This is serious, but it’s not the end of the world as we know it.
- As of February 6th, China has reported 31,161 confirmed cases of the Wuhan coronavirus, and 636 known deaths from the virus. That’s a 2% death rate, substantially less than the pandemic of 1918 (estimated at around 10%) and only slightly above a normal flu season in the US. The US has had 10,000 deaths from flu thus far in the 2019-2020 flu season.
- There are confirmed cases of this coronavirus in 24 countries. Outside of China, there have been two confirmed deaths from the coronavirus.
- In the US, the CDC is aware of 12 confirmed cases. Including Americans evacuated from Wuhan, there are more than 1,000 US residents under investigation as potential cases of this virus. There have been no confirmed deaths from this coronavirus in the US, although it is possible to have deaths and attribute them to something else. That’s especially true among the elderly in the US; they rarely receive a thorough examination after death.
- We do not know the total number of cases of this new coronavirus, in China or anyplace else:
- People who have the virus may not show symptoms for up to two weeks.
- Some “carriers” may never show symptoms.
- People with the virus can have negative CT scans.
- Clinics in China have run out of test kits and space for new patients.
- The symptoms can be mistaken for a more normal cold or flu.
- There was a three-week gap between the first case and government action to control the problem, and Wuhan has a major international airport with direct flights to cities in the US, Europe, the Middle East, and other major centers in Asia.
Put simply, we really don’t know how bad this is going to be. It could get a lot worse, or it could behave like the flu viruses we are used to seeing. The death rate right now isn’t unusual.
How do you protect yourself? Basic hygiene helps. Wash hands. Try to avoid direct contact with dirty surfaces (bathroom door knobs, for example). Clean up after yourself out of respect for others. (If you’ve seen dirty bathrooms when traveling, you’ll know what I mean.)
Why the excitement/panic over this disease?
- It’s new, and many humans seem to fear anything new.
- There seems to be an expectation that Armageddon, the “Second Coming” or something of that nature is or will happen in the near future. There’s no evidence for any such thing, although a die-off of a chunk of the human population is probably overdue. World War II was the last major correction — and yes, the people who study population growth, the demographers, do think in those terms.
Should we panic about the Wuhan virus? Not yet?
Should we take prudent precautions to protect ourselves from exposure? Certainly.