SARS-Like Virus Spreads to Tunisia

From ABC News:

“A 66-year-old Tunisian man has died from the new coronavirus following a visit to Saudi Arabia and two of his adult children were infected with it, the Tunisian Health Ministry reported.

His sons were treated and have since recovered but the rest of the family remains under medical observation, the ministry said in a statement Monday. The World Health Organization confirmed the cases of the children, but said one of them was a daughter who was with her father for part of the trip to Saudi Arabia and Qatar. There was no immediate way to reconcile the differing reports.”

I’m not a virologist, so I am by no means qualified to give an expert opinion on this. However, it seems that every few years something like SARS or bird flu or swine flu comes up and causes a brief panic for a few months. While the SARS virus killed 770 people, the seasonal flu kills 20,000 Americans every year. Make no mistake: these novel infectious diseases do pose a threat to public health. But pushing the panic button every time one of them shows up could cause “pandemic fatigue” and result in the public tuning out future warnings.

So while this new virus sounds dangerous, I hope the scientific community doesn’t cry wolf, because it’s not a question of if but when the wolf will come. And when it comes, public health officials must have the trust of the public or the consequences could be catastrophic.

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