When it comes to the coronavirus, we have more questions than answers. But one thing we know for certain — health officials around the world are very much afraid. China normally downplays these kinds of events. But Chinese President Xi Jinping calls this outbreak a “grave situation.”
For many Americans, it seemed to hit home when the Shanghai Disneyland closed. The original Disneyland in California has had only two unplanned all-day closures — after the assassination of John Kennedy and after 9-11. Not only did Disney in China close, but so did other regional tourist attractions. Even MacDonald’s and Starbucks closed along with other well-known restaurant chains.
As of this writing, there have been 4,100 confirmed cases in China, with at least 106 deaths. 56 million people in China have had their travel restricted. This adds a great deal to people’s fear and anxiety. Residents have said they feel trapped — locked in with a dangerous virus. In much of China, trains are either unoccupied or not running at all. Train and bus terminals are eerily empty.
The US State Department is evacuating its personnel from the city of Wuhan. But another thousand Americans live in that city, and they have been told that the United States cannot get them all out of the hot zone. The State Department has issued a travel warning to Americans considering a trip to China.
Despite the flight restrictions and intense passenger screening, confirmed cases of the virus have popped up in 13 countries so far. That includes, as of this writing, five confirmed cases in the United States. Five Americans out 327 million may not seem like much. But the point is, it’s here!
Then we learned why the passenger screening process has not always been effective. According to China’s health minister, people with the virus may be contagious before they show symptoms. Testing people for fever doesn’t help if they are contagious before they get a fever. Dr. William Schaffner, an adviser to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said this would mean “the infection is much more contagious than we originally thought.”
Yes, health officials are afraid. They know that this virus has the potential of becoming a global pandemic.
But we’ve heard that before. Do you remember the SARS and MERS viruses? They, too, were coronaviruses and had the potential to ravage the earth. We still don’t have vaccinations against them, but they have largely disappeared. That’s what happens with these kinds of diseases. Even without human intervention, they rise and then they lose strength.
The current outbreak may turn out to be even less destructive than SARS or MERS. Or it could be worse. The question is how much damage the disease will do while it is most active. The Spanish flu pandemic of 1918 and 1919 infected one-third of the world’s population. It killed more Americans than World War I, World War II, Korea, and Viet Nam combined.
Jesus said that the last days would be marked by pestilences. Revelation tells about specific pestilences that will arise during the tribulation period. As we get closer to the beginning of the tribulation, the world seems to be primed for a series of massive global pandemics. The ease and speed of global travel is one of the big factors here.
The other great danger is the rise of superbugs. Over the last hundred years or so, we humans have been inadvertently developing bacteria, viruses, and fungi that are stronger than anything in history. We call them superbugs because they are resistant to antibiotics, antivirals, and antifungal medications. By the extensive use of such drugs, we have made it so that only the strongest of each species survives. And the strong bugs are increasingly difficult to kill.
This is what the UK’s Chief Medical Officer, Dame Sally Davies, was talking about when she warned of a coming “superbug apocalypse.”
Here’s the amazing thing. The Bible predicted this almost two thousand years ago. It’s just another example of something that should be crucially important to everyone. The Bible is true! We can trust it. We can trust its warnings and its promises. Even bleak news like this should remind us that our faith in God and heaven is built on a firm foundation.