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The rush to understand and help address the coronavirus

The signal: In the wake of an epidemic, the world must come together to find novel solutions. In recent weeks, we’ve learned more about the disturbing spread of the coronavirus, which has spread from Wuhan, China, across the world. As of this morning, it was affecting more than 20k people, with 427 known deaths.

With much unknown about the virus, research is pouring in. According to Nature, over 50 English-language academic papers have already been published on the topic, with most surfacing in the last few weeks. Other sources cite thousands of scientific articles in existence.

In times like these, misinformation can also spread quickly. Some people have associated the deadly virus with the Mexican beer brand.

Source: Google Trends

The opportunity: It’s important to note that any opportunities associated with the virus are not meant to take away from the seriousness of the problem or the people suffering from it. Instead, they’re meant to showcase ways people are getting involved and how major worldwide events can trigger innovative responses.

Sites like Hacker News are sprawling with thoughtful fodder. In the past few weeks, 31 articles with the term “coronavirus” in the title and 16 with “Wuhan” have gotten 20 upvotes or more — meaning they hit the front page of the acclaimed site. These useful resources include a real-time map (which has gained an incredible 100k+ backlinks in the past week) and a piece on how to react to pandemics.

Compared to other global outbreaks like SARS, Swine, and Zika, people seem to be responding differently this time. Search for terms like “face masks” or even more specific products like “N95 respirator masks” are surging and in unexpected places, like the UK, the United States, and Australia.

Source: Google Trends

Some believe that masks will eventually gain widespread adoption, akin to the health and fashion statement they’ve become in Asia. Others point to this event as the “world’s largest work-from-home experiment” or an opportunity to hedge in areas like drug discovery or germ-killing supplies. We’ll keep monitoring the changes and update you in the coming weeks.

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