2019-nCoV is the greatest threat humanity has faced for some time. Here’s why:
- The disease shows no symptoms for up to the first two weeks of infection. During this time it is contagious and can be passed on to others.
- It is airborne. You can catch it by breathing. One symptomless person at the front of an aircraft could infect the whole aircraft.
- We have zero immunity to it. No herd immunity, no individual immunity.
- We have no vaccine, no drug, no treatment.
- It is already global and there are already victims who have never been to China.
- It kills. Currently 110 people have recovered from the disease. 132 have died. It is not just killing the old and the weak.
- The number of people infected is rising exponentially. Roughly doubling every couple of days.
- All the health authorities involved with the disease agree that it is uncontained. That its relentless march cannot be stopped.
Currently there are a reported 6,057 confirmed victims. This is an understatement because:
- China ran out of testing kits.
- Many people cannot access medical treatment and diagnosis because the system is massively overloaded.
- Some people choose to self quarantine.
Epidemiologists, using the official figures, reckon that around 200,000 people currently have the disease. They mostly don’t know they have it. And they are out there, all over the world, passing it on to others. Who in turn won’t know they have it and will pass it on to others. It is unstoppable.
All over Asia schools are closed. In China at least 15 cities are on official lock down. But many town and villages have cut themselves off from the world, building walls across entry roads. Russia stopped flights a few days ago. British Airways is stopping flights. But this is too little too late. If you look at the science of the disease we should be banning all air travel immediately. It is the main mechanism of spread.
And to give you an idea of the death rate, this disease has two close cousins. SARS and MERS. SARS had 8,098 cases and 774 deaths. So more than 9% death rate. MERS was a smaller outbreak, about 2,000 cases, but 35% of them died. And neither of these diseases were anywhere near as dangerous as Wuhan Coronavirus is in the nature of their contagion.
If everyone in China gets the disease, and currently there is no way to stop this, then a mortality rate of just 5% would kill 70 million people. In the UK it would kill 3.2 million.
So what can save us?
There are a number of antiviral drugs, for instance Tamiflu, Relenza, Rapivab and Xofluza are for influenza for which their efficacy is questionable. In China right now a number of anti viral candidate drugs are being tested against 2019-nCoV. But if they identify one how can the global pharma industry possibly make enough?
Immunisation is perhaps a better hope. Several teams around the world are working on this right now. The good news is that commercial quantities could be available as early as May. And our vaccine industry is geared up for large scale production for the annual seasonal flu vaccine.
So what can you and your family do to be safer?:
- Avoid other people. Even if they appear to be in the best of health they could be spreading the disease.
- Avoid travel. Especially air travel. Aircraft ventilation systems are notorious for spreading diseases.
- Wash your hands more frequently. Carry anti viral hand cleanser with you and use it.
- Outside your home wear a face mask. Learn how to use one properly first.
- Keep up to date with the spread of the disease by clicking HERE.
Our best hope to minimise this pandemic is government action. So far this has been conspicuous by its absence.