Briones: In the dark

Publio J. Briones III

HOW much is known about the coronavirus disease (Covid-19)?

Not much really.

Figures released by the World Health Organization (WHO) can be alarming. Although these may actually be conservative and the true number of Covid-19 cases is probably higher, especially in China, where it first emerged in late 2019, which makes the thought even scarier.

As of Tuesday, March 10, 2020, there were 113,702 cases in 110 countries, including the Philippines, and 4,012 deaths, mostly in China. So what does the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the leading national public health institute of the United States, say about Covid-19?

“The complete clinical picture with regard to Covid-19 is not fully known. Reported illnesses have ranged from very mild (including some with no reported symptoms) to severe, including illness resulting in death. While information so far suggests that most Covid-19 illness is mild, a report out of China suggests serious illness occurs in 16 percent of cases. Older people and people of all ages with severe underlying health conditions—like heart disease, lung disease and diabetes, for example—seem to be at higher risk of developing serious Covid-19 illness.”

Doesn’t really help, does it?

According to the institute, these symptoms may appear two to 14 days after exposure: fever, cough and shortness of breath. With no vaccine to prevent the spread of the disease, the best way to prevent illness is to avoid exposure to the virus. Covid-19 “is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person: between people who are in close contact with one another (within about six feet) and through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.”

Again, the language the institute uses is not very reassuring. I think this may be the reason many people around the world have gone into panic mode. The lack of definite answers to simple questions about the disease leaves people in the dark.

And you know what happens when people are left in the dark, right? They grope. Because they don’t see anything, their imagination starts to run wild. It doesn’t help that many have watched doomsday scenarios on TV or in the movies.

In some parts of the world, all events with more than 1,000 people have been cancelled. People have gone to the streets demanding their government give them face masks and gloves. In one country, toilet papers have reportedly sold out in some cities.

I watched on Youtube an interview with an expert from Harvard University on CBS nightly news. He predicted that Covid-19 could infect 40 to 70 percent of the adult population worldwide and that millions could die. The interviewer pointed out that the expert and other experts around the world are using words like “if” and “while we hope.” The interviewer then went on to say: “The fact is we really just don’t know what to expect, do we?”