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EDITORIAL: Staving off coronavirus

With the spread of coronavirus, surgical masks will be a more common sight at airports. — Reuters file photo

You know it’s serious when even the bankers are worried.

Consider the news release that went out on Monday morning, headlined “The Contagion of Fear.” In it, Scotia Economics economists said, “Fears of a possible coronavirus pandemic are sweeping the world. Markets are jittery with little hard data to go on.”

The economists point out there are legitimate economic concerns: “While it is premature to predict the path of today’s coronavirus outbreak, we estimate that a SARS-equivalent pandemic today could have a similar impact on the Canadian economy with an estimated hit of just over 0.1 per cent on the level of GDP by mid-2020, at which point a pandemic should be contained. This estimate is subject to a significant degree of uncertainty with risks skewed to a potentially larger impact.”

Meanwhile, the price of oil dropped on Monday morning, following fears of slipping demand because of closed businesses in China.

All of this for an illness that, at the time this was written, had infected two people on Canadian soil. The numbers of infected people and the numbers of deaths continue to rise — if we were to list them here, new numbers would overtake them before you had a chance to read this.

Right now, the virus is primarily overseas, but in a world of near-constant global travel, the spread of the disease outside China has already started, and will continue.

So, what can you do?

Well, it’s worth pointing out first that influenza has already infected scores of Canadians this year, and killed plenty, too — even though there is a readily available flu vaccine.

That being said, like all the illnesses we share around every year, there are some things you can do.

Right now, the virus is primarily overseas, but in a world of near-constant global travel, the spread of the disease outside China has already started, and will continue.

Here are the basic steps the World Health Organization is recommending to limit the spread of the coronavirus. (The last two are specifically focused on people in and around ground zero for the virus, in Wuhan, China.)

People should:

  • Frequently wash their hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or warm water and soap.
  • Cover their mouth and nose with a flexed elbow or tissue when sneezing or coughing.
  • Avoid close contact with anyone who has a fever or cough.
  • Seek early medical help if they have a fever, cough and difficulty breathing, and share their travel history with health-care providers.
  • Avoid direct, unprotected contact with live animals and surfaces in contact with animals when visiting live markets in affected areas.
  • Avoid eating raw or undercooked animal products and exercise care when handling raw meat, milk or animal organs to avoid cross-contamination with uncooked foods.

Certainly, as the virus footprint spreads, there are likely to be suggestions about limiting travel. As anyone who flies regularly knows, airplanes are a great place to share your neighbour’s germs.

For now, though, keep the basics in mind.

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