Uncertainty breeds panic. As Covid-19 spreads across the planet, stock markets have crashed in response to the economic impact this virus will wreak on the global economy and cities around the world are shutting down.
We shouldn’t really be surprised by SARS-CoV-2, the new coronavirus. We’ve seen this scenario play out before with Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). In his book “Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic,” David Quammen warned us years ago about the dangers of animal viruses jumping into humans. It was only a matter of time, he wrote, that our destruction of forests and jungles would put us in contact with bats and other wild species that harbor viruses that had previously gone undetected.
Covid-19 is a powerful narrative. It has twists and turns, with exotic animals like horseshoe bats and scaly pangolins playing the antagonists as the source of the infection. Our fears are piqued by how much is still unknown — about the best we’re told we can do to protect ourselves is to stay away from people and wash our hands frequently, which seems, in this high-tech era, far too mundane for something that has essentially shut down the U.S. and other countries.