The rising global threat of coronavirus demands attention

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What started as a health concern across the globe in China has found its way to America with the rising spread of the coronavirus.
With the World Health Organization raising its risk assessment last week to “very high” -- the highest level short of declaring a global pandemic -- Americans join a world now on high alert as to the potential dangers involved with COVID-19.
Merely reading the words “global pandemic” can and should get our attention, even here in rural Nebraska, where no cases have been reported. Patients diagnosed with the virus have been treated in Ashland and Omaha, and we hope and pray for their full recovery, as with all the confirmed 86,000 people infected around the world.
What’s important now is that we do pay attention, seeking out information on the virus as well as tips on what we can and should be doing to prevent its spread. The News-Register reached out to local health officials and shared that perspective in a must-read front page story in this week’s edition.
Not surprisingly, two main tips stand out which make sense at any time, but should now gain more a sense of urgency.
We’re taught as youngsters to wash our hands thoroughly and generally use good hygiene, which can make a difference, health experts say, in preventing the spread of a virus that at this point remains a bit of a mystery as to how it spreads. We’re in the middle of cold and flu season anyway, so taking extra time to wash our hands throughout the day and cough into our elbow just makes good sense.
The other tip that goes against our traditional Midwest work ethic is to stay home if you aren’t feeling well. Rather than “suck it up -- take one for the team” and show up to work or school when you could be sick, it’s a good idea for adults and children to just stay home. Better safe than sorry, especially until containment of this nasty virus has been confirmed.
The next step, if indeed there is one, is to implement social isolation measures, which could include limiting use of public meeting places such as theaters, shopping centers and even schools. That’s a scary step which would bring with it all sorts of social and economic implications, and we hope and pray it doesn’t happen. It’s being talked about just two hours away in Omaha, where officials there are taking preventative measures by preparing to, if necessary, cancel school and perhaps even major events.
History has shown that the key to stopping or preventing a pandemic is how the threat is handled in the early stages, thus the public must be educated and engaged. In other words, don’t panic, but pay attention, gather facts and know that the coronavirus concern is real.
Kurt Johnson

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