Those voices are discussing the Wuhan coronavirus, the rapidly spreading illness that still won’t convince men to wash their hands after using the bathroom. Becoming a global sensation virtually overnight, it’s the Kelly Clarkson of respiratory infections, making loser outbreaks like SARS and Ebola look like Ruben Studdard and Susan Boyle.
Global efforts are underway to contain the coronavirus, leading to quarantines, travel screenings, and what is hopefully a lifelong ban on Jimmy Buffet concerts.
The source of the virus is said to be China’s wild animal markets, which sell woods-to-table delicacies such as snakes, bats, cicadas, wolves, porcupines, guinea pigs, and turtles, otherwise known as the ingredients of a hot dog. Consumption of these dollar menu treats produces symptoms such as heartburn, nausea, indigestion, upset stomach, diarrhea, and death.
Human-to-human transmission of the virus is spread through coughs or sneezes, making small talk with your co-workers even more dangerous than usual.
Public health experts are warning against mass hysteria. After all, the common flu kills roughly 35,000 people a year in the United States, and in Ireland, an average of two people are lost every time Matthew Broderick takes a vacation.
But for many years, experts have been sounding the alarm over global pandemics as if they were the only unproduced Roland Emmerich film. The 1918 Spanish flu, for instance, killed nearly 50 million people, and the Asian flu of 1957 is believed to have killed 4 million people.
Now, those numbers pale in comparison to the 80,000 people who die each year from the American flu, also known as diabetes, but it’s easy to imagine an infectious strain of infleuza devastating the United States — not because of any particularly dangerous symptoms, but because nobody has any sick days or affordable health insurance.
It’s too early to say whether the virus is a true scourge on society, like another Star Wars film, or if it’s just an overhyped fad, like another Star Wars film.
But the long-term effects of climate change have greatly increased the opportunities for other deadly viruses to spread in the future.
Some scientists believe that melting arctic permafrost will unleash diseases that have been trapped in ice for eons, jonesing for the chance to finally get defrosted and destroy your body like a Hungry Man dinner.
And a warmer climate will make it easier for mosquito-borne illnesses such as Zika to migrate throughout the world. Instead of building a wall, we should be building a net.
I’m not trying to be alarmist — after all, I live in New York City; I assume the virus comes with my MetroCard. But if I’m hospitalized by the coronavirus and go bankrupt because my insurance hits its limit, I just hope the food they serve will be a little better than bat soup.