The biggest thing filling news headlines right now is arguably the Coronavirus outbreak in China. The outbreak is causing a lot of concern over how far the virus will travel, and how deadly it will prove to be. Historically, this virus is related to the SARS and MERS outbreaks. Many are wondering whether this breakout will be worse.
What Is the Coronavirus?
While it may seem as if the coronavirus is a brand new thing, it’s actually a common strain of viruses. There are several types of the virus, and some of those are very serious. For the most part, the majority of these types of viruses are usually not deadly.
This new strain, the 2019 Novel Coronavirus, or 2019-nCoV, sometimes called the “Wuhan Coronavirus,” is one of the nastier ones. According to the CDC, symptoms of the virus include fevers, coughs, shortness of breath, aches, sore throat, and vomiting. A respiratory illness, the severity for patients has ranged from a mild cold to very severe symptoms that can lead to death. These symptoms can occur between 2 to 14 days after being exposed to someone infected with the coronavirus.
How Much Damage Has It Caused?
Seemingly originating out of Wuhan China, the coronavirus can cause pneumonia and can be deadly for some. Perhaps the most frightening thing about the situation is the lack of information. There still isn’t a lot of information on how this virus is different from other coronaviruses.
As of January 29, the caseload for the virus has passed 6,000 in China; officially becoming a larger outbreak than the SARS incident a few years ago. Estimates for total infections are 6,150 globally, with 132 deaths.
Thus far, the average American should be more concerned about getting the flu. In comparison to the statistics listed above, there have been around 15 million cases of the flu this season, and 8,200 deaths, according to the CDC.
There have been a few confirmed cases in the U.S., but no deaths, and the families of those infected are being closely monitored.
In terms of markets, names that tie into the consumer base of China could likely take a hit in sales. Starbucks (SBUX) - Get Report has closed over 2,000 stores in China as a direct result of fears of the spreading of the virus, and CEO Kevin Johnson has stated that the company will close more if need be.
Transportation stocks that have business in China all face the possibility of short term pain given fears of how far the virus might spread. One might even argue that the fear of the situation will have more of an impact, as consumers will be far less enthusiastic about going out in public places unless they have to.
General Motors (GM) - Get Report is in the midst of a shutdown of its Chinese factories through February 9. The original shutdown for a holiday was extended as a precaution against spreading the virus. It’s unclear how much of an effect this will really have, but it is a demonstration of the manufacturing headaches that may ensue if this escalates. Apple (AAPL) - Get Report also has major manufacturing exposure in Asia.
Conversely, there has been a rise in demand for cleaning products. Dow (DOW) - Get Report CEO Jim Fitterling said in an interview that the company is seeing an increase in demand for cleaning items in conjunction with the developments pertaining to the virus.
History of Large-Scale Virus Outbreaks
This is not an unprecedented event. Even in the last decade, we’ve seen a few events similar in nature to the current outbreak.
The Middle East respiratory syndrome, also known as MERS, is a type of the virus that began in Saudi Arabia in 2012.
Severe acute respiratory syndrome, known as SARS, was another coronavirus outbreak that came from China. It was believed that the SARS strain came from bats before spreading to other wild animals that were consumed by humans.
By comparison, these viruses haven’t been nearly as damaging to humanity as major outbreaks of the past. The pandemic of 1918, known as the Spanish Flu, infected around 500 million people across the globe. At least 50 million are estimated to have died worldwide.
6 Ways to Stay Healthy
While the coronavirus does not yet hold as much threat to Americans as the flu, this time of year is still a period where many are catching colds. Coming straight from the CDC, here are ways to avoid getting a cold, as well as how to avoid spreading it.
1. Wash Hands With Soap and Water
If you’re out in public, or have been out in public, wash your hands. It might seem cliché, but there’s a lot stuff floating around in public places. Considering you use your hands more than anything, washing them with soap can help get rid of anything you’ve picked up.
It can’t be said enough. Washing your hands for 20 seconds helps kill viruses. If you cough or sneeze or blow your nose, wash your hands.
2. Avoid Touching Your Face
If you’ve picked something up on your hands, the virus can enter your body through your eyes, nose and mouth.
3. Stay Away From Sick People
That’s right. Avoid the friend with the cough and runny nose. You might feel guilty, but you’ll avoid the headache of catching it yourself.
Don’t give it to others…
4. Stay Home
If you’re sick, stay home.
5. Clean Up
Clean surfaces you’ve touched, using disinfectants.
Sneeze and cough into a tissue. Don’t cough into the air where others will have to breathe it.
Regarding the coronavirus itself, even if you find the means to travel to China, don’t do it.