This month in Free for All we address one of the most talked-about subjects of the new decade – the coronavirus outbreak (COVID-19, formerly referred to as 2019-nCoV). The source of the outbreak has been tracked to the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in Wuhan, China where wildlife was sold and consumed. Although it appears that the virus originated in bats, it is unclear if it was transmitted directly from bats to humans or via another animal host. Currently (as of 2/19/2020), there are 75,727 confirmed cases globally, with 2,129 total deaths and 16,526 reported recoveries (according to this dashboard created by John Hopkins University with data compiled from WHO, CDC, NHC, ECDC and DXY). While the health risk in the US is relatively low, global concern is mounting as the virus has already met two of the factors in the criteria for a pandemic (i.e. illness resulting in death and person-to-person propagation, CDC).
The purpose of this article is to provide our readers with reliable and up-to-date sources for information about the outbreak. Rather than getting updates from media outlets, we recommend visiting government agency websites such as the World Health Organization, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control. Not only can you find the most recent statistics here, but you can also learn how to protect yourself from coronavirus, how it spreads and common symptoms. In addition, you can check out current risk assessments and answer many of your questions on the various Q & A pages.
If you are more of a visual learner, we recommend that you check out the StoryMap created by Esri. The StoryMap contains maps, diagrams and figures that are updated as data is compiled in the dashboard made by researchers at John Hopkins University. It also contains a short history of the virus with details on how it has spread. It even includes data not directly related to the virus, such as quarantine figures and different flight paths leaving Wuhan. The StoryMap wraps up with a discussion of containment efforts as well as potential future outbreaks. For a quicker and purely visual exploration of coronavirus, we recommend going directly to any of these dashboards or visiting the Metabiota Epidemic Tracker for COVID-19.
In this article I am not intending to instill fear about coronavirus, rather quite the opposite. If we are smart about travel and hygiene and stay well informed, then there is little to worry about. Unfortunately in the decades to come we will see more deadly virus outbreaks, but the most important thing we can do is stay calm and aware. Thoughts and prayers go out to all those affected.
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