You Will Catch COVID-19, Wuhan Coronavirus

As the facts emerge from how this disease performs in our population there is good news and there is bad news.

  • The disease is incredibly ageist. Nearly everyone it kills is over 50 years old, children are unaffected by it.
  • Between about 25% and 50% of victims show no symptoms at all or only very minor symptoms.
  • Something like 40%ish of victims get ill. Like a bad flu. But without the joint pain.
  • About 20%ish of victims get very ill indeed as the infection gets into their lower respiratory system. About half of these will die.
  • It kills smokers. But then all smokers have COPD to a lesser or greater extent.
  • Today it is in 37 countries, with suspected cases in several more. There will be more tomorrow.
  • Many people killed by it have a chronic comorbidity. Diabetes, heart disease etc. It culls the weak.
  • You can catch the disease twice. There are multiple strains.
  • The symptomless incubation period is up to 27 days. During which a person is contagious. 14 day quarantine is insufficient.
  • Face masks give no protection. We have seen this with the very large number of infected medical staff.
  • Heat gun detection doesn’t work. It gives false negatives. Many contagious people have no symptoms.
  • The Diamond Princess cruise liner showed how virulent this virus is. They took off everyone who showed symptoms, quarantined everyone on board and took maximum precautions. They couldn’t stop it spreading to nearly 700 people.
  • Authoritarian China has enforced maximum containment and quarantine measures (780+ million people under containment and curfew). Far stricter than possible in the West. And still the disease spreads.
  • Manufacturing supply chains around the world are breaking down. Soon there will be no medical supplies. Already there are huge shortages.
  • Some think summer weather will stop the disease. Singapore has summer weather all year round and world class medical services. It is spreading rapidly there.

Take one person who has this virus. They are transmitting it before showing any symptoms. Let’s say they infect on average 2.6 more people (a fair number for this current pandemic). Then after 10 generations more than 3,500 people are infected, many with no symptoms or mild symptoms themselves. All of them contagious.

Unsurprisingly, given modern day mobility and the nature of the disease, this has now spread globally. The number of people infected is growing exponentially and in countries less organised or less authoritarian than China it will spread more quickly. Basically we are all going to get it. And the world’s leading epidemiologists are currently predicting 60 to 80 % of us will. You would wonder how anyone can avoid it.

In January, when there were just 132 dead, this blog (HERE) said that all air travel should be banned immediately. Had this been done the spread we are currently experiencing would have been massively reduced. Now this ban is happening de facto. Hundreds of thousands of flights have been cancelled and anyone with any sense is refusing to fly anywhere in the world. Even flying from, say, Aberdeen to Hamburg is dangerous.

So what must we do now? The time for ad hoc containment and quarantine is well and truly over. You can pretty much assume that if this disease isn’t already in your neighbourhood then it pretty soon will be. All we can do is slow it down to give science a chance to develop drugs and vaccines (the first human vaccine trials are about a month away). This disease is caught from breathing the same air as other people. So the answer is avoiding them. Quarantine yourself. Sensible measures would be:

  • Close all public transport. One symptomless infected person on the Tube could infect hundreds in one journey.
  • Close places of public gathering. Schools, universities, pubs, cinemas, sporting events, churches, mosques etc
  • Work from home.
  • Have all meetings online, not face to face.
  • Cancel holidays.
  • Have your shopping delivered.
  • Wash your hands frequently. They are the most common route to infection.

Obviously the economic damage will be immense. Already the world’s manufacturing output has probably halved and is declining very quickly. Factories are closing everywhere as supply chains fold, the gold price has rocketed as share prices tumble. This will put the whole planet back several years.

Of course events may turn out less bad. Or worse. Here is a video of the science:

11 Comments


  1. Saw this on a forum.
    “Lots of schools closing where the pupils have returned from Italian Ski trips. I happen to know our local school had a number of children return from northern Italy with flu like symptoms but when they returned the area was deemed outside of the danger area, apparently that has changed today but most of the trip pupils have been back at school for two days.”

    Reply

  2. So boom time for undertakers? Seriously tho, I don’t think this post will age well. I suspect that in a year from now we won’t remember the name of the virus. I’m old enough to remember enough of these pandemic panics starting with AIDS in the 80’s. One day it’s the talk of the town. It simmers down. And then some new panic arises. Same with Global Warming / Climate Change. I’ve already lived past a few end-of-the-world deadlines.

    On the other hand, this comment may not age well. But I hope it does 😉

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  3. I’m not sure what you’re trying to achieve with these posts. You seem to be willing it on?

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  4. coronavirus death rate by age bracket:

    • 14.80% – 80 years or older
    • 8.00% – 70-79 years
    • 3.60% – 60-69 years
    • 1.30% – 50-59 years
    • 0.40% – 40-49 years
    • 0.20% – 39 years or younger

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  5. I found this on a forum and thought that it was well considered:
    .
    A few thoughts
    1. This is obviously going to be established everywhere. It is too transmissible to stop.
    2. Neil Ferguson (epidemiologist) in London has some very good interviews on youtube if you have not yet seen them. Takes a very balanced mathematical approach. Perhaps 60% population infected (derived from R 2.5) and perhaps 1% mortality (although could be anywhere between 0.25% – 4% based on the known unknowns),
    3. Like most resp viruses, the affects the elderly and those with underlying disease. There are a significant number of young adults killed, but it is hard to know if they are getting more publicity than the 100 elderly who succumbed. Current best data suggests mortality starts to take off after 50 (those in 50s have 3 times mortality of those in 40’s, and increases steeply after 60). Overall, we are probably looking at something closer to the 1918 flu than anything since then.
    4. This will run longer than people think. The “1918 ‘flu” lasted the best part of 2 years with 3 successive waves.
    5. Bad news. Compared to 1918, we are a much more interconnected society, we are more urbanised, we are much older, we have much more chronic disease, (obesity, diabetes….) and we are much less psychologically resilient than a population hardened by life 100 years ago and hardened by 4 years of war.
    6. Good news. We have genetic engineering and countless other research capabilities that were unimaginable 100 years ago. We will (most likely) develop both effective medications and an immunisation. But research has been sadly lacking, the virus has a head start, and these developments are most likely many months away (at best), and could easily be more than a year.

    So what to do? – bearing in mind we can are talking about reasonable risk minimisation rather than risk elimination
    1. I would recommend a degree of social isolation if possible. 60% total infected means many will not. The rate will be higher for people who go to work and go to school, and likely lower with some isolation.
    2. Ensure enough medications – there may be shortages ahead.
    3. Have a decent supply of non-perishable foods and other household essentials. Stock up the freezer. Thing about luxuries like a bread maker. Batteries. Maybe a small camping gas cooker, a small solar panel and a battery powered radio if you think utilities could be disrupted (fairly unlikely as essential services – even Wuhan has kept utilities running), or if the usual short interruptions (e.g. fallen power lines) last a bit longer with reduced manpower (more likely).
    4. Online shopping / delivery is almost certainly lower risk than the supermarket.
    5. Avoid crowded places and mass transit as much as possible
    6. Daily exercise. I would think about early morning walks / swims when few people are around.
    7. Learn new skills online – languages, accounting, music, history…. It doesn’t matter what. Learning a new skill late in life is good psychologically and good for longevity.
    8. Maintain an online presence and stay connected. Forums are good up to a point, but can get very negative. Maybe online game competitions (strategy, cards, whatever…) that allow you to lose yourself for a few hours at a time.

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