A blogger was the first to report about COVID -19

Sharon Sanders an American blogger who writes on the website FluTrackers which is an online forum and early warning system which information about a wide range of infectious diseases, including flu and assists in how to use it to inform the general public. It was established in 2006,  to investigate seasonal influenza, and chikungunya. Later, it extended to include EbolaZika and drug resistant bacteria. In the first ten months of 2017, it received 18 million views.

Sharon stayed up almost until dawn on Dec. 31 to keep track of what she was noticing in China’s Hubei Province.

Sanders reported on her blog, that an outbreak of an unusual cluster of pneumonia cases, caused by a mysterious virus was being noticed in China.

The disease apparently had spread among merchants in a seafood market in Wuhan, a city of 11 million people.

Although few people saw the reports and even fewer reacted with urgency, Sanders’s blog appears to have been the first Western source to note what would soon explode into a worldwide pandemic. As eventually became clear, the illnesses chronicled by the blog were the first caused by a new strain of coronavirus.

Within days, a few mainstream news outlets also picked up the story. American news outlets, however, were slower to grasp what Sanders watched unfold in the early hours of Dec. 31

It wasn’t until January 20th that news picked up internationally by major news outlets about the virus that was just recently dubbed a pandemic

The reports which were picked up by FluTracker were based on government statements about patients who had already been sick for weeks. Efforts to sound the alarm earlier were suppressed; eight doctors in Wuhan who raised concerns before the official announcement on Dec. 31 were detained by police. One of the whistleblowers, Li Wenliang, became a national hero in China before he died of the virus.

Sanders, however, recognized quickly that there was something unique about this outbreak — she had a gut feeling because from her experience running the website it seemed highly unusual for Chinese officials to acknowledge they have a health crisis on their hands. Her blog’s contributors —  include some doctors and pharmacists who blog and routinely submit links to local news reports, medical journals and other data from around the world. Lending a professional eye to unusual patterns in world health.

Sanders, is self-trained at tracking diseases. She works in finance and real estate, co-founded the site in 2006 as a hobby and a way of meeting new people.

Soon after the blog launched, several global disease shocks began to break, from the avian flu in 2006, the H1N1/swine flu pandemic in 2009, and the H7N9 bird flu outbreak in China in 2013. The blog brought together research papers, local reports and obscure documents translated by contributors from multiple languages.

Soon, officials from WHO, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, the National Institutes of Health and international agencies were logging on, sometimes several times a day.

Sanders doesn’t take advertising or sell anything on her site. These days, more than a few people seem interested. Since the outbreak in Wuhan, Sanders says, FluTrackers has attracted nearly 353,000 unique visitors who have clicked on the site 15.5 million times, far more than the 11.6 million recorded during all of 2019.

This shows how we can actually use the internet and social media for the global good. Bloggers with certain levels of expertise in certain areas should actually be encouraged by industries more. As people with a passion for a topic will bring a lot to the table

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