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GUEST OPINION: Protecting land for Islanders
There are plenty of ways the world isn’t getting along right now.
There are armed conflicts, trade conflicts and more, all set against the topsy-turvy backdrop of, well, everything that’s happening in Washington and the rest of the U.S. — an impeachment trial, other political battles, from promises of deregulation of many services to the usual, near-constant gun violence.
But something on the other side of the world might be about to give us a wakeup call – and a deadly one at that. Right now, millions of people in China are on the move for the Lunar New Year celebrations. Traditionally, it’s a time to head home for those working away, meaning transportation links are stretched to the max.
This year, Chinese authorities — and, in fact, health authorities worldwide — are concerned about the spread of a new coronavirus, a form of viral pneumonia from the same family that brought us the SARS epidemic in 2002.
At this point, scientists believe the virus came from cross-species transmission, but have been unable to pinpoint what sort of animal is involved.
In an odd twist — and this will confirm just how globally we now live — some of the first reports about the illness surfaced in fishing industry news, because Wuhan’s fish market, the Wuhan South City Seafood City, is a hub for Chinese seafood sales, especially going into the lucrative Lunar New Year.
It’s where the illness first emerged. The market is now closed.
For a while, health officials thought that the new coronavirus was contained — all of those who contracted the illness worked at the market. But that’s no longer the case — the virus has spread to other Chinese cities, and has even found its way outside the country, to Thailand and Japan.
Since the outset, Chinese health authorities have believed the illness is difficult to spread through human-to-human contact — but there is still plenty about it that remains unknown. At this point, scientists believe the virus came from cross-species transmission, but have been unable to pinpoint what sort of animal is involved.
The problem is that things change and move quickly.
“It takes time for the virus to adapt to the human host. Once it’s adapted to the human host, then its spread will likely be easier from one person to another,” Ivan Hung, a medical doctor who is chief of the Infectious Diseases Division at the University of Hong Kong, told the Globe and Mail.
The big petri dish of travel that accompanies the Lunar New Year will do nothing to help with that — in fact, the opportunities for the disease to spread are alarming to epidemiologists.
For everyone, the best opportunity to deal with epidemics is when the world’s health protection officials are working completely in concert with one another.
The problem is, there’s an awful lot about the world right now that feels like nations aren’t working well together at all.