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Coronavirus Mortality: Crouching Tiger or Hidden Dragon?

To be honest with you, it’s neither.   Yet, it’s both.

“The phrase ‘Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon’ (Wuo hu zhan long) is a Chinese idiom in which the words ‘Tiger’ and ‘Dragon’ directly refer to people with special hidden talents. This idiom is used to remind people to never underestimate anybody.” [ source: Ted from https://kottke.org/01/02/the-phrase-crouching-tiger-hidden ]

Knowing the meaning of this idiom, it is appropriate for us to take its lesson to heart. 

Unfortunately, in the case of the coronavirus, Americans find themselves at a loss for accurate data to depend on.  However, the following is a list of facts we know:

  • the new coronavirus outbreak began in Wuhan, China
  • the Wuhan coronavirus is a sister virus to the SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) CoV virus that broke out in China and Southeast Asia in 2002–2003 and in Toronto in 2004
  • “The World Health Organization (WHO) today estimated the overall fatality rate for SARS patients at 14% to 15%, significantly higher than previous estimates. The agency estimated the rate for people older than 64 years to be more than 50%.” [source: University of Minnesota CIDRAP article dated May 7, 2003]
  • It turned out that SARS infected 8098 people and resulted in the deaths of 774 for a mortality rate of 9.6%
  • As of March 10th, Italy, has closed its borders and quarantined the country, and announced that it has more than 12,000 confirmed cases against 827 dead.  That works out to a mortality rate of nearly 6.9%.
  • on March 11th, the International Committee on the Taxonomy of Viruses has named the new coronavirus SARS CoV-2 because of its similarity to SARS CoV
  • SARS CoV-2 causes an illness named COVID-19
  • COVID-19 has caused thousands of deaths around the world so far and will cause more
  • SARS CoV and SARS CoV-2 both originated in China
  • For SARS CoV-2, China eventually closed its borders, but not before the virus had escaped to other nations
  • WHO estimated the incubation rate of SARS to be 2 to 7 days
  • the NIH has estimated the incubation rate of SARS CoV-2 to be 5.1 days with the first symptoms showing at 11.5 days after infection

Also, on March 11th, ABCNews.com reported that the CDC has declared the coronavirus a pandemic because more than 1,311 Americans have been confirmed to have the disease while 36 have died.  Those figures indicate a 2.7% mortality rate:  for every hundred people, nearly 3 of them will die.

Now, based on all the casualty statistics above and those provided by the Chinese so far, the US Center for Disease Control (CDC) has estimated that the mortality rate of SARS-2 worldwide is 3.4%.  They are also stating that SARS-2 is highly lethal to the elderly and the very young.  This, of course, is the typical pattern for the flu, not SARS. 

SARS deaths included the young (in single digits) and middle-aged (in low double-digits) as well as the elderly (50%+). 

The one major thing that differentiates the original SARS virus from the new one.  It was not a robust virus.  SARS was shut down quickly through quarantines of those infected and the monitoring of those with whom they had contact.  This means that it needed host-to-host transmission.

The new virus, on the other hand, is far more robust.  According to a new report published by Princeton, UCLA, and NIH to be airborne and live on hard surfaces:

“They found that the virus can survive up to three days on plastic and stainless steel, and up to 24 hours on cardboard, and up to four hours on copper surfaces. In a second part of the experiment, the researchers used a spray can-like device to spritz the virus into the air and discovered that the virus can survive suspended in a fine mist for up to three hours, though longer times were not tested.”

This means the likelihood of a broader rate of transmission is exponentially higher.

Now, there are two things about China’s numbers that I find suspicious .  First, no one can confirm the “official” casualty numbers they have reported because China tightly controls all the information.  They seem unnaturally low when you consider that the city of Wuhan, where the virus originated, has a population of some 26 million.  So, we are to believe that in such a population-dense, poor-hygiene location, only 3-tenths of 1 percent are infected?  Does that even begin to make sense?

And second, it took China 2 months to institute a national quarantine when only 84,000 have become infected and 3,400 have died in a combined population of about 1.5 billion.  The 84,000 number is ludicrously low.

I believe the world governments KNOW that China is lying and the SARS CoV-2 virus has a devastating potential.

Also, reports of soccer pitch-sized mass graves are percolating out of China, and it seems more likely that millions have been infected and that the 84,000 number more accurately represents the dead.  But that’s just my speculation and I have no way to confirm it.

NEW INFORMATION:

  • As of March 15, Italy announced 1809 dead with 21,257 infected.  That is a mortality rate of 8.5%—nearly 3 times that of the CDC estimate
  • On March 15th, China canceled ALL passports of those living in Sichuan Province, according to a medical source living in Chengdu
  • That same source stated that COVID-19 lives in the throat for four (4) days before descending into the lungs.  A sore or scratchy throat and a light, intermittent cough are indicators.  During this period, gargling with hot salt water and/or hot vinegar water can destroy the virus in the throat.  However, depending on the timing and the severity of the infection, this treatment may not stop it.

Clearly, COVID-19 is a nasty bug and has the potential to kill a lot of people.  But should Americans be scared?

The answer is yes AND no.  Yes because of the disease’s potential, yet no because America is fundamentally different from the rest of the world.

First and foremost among these differences is that fact that most Americans have daily hygiene habits that the rest of the world does not.  Among these we:

  • shower or bathe daily
  • we use antiseptic soaps
  • brush our teeth
  • use dishwashers to sterilize our plates and utensils
  • launder out clothes with detergents
  • clean our kitchen and bathroom surfaces with disinfectants

Americans are by far the cleanliest people on the planet and this bodes well for their ability to evade this virus.  The one area that health officials are always reminding us of is to wash our hands with soap whenever touching objects others have touched. 

We see the results of this practice in the per capita decrease in numbers of flu victims each year.  Now, with the dearth of disinfectant sprays and wipes, officials are resorting to the same advice: wash you hands with soap.

So the question that no one speaks but everyone secretly wonders is: will COVID-19 decimate—meaning kill 1 in 10—the America population?  No.  Will COVID-19 infect 1 in 10 Americans as the flu did?  Probably not. 

As I mentioned earlier, this flu season saw about 36 million infections—one-tenth of the population—but only 22,000 deaths.  That’s six one-hundredths of 1% (0.0006) of those infected.  Because of the flu’s extremely low mortality rate, the vast majority of Americans think of the flu almost as a relatively benign afterthought.

But with COVID-19, Americans are taking precautionary steps they have NEVER taken during flu season.  I suspect they are doing this because the “Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon” potential remains unknown.  And against the unknown, we are often ill-prepared.

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