On Tuesday, March 17, the first case of COVID-19 was confirmed in Northwest Arkansas.
The recent outbreak of COVID-19, which stands for “coronavirus disease 2019,” has been deemed a pandemic by the World Health Organization. China first reported cases of unusual pneumonia in Wuhan to the World Health Organization in late December of 2019, although some news sources suggest that the first instances of the disease can be traced back to November of that year.
Although many theories have arisen about the origins of the virus, evidence analyzed by the World Health Organization found that most patients had some link to a large seafood and live animal market in Wuhan, China, suggesting animal-to-person spread.
Within weeks, the virus had spread to other major Chinese cities as well as the United States, Nepal, France, Australia, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea, Vietnam, and Taiwan. When the death toll in China hit 17 with more than 550 infections on January 22, Wuhan was placed under quarantine. By January 30, the death toll in China jumped to 170, with 7,711 cases, and the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global emergency.
From there, the spread continued its exponential trend. COVID-19 has spread to over 150 countries killing more than 7,900 people amid over 195,000 cases. In the United States, where COVID-19 has spread to all 50 states, there are over 7,000 confirmed cases and 97 deaths.
The first presumptive case in Arkansas was confirmed by Gov. Asa Hutchinson on March 11. Four days later, on March 15, the Arkansas Department of Health confirmed 16 cases of COVID-19 in the state, and the governor declared school closure beginning Tuesday, March 17.
While the statistics and media coverage are frightening, it is important to remember that the media tends to latch on to extremes. COVID-19 is deadly in approximately 3.4% of confirmed cases according to the Director-General of the World Health Organization. However, this figure excludes the number of unreported and unconfirmed cases. In addition, the virus tends to cause fatality in people with already weak immune systems, including the elderly or people with severe chronic medical conditions.
While this indicates a low risk of death for FHS students, it is still crucial to prevent contracting the virus and spreading it to people at risk, such as older family members.
The most important precautions the Center for Disease Control suggests taking include avoiding person-to-person exposure and cleaning your hands and living quarters often.
Common symptoms include a fever, cough, and shortness of breath. Emergency symptoms include difficulty breathing, persistent pain or pressure in the chest, and bluish lips or face. If you experience these symptoms, you should seek medical attention immediately. Washington Regional Hospital provides tests for COVID-19. However, due to limited resources, there is a waiting period.
Amid the chaos that seems to have emerged and taken root on the internet, it is important to avoid stigma toward persons of Asian descent, people who have traveled, and emergency responders or health care professionals. To get through this time of crisis, each of us must act responsibly to avoid spreading the virus, as well as work together to support the community. Resources in Northwest Arkansas are available for those in need of food, transportation, and/or a place to stay.
To educate yourself about COVID-19, see: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html