Yves here. I don’t like seeming like a scaremonger, but I see way too much evidence that people are not taking coronavirus risk seriously enough. For instance, I have been e-mailing the service that employs my mother’s home health care aides about handwashing every time they come in the door. I’ve had to send the WHO video to make sure they are actually washing thoroughly enough (unfortunately, my pressing the aides goes over less well than directives from their bosses). And I am certain they are not taking precautions when they are out, like avoiding touching their faces and cleaning handles they touch or grabbing them using a tissue or paper towel. And this place has mainly nurses as managers!
Similarly, in my gym, which has at least 20% medical professionals among its membership, I see zero change in behavior, no greater use of hand sanitizers on the floor (and note the FDA recently challenged Purell’s claims, perhaps in part because hand sanitizers are “mostly useless” as deployed by real people), nor any curiosity as to whether the spray bottles on the floor have stuff in it that will actually kill germs (they are hardly used and the purpose really seems to be wipe sweat off benches and cardio machines. They don’t contain alcohol and even bleach diluted to the level the NIH recommends for wiping down surfaces takes more than ten minutes to kill viruses. 10% bleach is more deadly but also pretty corrosive and thus can’t be used on quite a few surfaces). And no, it’s not as if people are staying home. Exercise classes and games are very well attended.
In other words, it appears that more people need to get the message that the coronavirus is dangerous and they need to take meaningful precautions. This short post might help in conveying that message.
By George Washington, formerly of Washington’s Blog
The World Health Organization (WHO) says that the mortality rate from the Wuhan Coronavirus (formally known as 2019 nCoV) is 3.4% globally.
But surely, you say, the Coronavirus is not as contagious as the Spanish Flu …
Unfortunately, it’s more contagious. The Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy notes:
The novel coronavirus has an R0 of 2.2, meaning each case patient could infect more than 2 other people. If accurate, this makes the 2019 nCoV more infectious than the 1918 influenza pandemic virus, which had an R0 of Based on calculations, the authors of the larger study estimate the novel coronavirus has an R0 of 2.2, meaning each case patient could infect more than 2 other people. If accurate, this makes the 2019 nCoV more infectious than the 1918 influenza pandemic virus, which had an R0 of 1.80 ….
WHO says that the R0 of Coronavirus in China was initially between 2 and 2.5.< But scientists from the Los Alamos National Laboratory said that the R0 for the Coronavirus is actually between 4.7 to 6.6 (although that number drops to between 2.3 and 3 after quarantines and social distancing are implemented).
According to the Director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and others, Coronavirus can be spread even when people have no symptoms. On the one hand, this is bad news, as it is very hard to screen and locate carriers when they are symptom-free or have only mild, cold or flu-like symptoms.
On the other hand, this means that the real R0 might be much higher than WHO estimates … which would make the mortality rate lower.
If the number of people with Coronavirus is a lot higher than is being reported, that means the mortality is a lot lower … i.e. a smaller percentage of the larger population of people infected have died.
Indeed, China only tests a portion of those who are really sick, and the United States has tested less than 500 people total for Coronavirus (American doctors have to beg to get their sick patients tested).
So far, WHO has rejected the theory that there are more people who have Coronavirus than reported:
One of the hopes of people watching China’s coronavirus outbreak was that the alarming picture of its lethality is probably exaggerated because a lot of mild cases are likely being missed.
But on [February 25th], a World Health Organization expert suggested that does not appear to be the case. Bruce Aylward, who led an international mission to China to learn about the virus and China’s response, said the specialists did not see evidence that a large number of mild cases of the novel disease called Covid-19 are evading detection.
But one can’t assess whether mild cases are being missed without a widespread testing program. Especially since many cases are mild, and some cases are wholly asymptomatic.
The bottom line is that we don’t yet have the core data we need to determine how lethal the Coronavirus is.
Our best bet at reaching an accurate estimate is probably to follow what’s happening in South Korea. As of last week, South Korea had already tested 66,652 people for Coronavirus. And it’s testing more than 10,000 new people a day.
South Korea also has a modern healthcare system.
So keeping track of the mortality rate in South Korea will be a good indicator of the real lethality of this virus.
Postscript: Some have claimed that Asians are more vulnerable to Coronavirus than other races. However, I wrote to the international agency which is claimed to have gathered the data, the European Molecular Biology Laboratory-European Bioinformatics Institute (EMBL-EMI), which sponsors the 1000 Genomes Project. Paul Flicek – Associate Director and Senior Scientist and Head of Genes, Genomes & Variation Services at EMBL-EMI explained to me that the data was hogwash. In any event, given that Italians, Americans and others are dying of the Coronavirus, I don’t know why people keep claiming that Asians are more vulnerable.