If it’s not one thing, it’s another, and it has implications for Ketchikan.
The current “thing” is the coronavirus, a spreading flu strain reminiscent of the SARS virus in 2003. The Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome originated in China, infected more than 8,000 people and killed 774 people back then.
The coronavirus had infected 75,748 people — all but 1,073 of them in China — by the end of this week, according to the World Health Organization. As a result, 2,121 people in China and another eight people outside of China had died. This is over an eight-week period since health officials reported the first cases at the end of December.
By comparison, an estimated 35.5 million people in the United States contracted the flu during the 2018-2019 season, according to the Center for Disease Control.
Of those, 490,600 spent time in a hospital and 34,200 died.
That was solely in the United States. Flu obviously also infects people outside of the states.
Health officials offer the same precautions for coronavirus as the typical flu: Avoid contact with people showing symptoms of respiratory viruses, wash hands frequently, and when it’s necessary to cough or sneeze, do it into a disposable tissue or the crock of one’s arm. Wearing gloves, especially when turning door handles, pushing carts, shaking hands and the like, also limits the ability to spread and contract flu and colds.
The freedom with which people travel around the world, whether in the confines of a jet or cruise ship, increases the likelihood of the spread of disease and the likelihood of its implications, including on the stability of the global economy.
Anchorage’s winter tourism season is an example. Chinese tourists canceled at least 500 reservations through one travel agency this month. Airlines, hotels, dog mushing businesses and aurora borealis tour operators are losing business as a result.
And the situation in Anchorage, as well as the ship of passengers quarantined in the Asia seas in recent weeks, undoubtedly has Alaskans who entertain spring and summer tourists wondering what might occur economically yet this year. The big question is whether the coronavirus will affect the Alaska-bound cruise ships.
The answer is anyone’s guess. But, while the crux of the virus is in China, it’s most likely that the ships will cut short the season there and cruise into Alaska sooner.
Typically, the season starts here in earnest in early May.
No one wants to capitalize on another’s misfortune. But the Inside Passage cruise is popular, is increasing in popularity, and will be even a greater attraction as tourists seek healthy adventures.
Of equal concern is the coronavirus’ effect on Alaska’s seafood industry. The state exports product into China, and any number of items are imported here and into other states. Containing the virus also means limiting the transport of goods and services in and out of China.
Less transport also affects fuel consumption and oil prices. The oil industry largely contributes to Alaska’s income.
These days even isolated islands and states are no longer immune to happenings far away. But, at the same time, it’s prudent to put news events into perspective, especially with all of the news outlets and repetitive nature of their headlines. The repetition can create unnecessary or premature worries.
Last year’s flu season in the U.S. alone killed 94% more patients than the coronavirus has in the past two months worldwide. The flu season typically peaks in the three months of December, January and February.
The end of February is next week.
The coronavirus will have an end date, too.