Earlier this week, the World Health Organization declared that the annual coronavirus that now has claimed 74 lives worldwide had crossed into Europe, and based on the latest WHO update, nearly a dozen deaths and more than 60 suspected cases have been reported since mid-December. The situation may be complicated by complacency, since its past links to Saudi Arabia were not as strong as were originally suggested, but both health authorities and governments are taking the new news seriously.

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The superconcentrated focus on the coronavirus has helped doctors understand how it spreads more easily than at a normal flu. But we have to wonder why it took so long for it to appear in Europe, and why it is mostly concentrated in the Middle East. First it was discovered in humans in China in 2012, and people there got sick — some died — until a "mass outbreak" in 2016.

If you’re from the Middle East, you have a special obligation to learn more about it — to play doctor to your friends there, and to speak out when it’s important. Knowing more about the virus, the practices it encourages, and the community response to it may make some of us safer. Still, it’s a mistake to underestimate how riskier the situation is when a new disease appears to be difficult to identify, unrelated to a known vector, emerging at a time when everything is becoming increasingly social, close and shared online and a time when there’s more of a feeling of vulnerability.

As we learn more about the coronavirus and how it spreads, we come to understand a little more about ourselves. We may, in fact, be stronger than we were a few years ago.

That’s why the question of global isolationism is important. Today, after a sustained period of conflict and general negativity, we are more connected than ever. The individualism and globalism that began decades ago is not only right, it’s healthier. Maybe we need more diversity, and perhaps more foreigners, to ensure that everything we do is as interconnected as humanly possible.

If you’re from the Middle East, you have a special obligation to learn more about it — to play doctor to your friends there, and to speak out when it’s important.

This piece first appeared in the Times' Metro section.

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