Thoughts on Corona Chaos

I found it odd when a school said it was going to disinfect their rooms and buildings over the weekend. I was wondering, “Why don’t schools take those precautions all through flu season? Why do we just choose to suffer through yearly flu and cold outbreaks?”

We stopped taking influenza serious (and viruses in general) even though most influenza strains are dangerous to people whose immune system are compromised by other factors, or if they are elderly (much like the current corona virus strain). Our anti-viral medications are no where near the level of advancement they should be. One would think these would be high-profit drugs for companies to produce. With all the money politicians take from Big Pharma, maybe they should expect more out of them than vacation junkets?

Having said all that, I think the many people quoting high mortality rates for the corona virus (covid-19 or SARS-CoV-2), may be causing unnecessary panic.

First, don’t get me wrong, we should be taking steps to squash this disease outbreak. Would our efforts be so drastic had we already had a more serious perspective on diseases as I mentioned? No, probably not. Certainly not with the economic and social havoc that has been occurring.

To know the mortality rate of a disease, you need to know the deaths and how many people carry the disease. It is this second number that we have no clue. Numbers you are seeing are best guesses. The reasons for this are: The disease is new and most of the medical world wasn’t testing for it until recently, and the epicenter is in China and, as we all know, China hasn’t been honest about outbreak data from the beginning (and read this story about the doctor who “vanished” after criticizing the Chinese government).

Even considering some deaths have gone unreported, having been misdiagnosed as being caused by something else, the number infected is always far higher. For example, it is true that not everyone who has a symptom of influenza goes and gets tested, but we have decades of data to draw on. With Covid-19, we have none.

Whether you know it or not, the specter of the Great Influenza Pandemic of 1918 hangs over us. It was the worst plague in human history – perhaps 100 million dead. All from the common H1N1 virus which went through multiple mutations causing multiple waves of the pandemic. It was different from most influenza, and covid-19, because it didn’t attack the weak or compromised. It went after the young and strong. The causes of its virulence are still debated. The pandemic emerged as medicine was also entering the modern age, so no doubt many deaths could have been avoided with complications addressed by what we now know.

Still, a plague like 1918 is possible from some unknown virus, some new strain, which is why viral disease should not be ignored. There’s no reason to believe that covid-19 will be like the influenza that devastated the world a century ago.

So we will learn from this, and change some of our priorities, and hopefully be better prepared next time to make a measured and rational response. We will defeat this.

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