Guest Columnist

Call it the (fill in the blank) virus

This undated electron microscope image made available by the U.S. National Institutes of Health in February 2020 shows t
This undated electron microscope image made available by the U.S. National Institutes of Health in February 2020 shows the Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2. Also known as 2019-nCoV, the virus causes COVID-19. The sample was isolated from a patient in the U.S. Dozens of research groups around the world are racing to create a vaccine as COVID-19 cases continue to grow. (NIAID-RML via AP)

The habit of certain politicians to label the COVID-19 virus based on its origin is exposing their lack of understanding of viral transmission. Viewing the current pandemic from a more detailed perspective suggests different and ever-evolving location-based naming is possible, and therefore such political behavior is ridiculous.

Proclaiming COVID-19 as the “China” virus or the “Wuhan” virus was accurate for a minuscule time frame during the contagion’s earliest stages.

But based on a review of various scientific sources, the following scenario is possible:

An asymptomatic traveler leaves Wuhan by air, arriving in Bangkok while in state of full-fledged COVID-19 virus shedding.

We now have the Bangkok virus. The aircrew disperses to other flights, compounding the spread. However, it’s not the Bangkok virus. It’s still the COVID-19 virus.

One of the millions of Bangkok viruses placed into an aerosol by the Wuhan traveler infects another international traveler who is returning to Seattle. Upon their arrival at Seattle-Tacoma International airport, several people are cross-infected.

We now have the Seattle-Tacoma (Sea-Tac) virus. But no, it’s still the COVID-19 virus.

While at Sea-Tac International, the traveler arriving from Bangkok accidentally sneezes on the carry-on of a passenger who will be transferring to a series of flights terminating at LaGuardia Airport in Queens, NY.

We now have the Queens virus, which is notable given Queens is our president’s birthplace. However, it is not the Trump virus. It’s still the COVID-19 virus.

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And finally, the passenger from Sea-Tac International who arrived at LaGuardia happens to run into a former co-worker. They shake hands and reminisce for several minutes about the good old days. That co-worker is traveling to the Kansas City International airport and will arrive home in Wichita, KS, where they fall visibly ill.

So we now have the Wichita virus. Coincidentally, Wichita was previously home to our secretary of state. Again, however, it is not the Pompeo virus. It’s still the COVID-19 virus.

The designation of a virus as the cause of a pandemic indicates it’s a condition of global transmission and impact. Based on the preceding, attempting to attribute the COVID-19 sickness to a single location once it’s in general global circulation is illogical.

Whether or not it’s racist to label COVID-19 as the “Wuhan” or “China” virus is perhaps worthy of debate. But such a conversation adds no value to the medical discourse, emergency communications, and ultimate protection of the world’s citizenry. Given we all live on one planet, as soon as we have a rapid global spread of a virus, the prejudicial labeling of a virus based on its origin is at best narrow-minded and mean-spirited. It serves no purpose in the remediation of the world’s medical condition.

Please recognize that viruses and science care not for geography, nationality, or one’s political-religious beliefs. Pandemics are equal- opportunity disrupters for which meaningfully aggressive, comprehensive, and integrated worldwide response planning must be undertaken and maintained.

Grant Harper of Marion is a former science educator who has worked for multiple technically oriented businesses.

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