation between them and other populations have been temporarily shut down.
Some cases have made their way to countries like Japan, South Korea and, yes, even America. Each of these victims had been traveling within China prior to infection.
Currently, no vaccine exists for 2019-nCoV. But scientists around the world are working tirelessly to learn more about this mysterious illness. Thus far, a team of scientists in China managed to map the virus’ genome, and the World Health Organization has declined to rank the disease an international emergency — for now.
Good info and bad info: How do you know where the virus is?
Because global diseases are of international public concern, folks across the internet have put together resources to help educate and inform people about this dangerous pathogen. Unfortunately, not everyone on the web has the public’s best interest in mind.
One particularly useful resource is this digital map from John Hopkins University. It lists all of the confirmed cases, as well as the current rate of progression and fatalities. As of now, the confirmed cases in the United States are few and far between, but you’ll want to keep an eye on it as time goes by, just in case.
And as per usual in our hyper-politicized digital age, bad actors are already hard at work, spreading disinformation about the Wuhan virus for clicks, ad revenue and attention.
Wild claims can be found on Twitter and Facebook alleging Bill Gates is responsible or it was released as an intentional form of population control. Tap or click to see how conspiracy videos are flooding YouTube’s app for kids.
Another fantastical claim suggests the virus is a bioweapon that was accidentally unleashed from a lab, but these “sources” disagree as to whether it’s the CIA or Chinese Communist Party behind it. Just to be clear, none of this information is currently supported by facts or reality.
But that just goes to show you how easy it is to propagate fake news in an age of digital outrage. Tap or click here to see how good you are at spotting fake news.
Ultimately, if the disease does make it your way, make sure to contact your doctor immediately. Some of the victims outside of China have made a complete recovery without issue, and support similar to what hospitals provide for severe flu victims seems to do the trick.
In the meantime, keep washing your hands and get far, far away from people who cough without covering their mouths. Seriously, that’s disgusting.