Originally posted at Free American National by the Gray Man.
Yet again it seems we have a dangerous respiratory virus originating in China and threatening to spread to the rest of the world. The Novel Coronavirus (nCoV) belongs to the same family of viruses as the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) virus and the Middle-East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS). From what experts can tell, this nCoV has been traced to a wildlife/meat market in Wuhan, China. The city has a population of more than 11 million people.
The recent outbreak seems to have started in late December of last year, and has accelerated to the point now where confirmed cases have also been located in Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macao, Nepal, Australia, France and the United States. My personal belief is that the Chinese government probably covered up knowledge of the outbreak for a period of time, and now their efforts to lock down and quarantine entire cities of millions of people are going to be futile. The virus has already escaped those limits and there is no sign they can contain it right now.
I work as a registered nurse in an emergency room, and I am usually unconcerned with the hectic and breathless news reports of the next pandemic that are supposed to wipe out the planet every year, like Ebola or SARS, despite the fact that our own regular old, boring flu has killed like 40 kids in the US just this past season. However, there are some differences going on here that prompted me to do a write-up on this one. I don’t believe that this is the world killer either, but in less than a few weeks we are seeing some significant points with this. I’ve discussed the nCoV with some of my ER physicians, including three with overseas medical experience in the Middle East and East Asia via the military and one with medical experience in the Indian subcontinent.
One curious thing about this particular virus is the apparent reported ability to infect both cold blooded and warm blooded hosts, and pass from one to the other. It’s being reported that highly venomous kraits (a snake) in China may be the original vector. These kraits hunt bats, and it’s believed that some of the people who have been infected got the virus from eating bats (yeah…) that have possibly gotten the virus from the snakes. It’s certainly not uncommon for dangerous diseases to spread from animals to humans in bushmeat markets, and there is high demand for the meat of wild and exotic fauna in China and other areas of East Asia.
Another thing of note is that China has undertaken a massive quarantine effort of at several cities with populations in the millions, and this alone has gotten huge international attention. Regardless of the prognosis of infected patients, the reactions of the Chinese has had a significant effect on global markets. The Chinese markets are often close during the Lunar New Year (LNY), which means there is going to be an information vacuum when they open back up. The US is dependent on cheap junk from China, so we may feel some effect ourselves. Reports are saying that approximately 56 million people have been quarantined, which is an unprecedented amount.
Like I had mentioned before, it’s my belief and the belief of other analysts that, true to their nature, the Chinese authorities have covered up and obfuscated what is really going on with this outbreak, hindering quick action to contain the spread. You don’t often see a viral event like this go from a local outbreak to suddenly being found on three different continents. It’s apparently being investigated in at least 22 states last I saw, and we are only supposedly about five or six weeks into the game. There is something odd about that. There are healthcare workers in China making posts to Weibo/Tencent (Chinese government allowed social media platforms) saying that they are estimating 100,000 people infected, and that they are unable to keep up with the death tolls, to the point of lying dead bodies in the hallways. These posts are immediately censored by the government, but not fast enough to avoid being reposted on the free web. Are these healthcare workers exaggerating their reports? Or are they telling the truth?
A difficulty in diagnosing and treating patients is obtaining the specific testing kits. As far as I know, only three companies actually produce the kit and it doesn’t appear they were ready for an outbreak to go from a dozen cases to into the thousands globally in less than a month. Add to that that at least one of the companies I know of is based in China, and many of those employees are working intermittently during the LNY.
Another problem with this occurring during the LNY is widespread holiday travel inside and even outside of China. This virtually guarantees that these large-scale quarantines are going to be ineffective. Pair that with the possibility that patients with nCoV may be treated like pneumonia patients or other patients with your run of the mill upper respiratory infections (URI). The treatments for those include steroids and antibiotics. A virus is not going to be susceptible to antibiotics. Current treatments for nCoV are supportive, which means medical staff are just treating the symptoms.
The physicians I’ve spoken to express the same thoughts I had on this nCoV, which is “how is this so different and so much more serious than the last several viruses we’ve had?” My only thoughts on it as far as prepping are concerned would be to watch closely how people are reacting. The illness itself is not likely to be any worse than SARS, or it may even be less dangerous as far as prognosis, but what is important to see is what a panic will cause in the global markets and in society. I don’t predict pandemonium myself, but it seems like the public is ripe for a panic over something, and if, through initial Chinese failures, we see a large influx of infections throughout the US, we could see our own version of lock-downs and quarantines. People in the US are not accustomed to something like that and I think a lot of people would resist it. China has apparently quarantined about 56 million people at this point.
Johns Hopkins University ran a simulation about three years ago that showed a coronavirus-like pandemic could kill as many as 65 million people. Obviously that adds to the hype and isn’t going to help the panic. The panic could be more dangerous than the illness itself.
My advice is to wash your hands when you’ve been out in town. Shopping cart handles and doorknobs will hold infectious particles and bacteria as long as people keep touching them. Bleach wipes are great, just make sure to allow the surface to dry, as that’s when you know it’s had time to kill the pathogens. If you’re really concerned, wearing a mask can help prevent catching a contagious respiratory bug. If things got worse, 3M brand N95 masks are good to have, and if you’re a prepper, you should already have several for each family member. If you have a person in your home who is sick, keep them at home. If you know someone who is sick, don’t visit until they’ve had time to become non-contagious. Personally, I would not fret about the virus as much as the potential for others to panic and the markets to suffer a hit.
At least not for right now…