Everyone in the path of the novel coronavirus, which at this point is pretty much all of us, should know by now the best advice to avoid catching this highly communicable bug. Wash your hands frequently, for 20 seconds at a time, and stop touching your face. You should also know what pointless panicky behavior looks like: Wearing a mask when you're not actually sick and buying up all the toilet paper. And then there's one behavior that seems like it might be sensible, but in fact falls under the panicky column. It has nothing to do with actual coronavirus symptoms, and only serves to increase the growing levels of fear and distrust. We speak of sneeze-shaming. According to the WHO and the CDC, the main symptoms of coronavirus are a fever, a dry cough, and difficulty breathing. Very few of the afflicted - some 5 percent, according to statistics from China - find themselves sneezing. "Runny nose is rarely a component of the illness," Dr. Marta Feldmesser, chief of medicine of infectious diseases at Lenox Hill Hospital, told the New York Post. "If people start sneezing, that's not something that should trigger concerns." There is, of course, a perfectly innocent reason to find yourself sneezing around this time of year. Spring has sprung across much of the U.S., and it's a particularly bad one for the more than 50 million Americans who suffer from seasonal allergies. California plants have already begun their annual shedding; as I write this, the pollen count in both the north and south of the state is ranked "medium-high." Thanks to above-average rainfall and temperatures, meteorologists are forecasting a "long and severe" season for tree, weed, and grass pollen. The perfect storm of allergy season and coronavirus panic seems almost designed to increase paranoia among a fearful population. "As an allergy sufferer, I can't deal with the glares," one sneeze-shamed California friend told me. "It's frustrating as hell." Her response breaks down into one of two categories: saying "don't worry, it's just allergies" if there are kids present; "resting bitch face" if there aren't.
Fears are so heightened right now; we're starting to see headlines like this. Passenger reaction to sneezing person causes plane to divert to Denver. We're in allergy season, so sneezing is common in most workplaces. So is sick shaming. Think You're a Hero for Coming into Work with The Flu? Think Again. Nobody's hero: for goodness' sake, stay home if you're sick
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