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What the Coronavirus Says About Us

The novel coronavirus is making people sick. People have died, and that is tragic. However, should we be in this much of a panic about it? It is a threat to global health, but then again, so is the flu and we don’t tend to worry incessantly every winter. The flu has killed tens of thousands of Americans this season. Right now, about 1300 people have the coronavirus in the U.S. (updated 3/12) More people will get it because that is what germs do, but still, at this point, there is no reason to think the coronavirus can morph and become more virulent. Just like the flu, people who have a compromised immune system can have more serious complications from the coronavirus. Most people will have mild symptoms. There are germs everywhere. We should always practice good hygiene, wash our hands often (especially this time of year) and above all, keep our hands away from our faces. The coronavirus hasn’t changed common sense prevention. What it has changed is our perception of reality. Too many people are in a panic disproportionate to the threat. Why?

Here are two theories about why the coronavirus is scaring so many people:

  1. We live in an anxiety-riddled culture. We are stressed all the time, and often we don’t even know why. Most of us have it pretty good on paper, but the volume of the noise around us prevents our minds from ever settling. The coronavirus is allowing us to rationalize our anxiety. It is giving it a name, so rather than having generalized stress, we can point a finger at the culprit. A new threat gives shape to our feelings and allows us to identify the cause of our negative emotions. We like to hold on tight to an explanation.

  2. Sociologists tell us we live in the loneliest culture, that isolation and the lack of authentic human connection is at the root of a lot of our society’s mental illness and addiction. Coronavirus gives us a common enemy, and perhaps this commonality, this great equalizer, makes us feel safe and connected. If we are all afraid of the same thing, then we are not alone.

Or, maybe you really are just scared about getting sick. This is ok, and of course, understandable, but worry and stress will decrease the effectiveness of your immune system, so stop watching the news. At the very least, read articles from legitimate sites who aren’t fear mongering. At this time, the chances of you getting sick from the coronavirus is very low, and the chance of you getting very ill is even lower. Take the normal winter precautions and separate fact from fiction.

About Dr. Karen Latimer

I’m a family physician now struggling to take care of a bunch of kids who keep calling me Mom. When I’m not wiping butts, refereeing sibling rivalry and chauffeuring over-scheduled little people, I write a family medical blog that gives you five thoughts on all sorts of different health topics.

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