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No, not the beer

2020 has seriously been a weird year so far! First it’s been bushfires, and now it’s this weird, novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV)… Aside from political issues, the world is seriously falling apart (*coughs ‘also climate change’*)!

The institute I work at has recently been featured heavily on the news, as one of the labs within has become the first one outside of China to actually grow the virus! This is fantastic news, as they can provide live virus to study it’s infectivity, and test antivirals and vaccines to cure the infection (and maybe prevent further spread). I’m very proud to be able to work in such a fantastic place, although disclaimer- I have no relationship with the lab which grew the virus. They’re just in the same building.

Do check this video out. It’s super cool. 🦠

I did read that they’ve transported the virus to the CSIRO’s Australian Animal Health Laboratory (AHHL) in Geelong. A friend of mine works there, in that his Ph. D project (on influenza) takes him out there from time to time (hey Will). I’d jokingly suggested that he stay away from us from now on, but I’ve also got a medical doctor coming and going from my house who works at the Monash Medical Centre, where at least two patients are being treated (hey Dan). My housemate didn’t like the idea of autoclaving her boyfriend before he could enter our household. Dunno why…?

But while that’s somewhat on the giggly side, I do want to stress that the quarantining jokes are jokes. Because there have also been numerous reported incidents of racist comments being made against those of East Asian ethnicities. If an individual has recently returned from a heavily affected area, with lots of confirmed cases and the risk of having been infected is high, then it makes absolute sense to exercise precaution and quarantine them for the recommended 14 days. Stay home, rest up, keep an eye on people you’ve come into contact with, and if feeling unwell- call the GP or hospital and explain the situation before you rock up.

But- if you are just walking down the street and see someone of Asian decent- perhaps they may even be wearing a mask (I’ve encountered this all week), but you then feel negative towards them in any way… that’s not okay. Maybe they’re afraid of being infected, so they’re wearing a mask as a precaution- that’s a very common reason for wearing a surgical mask. Don’t tell them to ‘go back to China’. Don’t make any references to this outbreak as ‘yellow’ or make any additional poor puns. It is totally unnecessary and coming from a place of fear and ignorance. It’s okay to feel uncomfortable as the initial, reflex reaction. Just don’t act on it. You can override that primal fear, and choose not to make derogatory comments. It’s really not that hard.

For more information on the virus, I highly recommend sticking to official websites (for Victoria, the Better Health Channel, or anything that’s government related). Misinformation is rife, and is easily spread when people are scared.

If you really want to wear a mask while going about your day, apparently a P2 mask is better than the surgical masks, although it has to be skin tight with no gaps that allow in external air. We’re not at a stage yet when it’s necessary to wear masks, but the good news for me is that I have quite a few of those lying around from when there were tonnes of bushfire smoke. Hooray…? 😥

Categories: General Lab Ph D posts

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A Ph. D graduate in Microbiology, residing in Victoria, Australia. Currently working in multiple locations but still in the STEM field. 👀 🦠 🧫 🧬

4 replies

  1. Thank you. I was scrolling through the coronavirus tag looking for a personal essay. A thing I’m most interested in with this virus is how it’s affecting our individual psyche. It must be interesting working so close to the potential solution. If you’re so inclined, please look at my post today and comment on my take on the fatality rate. I’d appreciate a professional opinion. Stay healthy.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. First of all, I’d like to add that I’m not a professional at all. I’m a postgraduate student working on bacteria who happens to work in the same building as actual professionals who work on infectious diseases of all sorts. 😅

      I’m not entirely sure how your calculation works, either. 😥 The 2% death rate takes into account all those who have been confirmed to have been infected (including those that do recover and those that unfortunately don’t). So of all those confirmed to be infected, 2% have died. Your way is stating, of all the patients who have been confirmed to be cleared of infection or died, 50% died. It’s not a fatality rate in the same sense. It doesn’t account for everyone who is still infected, but neither cleared nor dead, and that’s roughly 96% of those confirmed to be infected that you’ve ignored in your fatality rate calculation. You can play with numbers all day, but the definition of fatality rate from my understanding is what percentage of all those infected (regardless of final infection outcome) has died.

      Liked by 1 person

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