I think I’m getting a bit sick. Sick of hearing about the Corona Virus, that is. Or perhaps it’s more that to me the math doesn’t add up and I’m sick of people in media and government alike seemingly failing to ask questions about why that is.
So what’s the latest? It’s hard to keep up. Recently Japan shut down all of its schools for the entire month of March to prevent the spread of the illness. The country with the emphasis on education and brains doing that in response to just a few hundred cases of the virus showing up there. Seems a little hard to fathom. Some airlines have stopped flying to Italy because of around 1000 cases reported in the north of that land. And of course, China, where it originated has not only got armed guards keeping people from leaving the city of Wuhan, but has shut a very large chunk of its entire industrial machine in response. If you’ve noticed the price of gas has dropped a bit this winter, thank that virus… China’s quarantines and industrial shutdown has caused a drop of worldwide demand for oil and has left the mutlinats and OPEC with a glut of oil for the time being.
That might seem good for American consumers, but don’t be so fast to cheer. The stock market is plummeting in measures not seen in the past decade due to fears of the illness itself and subsequent worries about shortages of consumer goods and car parts that used to roll off those now closed Chinese assembly lines. And have a stiff drink if you own stock in Constellation Beverages. The company’s stock has plummeted from $207 to $172 just since Feb. 24 because of declining sales of its flagship product, Corona Beer. Some surveys show that 38% of Americans would refuse to drink it because they think its a source of the disease, because, well that’s just how clever many Americans are. Thank goodness the U.S. hasn’t closed all its schools – yet. All the while stores are selling out of things like Lysol wipes (which actually are useful at killing germs – be they corona, flu or anything else more or less) and face masks (which the CDC are screaming at us not to use and are suddenly calling useless). a trip to my local supermarket last night saw several people wearing the masks anyway and an ominous emptiness on the bread and bottled water shelves,. It could have been a truck or two delayed en route but seemed more likely to me it was the result of people panicking and stocking up for the cough armaggedon.
People are panicking and one can’t blame them entirely. No one had heard of this weird, bat-borne illness a few months back, now it’s the lead story on every TV news program and above-the-banner headline in every newspaper. Biden vs. Bernie, step aside for the Bug from China. Tornadoes in Nashville? How will having people without their homes sheltering together amplify the spread of Corona virus? What if one of the corpses in shattered houses was infected with Corona?
Of course, we’re used to the media blowing things out of proportion. They have to attract viewers and sell print, and nothing short of Jennifer kissing Brad sells like a dash of fear. Any coyote seen running away from a city park is likely to be the terrifying lead story at 6 should it be a slow news day with no escaped prisoners running loose and no slight risk of severe storms in the long range forecast. We saw a similar, if slightly scaled-down response to the less common SARS back in 2003 and to the apparently much less harmful West Nile Virus about a decade back. But government’s and public agencies are usually calmer and more rationale. To see the kind of reaction we have from various governments around the globe is rather astounding… and question-raising.
To me, medicine is a branch of science and science is at its core, rational. Mathematical. And to my eyes, there’s nothing logical about this viral event. A + B are not adding up to C. That worries me and makes me wonder what component is not what we are being told, which factor would make it all add up.
Because we have a disease which is still fairly rare. At last count there are something like 85 000 cases in the whole world. That’s a lot, until compared to the world population. There are something in the range of nearly 100 cases in the U.S.; not a huge number in a country of 310 million people; and not much of an apparent risk when those people are quarantined in secure hospitals. By comparison, the CDC report a minimum of 29 million cases of flu this winter in the country. And who knows how many countless others have had it, stayed home in bed, groaned and slept for a couple of days then got back up and at it without reporting to any doctor? At least two in my household alone. Furthermore, we’re told this year’s flu is more virulent than usual and that in any average year, it will kill around 18 000 people here and hundreds of thousands more elsewhere. Yet factories aren’t closing their doors, students aren’t being told “no classes this month” and airlines haven’t abandoned Atlanta, O’Hare and LAX to prevent its spread. why then the responses to an illness that’s claimed about 2400 victims in total?
The equation might still work out if Corona was an exceedingly grim, horrifying instant death sentence. A sort of ebola-on-steroids-but-as-communicable-as-a-common-cold. But it’s not. Here the experts differ a little, with some saying it is less dangerous than the flu while others contend that it is about as dangerous as a severe flu, but even so, they all agree that many who have it don’t even know they have it because symptoms can be so minor in many people. And based on the info we’re given, the mortality rate from it is no more than 2%… significant, yes, and scary if your loved one comes down with it, but not a major risk overall, especially if the ones dying are mainly ones with existing serious medical conditions or the very elderly.
So it leads me to worry. Not about catching Corona from some random person 100 feet away from me in a store who yesterday stood next to someone who’d gone to China last fall, but about the truthfulness of our expert sources. A + B are equaling C-squared here, not C. Is the disease far worse than we’re being led to believe? Are there thousands of deaths being covered up, and if so, why aren’t their families and friends making a noise? Or is this some kind of clandestine, weird experiment and conspiracy to test preparedness for a real Spanish flu-type pandemic or something else only the X-files might contrive?
Until we hear more reason, I say wash your hands, cough into a Kleenex or your sleeve, stay home if you’re sick and go out and do your thing if you’re not. So far, it seems like maybe the “cure” is worse than the disease.