Rigellian fever, Terothka virus and Bendii syndrome are but a few of the (thankfully fictional) ailments that have confronted space explorers throughout the various “Star Trek” films and TV shows.
While “Star Trek” is just science-fiction, perhaps we can look to the franchise’s wise Vulcan science officer Mr. Spock for reassurance and guidance during the panic over the novel coronavirus and cold and flu season.
Actor George Takei, who played Spock’s colleague Hikaru Sulu, recently posted a meme on Twitter encouraging people to avoid germy handshakes in favor of Spock’s Vulcan salute, invented by Spock’s late portrayer Leonard Nimoy. CNET.com describes the Vulcan salute: “The actor would raise his hand with the palm facing forward, thumb extended, and his middle and ring finger parted.”
In December 2019, doctors in Wuhan, China, reported a spate of pneumonia cases thought to be linked to the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market. The World Health Organization declared this novel coronavirus — aka COVID-19 — a “Public Health Emergency of International Concern” on Jan. 30, 2020.
As of March 7, more than 100,000 cases of COVID-19 have been documented worldwide, according to the WHO. Most of those cases are in China, but the New York Times reported that there are more than 300 cases in the United States.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, symptoms of COVID-19 can range from mild to severe. Older adults and people with chronic medical issues are at greater risk for serious illness. Within 2-14 days of exposure to the virus, a person may develop a fever, cough or shortness of breath.
WHO officials say 4 out of 5 COVID-19 cases are mild, but the mortality rate could be as high as 3.4%. In comparison, the typical seasonal flu has a mortality rate of 0.1% and the 1918 Spanish flu epidemic had a death rate of 2.5%.
The CDC gives the following recommendations for reducing the spread of respiratory illnesses such as the common cold, influenza and COVID-19:
• Get your flu vaccine. (A vaccine for COVID-19 is in the works but it may be 18 months or more until it is ready.)
•Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
• Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
• Stay home when you are sick.
• Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue into a lined trash can.
• Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
• The CDC does not recommend that healthy people wear a face mask. People who show symptoms of COVID-19, health care workers and caregivers should wear face masks.
Finally, the CDC recommends washing your hands frequently (before eating, after going to the bathroom, and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing). Alcohol-based hand sanitizer is okay in a pinch, but it is best to wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
If you need a timer, you can recite the introduction to “Star Trek,” which runs about 20 seconds:
Space: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its continuing mission: to explore strange new worlds; to seek out new life and new civilizations; to boldly go where no one has gone before!
To learn more about coronavirus prevention and management, visit cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html.