Mon, May

Stock Markets May Panic Over the Coronavirus, But YOU Shouldn't


ALPERN AT LARGE--Make no bones about it--the Coronavirus from China, a.k.a. COVID-19, is serious.

But it's only a NEW type of virus that (along every with OTHER new virus throughout human history) is scary but made worse only by panicking. The word "virus" itself is scary, but there's so much that--despite our modern era--too many of us don't understand: 

1) There definitely ARE geopolitical, economic, and even military trends that might occur as a secondary or otherwise-indirect result of this virus, but the even a new virus on the global scene is NOT new.

2) The more civilizations and far-flung geographies come into contact, the more these scary and terrible events occur. For an example, when the European explorers met the Hawaiian and Filipino Islanders, it took only a single generation to kill off up to a third or more of those geographically and immunologically-isolated civilizations. 

Similarly, the devastating diseases that killed so many Northern American Native Americans when Europeans arrived from heavily-populated cities) were NOT the measles or smallpox-infected blankets given to them (and, if or when that occurred, they were truly unforgiveable). They were ACTUALLY akin to the common cold, which devastated tribes and their cultures...but was accidental.

3) As with the worldwide flu pandemics of a century ago, and the Black Death of the Middle Ages, the ultimate cause was...globalism. Not the globalism of selling out your neighbors to make your own big bucks, but "good" globalism as in international trade that creates jobs. But the flu is a VIRUS that usually is more dangerous to the old/infirm/immunocompromised; the Black Death was a bacterium.

4) Bacteria are living, breathing, self-dividing, eating, drinking, and pooping organisms. Viruses are just bags of DNA surrounded by protein; the protein latches onto host cells, and the DNA is injected into the living host cells (like, say, a human cell) that parasitizes the host cell's materials to make more viruses. Viruses are NOT living, and therefore they CANNOT be killed.

Hence, the host response (the immune system making antibodies, recognizing the viruses as foreign and eating up the viruses) is how we get rid of viral infections. Antibiotics don't work. Fortunately, most viruses are NOT as dangerous and lethal as bacterial infections. In other words, the homeless issue and spreading Plague, Tuberculosis, and other bacterial infections is more of a danger to us.

5) The Coronavirus IS, though, new to our population and so DOES pose an immediate threat because there is no "herd immunity" in North America...yet the death rate (2-3%, approximately is nowhere near the approximately 90% death rate of the Ebola Virus from Africa (now THAT was a frightening one). 

Protecting the elderly, the infirm, and immunocompromised is the immediate problem. Whether we hate or love the President means NOTHING when it comes to biology. We've bought ourselves a little bit of time by walling off our nation for a few weeks to months, but it's still a desperate race against time to develop and distribute any testing or treatment for those Americans reading this.

6) Keep politics or bigotry out this if you want to focus on the biology. These awful events are dreadful and rightfully-frightening but are self-limited. Even the markets will snap back in ways we might be surprised to see. Criticizing or praising the President or Vice-President is all fine and good, but it's NO substitute for the right actions, such as...

7) Wash your hands in warm, soapy water, and do so for 20-25 seconds between all the fingers and both sides of the hands. Sing "Happy Birthday to you..." silently to yourself if you want to make sure you're doing it long enough.  Hand sanitizer is also good, and cleaning door handles might help. Shaking hands might best be switched to a wave of the hand and a cheerful smile.

8) Get some sleep! I'm guilty of NOT doing this as much as anyone, but "Vitamin Sleep" is the cure to all viruses! Think about how many viral infections that we call "the flu" but really isn’t and think about how much difference a good night's sleep can be to prevent and/or resolve a viral infection.

9) Stock up, but don't panic on any water or food needed for elderly, infirm, or immunocompromised individuals who might have to be quarantined for about two weeks. If they need medical attention, don't delay.

10) If or when you get this (or any other virus!) don't panic. The godawful but absolute truth is that we need to be exposed to, and get over, viral infections. It's like working out--you get through it, and then you're stronger. Being mega-clean leads only to allergies and being MORE prone to being disabled by future viral infections. 

I don't blame ANYONE reading this if they don't believe me but being cautious (and calm) is not the same as being lazy or careless. Eat and sleep well, cut yourself some slack, and recognize that this is just part of doing business in a world that's getting smaller every day. This is NOT the Ebola Virus.

And don't let yourself be tooled or fooled by anyone with a political or financial agenda. 

This might be over (or at least greatly reduced with respect to global fears) sooner than we think.

And for those governmental/health entities assigned to address this new global virus...get a move on! Our lives and stress levels are bad enough as it is!


(CityWatch Columnist, Kenneth S. Alpern, M.D, is a dermatologist who has served in clinics in Los Angeles, Orange, and Riverside Counties, and is a proud husband and father to two cherished children and a wonderful wife. He was (termed out) also a Westside Village Zone Director and Board member of the Mar Vista Community Council (MVCC), previously co-chaired its Outreach Committee, and currently is Co-Chair of its MVCC Transportation/Infrastructure Committee and Vice-Chair of its Planning Committee. He was co-chair of the CD11 Transportation Advisory Committee and chaired the nonprofit Transit Coalition and can be reached at [email protected]. He also co-chairs the grassroots Friends of the Green Line at www.fogl.us. The views expressed in this article are solely those of Dr. Alpern.)



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