When You're a Carpenter, Everything Looks Like Wood
We are constantly bombarded with the "fact" that the mortality rate from the Wuhan flu is 3%. It's surprising that we aren't being told a higher number, because in Hubei Province, China, there have been 59,114 cases with 3,111 deaths, for a rate of 5.3%. But this only tells us about how many who died had been confirmed to have Wuhan flu. Were there other deaths that weren’t confirmed or other cases that never got sick enough to get tested? Science magazine reports that 86% of infections are never documented. This would mean that the Hubei mortality rate is actually 0.86%. But we don't know for sure, and without that information, any "mortality rate" is at best a guess.
Detailed drive-thru testing is reaching about 20,000 people a day with accurate tests. As of March 9, South Korea had tested 190,000 people, with only 7,478 confirmed cases and fifty-one deaths. That's a mortality rate of 0.7% – a whole lot less than advertised, and directly in line with the Hubei data if adjusted for the Science magazine report. (Newer data shows 0.6%.) While we can argue about why, it's clear that the vast majority – perhaps three fourths – of all Wuhan flu cases never have a cough or fever. Thus, they would never think that they were sick enough to need a test, but could still pass the virus on to someone else. The report in Science indicates that there are two infections from stealth carriers for every infection from an identified patient.
If we look at the United States, we find a large number of public figures announcing that they have either been exposed to the Wuhan flu, or have tested positive for it. This makes it clear that the virus is being spread broadly in the community, exactly as you would expect from the Science and South Korean numbers. The data coming out from various governmental bodies just confirms that we are in the exponential increase phase.
Quarantine only works early, before the virus escapes. The University of Southampton has found that the Chinese delay in quarantining Wuhan led to massive increases in the worldwide spread of Wuhan flu. Had they acted even one week earlier, the epidemic would have been reduced by two-thirds. Three weeks earlier, when it became clear that something bad was going on, the worldwide reduction would have been 95%, allowing other areas of quarantine to be beneficial. Once you enter that vertical phase, broad quarantine doesn't work. Even if every person with symptoms was locked up, there would still be three or four others out there with the virus, spreading the infection. It can't be stopped. It's "in the wild."
Certainly, high-risk people ought to carefully assess whether they should expose themselves by letting sick grandkids visit or attending sporting events, but that's how they should behave every day. This is no different. Life must be allowed to go on.
But governments can't allow themselves to not "do something." And because he says we must do something, it's clear that it's the right thing to do. Whether it is or not. And since "people will die," the government has to protect the people by destroying their lives.
So let's return to what we (don't) know. It's clear that Wuhan flu can be spread from coughs, sneezes, or handshakes. It can also spread from touched surfaces. What isn't clear is how much contact or how many droplets are needed. We know that infected persons attended CPAC, where thousands of people were in closed spaces, yet not one person is confirmed to have contracted the virus from that event. President Trump shook hands with at least two infected persons, but tests negative.
Early data suggests that even among close contacts such as family members the transmission rate is 1-5%. These are people who have repeated contact with carriers. This suggests that the public "casual contact" spreading rate is quite small. This fits with other epidemics such as H1N1 influenza. The idea that merely brushing by a carrier will doom you to a terrible death is utter nonsense.
Reporting on the Diamond Princess, Slate states that of the 3,711 people on board, 705 got the virus (19%), and six (0.85% of those infected) died. It appears that rumors of our demise have been somewhat exaggerated.
Governments are causing massive harm in the name of saving us from a small threat. They are lying to help their case. We've seen that the actual mortality rate from the Wuhan flu is less than 1%. The Spanish flu of 1918 had a mortality of around 2%. Seasonal flu is reported to be about 0.1% fatal, but that's based on estimates, not data. H1N1 mortality may actually be as high as 4%, and during the swine flu epidemic, the government did nothing. President Obama didn't even talk about it until a thousand people had died. But since upwards of thirty thousand die every year from influenza, that's not a big deal.
Our panic is completely misplaced. But just to make the picture more clear, during the MERS epidemic (also a coronavirus), the mortality rate for confirmed cases was up to 40%. SARS (another coronavirus) had mortality rates of 15% overall, with rates increasing in older patients. They were also "pandemics," a term used to scare the public into submission.
"Pandemic" just means an infection that is occurring simultaneously all over the world. The common cold is just one example. Yes, Wuhan flu is another, but as we've seen, it isn't any worse than a lot of other diseases. It's no Ebola, where your survival is in question the moment you get it. Rather, as Italy has discovered, older people with multiple medical problems are at highest risk. As of March 18, of the 2,503 deaths, only 12 had no previous health problems. The average fatality had 2.7 comorbid conditions. All younger deaths occurred in patients with serious illnesses such a diabetes or heart disease.
When a virus is in the wild, closing down whole industries and putting people out of work is stupid. It will do little or nothing to slow down the disease, since two-thirds of all new cases come from asymptomatic carriers that will not be identified. Such quarantines are fools' errands. They prevent people from buying food, paying rent, or keeping the lights on. And they can't get their medicines. Offloading daily support tasks to others who "aren't infected" doesn't change anything, since large numbers of them are actually infected, but we just don't know it.
The only approach that can help at this point is "reverse isolation." In Washington-speak, that is "social distancing." In short, don't deliberately expose yourself to the bug. We know that coughs can easily spread droplets six feet. Video of sneezes shows gunk out to twelve feet. And the virus can persist on surfaces for up to three days. If the South Korean data is accurate and 4.4% of people carry the bug, then going anywhere that 16 people have been cuts your chance of not being exposed to less than 50/50. (.956 x .956 x .956…) In short, because the Wuhan flu is in the wild, you will be exposed. And you have four times the chance of being exposed from a stealth carrier as you do from a known carrier.
Some of the government commands make sense. Large, close-quarter assemblies definitely increase the risk of transmission, as the Diamond Princess demonstrates. But one has to question banning professional outdoor sports. Yes, the gallery for fan favorites at a golf tournament bunches up. But UV light from the sun is an excellent disinfectant. Your grandmother knew that before she ever heard of "UV." Businesses can use UV light in off hours to sterilize rooms. The Chinese are now using it to clean buses.
But government restrictions are putting a straitjacket on the economy. 18% of US workers have lost their jobs or had their hours reduced as a result of the government-imposed measures. Employers who can't do business are being required to pay money they don't have on sick leave and other financial benefits. And now the government is simply printing money to drop from helicopters as a sop to devastated families. These measures will ultimately kill many Americans for a variety of reasons, all because of a disease that is comparable to the seasonal flu we've had every year. This is beyond stupid.
Because you cannot avoid the Wuhan flu virus if you go out in public, the onus is now on you to self-protect. But for whom is this most concerning? Obviously, the presently ill. They need to avoid compounding their problem with a virus. But that has been the fact for them at all times. The common cold kills just as effectively when it progresses to bronchitis and then pneumonia. But we say that the person died of pneumonia, not the common cold.
Life is hazardous. Wuhan flu is a new hazard, but it is competing with all the others, and because of news reporting and political expediency, it will kill many more than it should.