A Note on COVID-19

I am going to go out on a limb here and tell you what I really think about the current pandemic we face.

I think the real pandemic is fear and fear-based reactions.

It is clear the COVID-19 is highly contagious and “new”.

It is also clear that a large majority perhaps 85% of people who get it will fall into 2 categories, few or no symptoms. Another 12% or so will experience moderate symptoms but not life threatening. A small percentage will get very sick and face a life-threatening illness.

Those most likely to be affected will have some sort of immune compromise so if you fall into that category you should take extra precautions and be very serious about avoiding crowds and potential exposures (see below).

For the rest of us the same holds true to a lesser extent. I do not think there will be a whole lot of “outliers” who “should not” have gotten sick.

IF you look at the stats right now the death toll for the explosive origin areas in China is 5300 people. It is hard to know what is going on in Iran so that remains a wild card. Italy has lost about 1000 people so far.

So, lets use China as an example. There are at least 1.4 billion people there and there has been a reported case rate of 144,000 with those 5300 deaths. Let’s assume they are lying and double the numbers to 250,000 infected people with 10,000 deaths. That gives you a death rate in a country with both hugely crowded cities and rural areas around 0.0000007 of the population and an infection rate of about 2 in 10,000 people. Even if you double THOSE (increase the lie factor to 4X) numbers you should be underwhelmed especially compared to influenza! Keep in mind China was ostensibly the least well prepared for this as the first nation that experienced it and at least some questions on their health care practices

In most seasons influenza (flu) kills between 35, 000 and 60,000 people in America alone and we do not hear a peep about that. Each year over 400,000 (range is 350,000 to 650,000) people world-wide die of influenza and nothing shuts down. No one mobs grocery stores. And no one panics.

It is entirely possible that COVID-19 will not approach those numbers even with its wide and rapid spread. But no one wants to be the one who “underreacted”!

What about Italy? Italy’s median age is 12 years greater than the U.S. and this no doubt seems to account for some of the higher death rates. Italy is also having its worst influenza season in decades.

I am certain this will kill more people than the corona virus in Italy! Just wait ‘til those numbers are in!

One thing is for sure, COVID-19 will cause a huge amount of damage to a panic driven economy everywhere.

For the record, China is already recovering from both the virus and some of the economic damage. Deaths rates are down and cancellations are being reversed. The virus was originally documented sometime in December of 2019 suggesting a 3 month ish season affected by weather.

It is likely that warmer weather will stem the tide of this virus. I don’t know about you but here in Southeastern Pa. we’ve had a very warm winter.

I do not watch much TV and this might be one reason why I am not panicked along with having lived through the also deadly outbreaks of Bird Flu, Ebola, Zikka, HIV, SARS and Dengue. I truly despise the scare tactics of our media outlets but I have to say, every doctor I have seen on TV says “Don’t panic!”

That appears not to be working as a visit to the local grocery store to get some distilled water for my carpet steamer yielded empty shelves in the water department. All the water was gone. Not sure why since corona virus is not found, even in city tap water! I doubt municipalities will shut off water service but again, panic causes bizarre responses!

The other thing all the doctors recommend is the same as every flu season: avoid large gatherings and unnecessary contact. Wash your hands and carry an alcohol gel sanitizer (I always do anyway!). Stay home if you are sick and avoid people who are sick as best you can.

If you are over 70 plan on staying home more for the next 6 weeks or so. If you have other illnesses that might reduce your immune system strength or serious co morbidities like poorly controlled diabetes or heart failure to name a few you should do the same. Also, if you are on drugs that suppress your immune response like cortico steroids.

These are all the same precautions you would take for “garden variety” influenza. Keep in mind that we do not have a vaccine for COVID-19 as we do for flu. But remember the estimates of efficacy of flu vaccine vary from 40% to 60% and is different each season!

The real grim reaper here is panic. There is nothing that will stem the tide of this as no one wants to be the “one who under reacted”!

One other thing I do every day, in addition to the listed precautions is take my vitamins. Hey, it can’t hurt!!!!

“Stop the Insanity!”- Susan Powter

I couldn’t agree more.

Tomorrow I will be attending a function with about 1000 people – if it does not get cancelled at the last minute!

Dr Dave

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