Feb 12, 2020 - Health

Taking coronavirus fears too far

Photo illustration of a woman with a face mask holding a child. A Coronavirus is behind her.
Photo Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios. Photo: NurPhoto/Getty Images

Fear and misinformation surrounding the coronavirus have prompted unwarranted discrimination against Chinese-Americans who have nothing to do with the epidemic.

What they're saying: "We’re already worried about [stigma] here in the U.S. and around the world, that somebody coming back from this community or that community may be treated differently ... and businesses in a certain neighborhood may be boycotted," Anne Schuchat, an official with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said Tuesday.

What's happening: Chinese-Americans and other people of Asian decent admit to suppressing their coughs and runny noses in public to avoid unwanted stares or social isolation, the Los Angeles Times and NPR report.

  • On U.S. college campuses, some non-Asian students acknowledged avoiding Asian classmates for no other reason than the virus's surge in China.
  • The coronavirus has an unknown animal host, spurring comments on social media that revive racist tropes about food.

The bottom line: "It’s definitely been an important message to point out that this outbreak is mostly in China and that’s where the risk is," Nancy Messonnier, spokesperson on the coronavirus for the CDC, said Monday.

Flashback: The 2013–2016 Ebola outbreak also increased "stigma, discrimination and blame" toward communities perceived as African in non-African countries, the World Health Organization observed.

Go deeper: Coronavirus death toll tops 1,000

Go deeper