Author Topic: Coronavirus  (Read 123218 times)

bacardiandlime

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Coronavirus
« on: January 30, 2020, 03:20:28 PM »
Any scientists here willing to give the ELI5 version of what's going on/likely to happen?
On social media I'm seeing conspiracy theorists swarming around (there are medical research labs in Wuhan! This is an excaped bioweapon!), general doomsayers etc.
I'd be interested to get some balanced insight.

Hibush

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Re: Coronavirus
« Reply #1 on: January 30, 2020, 03:35:42 PM »
A new type of flu virus in on the loose
It is spreading fast
Wash your hands often
Don't go to China right now

New viruses show up regularly, and it is important to stop the spread as soon as possible and to develop vaccines against them. Those things area ll happening. New viruses take a lot of work to figure out.

These viruses often come from wild animals when some unusual contact allows the transmission between species. There are markets in southern China that carry live wild animals as well as a lot of domestic animals. If you wanted to set up the petri dish that would best allow an unusual transfer, that is pretty much the environment you'd want to create.

Interestingly the Chinese government is taking an unusual step in trying to stop these markets, which have been illegal for a while. They have enlisted a pop start to make a public service announcement, saying something along the lines of, "You dumb****, eating monkey testicles isn't going to give you boners." Some frank public health official apparently got ahead of the censors.

mythbuster

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Re: Coronavirus
« Reply #2 on: January 30, 2020, 03:39:59 PM »
I agree with Hibush. I will also add to go get your flu shot if you haven't already. No it won't protect you from Corona virus, but it might protect you from the flu which kills many times more people each year. Right now the epidemiology estimates are that flu and Corona viruses spread at about the same rate. Too early yet to get a solid read on the lethality, but it's probably about the same as flu.

spork

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Re: Coronavirus
« Reply #3 on: January 31, 2020, 04:39:57 AM »
Last year there were 30,000-40,000 deaths by firearm in the USA. Current coronavirus fatalities number approximately 200. In the USA people are 8-9 times more likely to be the victim of an intentional homicide than in China. You're safer in China.
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pigou

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Re: Coronavirus
« Reply #4 on: January 31, 2020, 05:24:02 AM »
Travel warnings for all of China also seem exaggerated to me. The distance between Wuhan and Beijing is roughly the same as between New York and Chicago. When there's a measles outbreak in New York, you probably wouldn't avoid travel to Chicago.

But it's harder to sell advertising on "don't panic!" articles. So here we are. Doesn't minimize the need for a concerted medical response, but it's not really something the rest of us need to think about.

Hibush

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Re: Coronavirus
« Reply #5 on: January 31, 2020, 05:53:28 AM »
Travel warnings for all of China also seem exaggerated to me. The distance between Wuhan and Beijing is roughly the same as between New York and Chicago. When there's a measles outbreak in New York, you probably wouldn't avoid travel to Chicago.

The virus travels on people, and the amount of travel between the two cities is considerable (e.g. six nonstop flights, five direct high-speed trains each direction daily.) That's why the concern. The travel estimate for all of China was that 400 milllion people would travel to a different city during the present New Year holiday. The internal travel restrictions have cut that number down, but movement is still considerable.

mamselle

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Re: Coronavirus
« Reply #6 on: January 31, 2020, 08:33:25 AM »
Yes, and every traveler in a plane with one infected person becomes a potential germ vector wherever they go.

Especially among family members and friends who are going to towns where more family members and friends (who can be quite casual about infection avoidance) live.

Contaigion is like that...

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secundem_artem

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Re: Coronavirus
« Reply #7 on: January 31, 2020, 09:00:19 AM »
1.  Death rate appears to be quite low.  Lots of sick people, but no that many deaths so far.  Biggest risk in the elderly, those with respiratory problems or other underlying illness.

2.  Corona viruses also cause many kinds of common cold.  Corona viruses are not unusual, but this one appears to be a mutated version that jumped from animals (some are thinking snakes) to humans.

3.  Not clear yet how infectious it is.  Measles has an Ro of 12-18.  Every person infected with measles infects a further 12-18 people so massive outbreaks are a real issue.  Any Ro of > 2 implies logarithmic growth of the infected population.  Not clear yet what this risk is for corona, so until better numbers are available, quarantine is a reasonable public health measure.

4.  No reason to panic.  Lots of things kill lots more people than Wuhan corona.  Wash your hands, cover your cough.

5.  Stay off social media.  It causes brain damage far more often than corona causes respiratory infections.
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Parasaurolophus

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Re: Coronavirus
« Reply #8 on: January 31, 2020, 09:11:25 AM »
Looks like a periodic news cycle-driven panic to me. The most interesting thing about it is the quarantining of entire cities.

I'll start paying attention when healthy young people are dying in droves. But mortality rates far below those of the common flu aren't going to get any special attention from me.
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Liquidambar

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Re: Coronavirus
« Reply #9 on: January 31, 2020, 10:57:12 AM »
3.  Not clear yet how infectious it is.  Measles has an Ro of 12-18.  Every person infected with measles infects a further 12-18 people so massive outbreaks are a real issue.  Any Ro of > 2 implies logarithmic growth of the infected population.  Not clear yet what this risk is for corona, so until better numbers are available, quarantine is a reasonable public health measure.

Actually, any R_0 of >1 should cause growth (not just >2).  Also, the growth should be initially exponential, but it saturates as susceptible individuals are depleted.

The simple models assume fixed R_0, though.  In reality, changes in people's behavior (such as self-isolation, washing hands more frequently, etc.) can cause a reduction in R_0 over time.  That's what happened with previous Ebola outbreaks, for example--people's behavior changed, so the rate of spreading dwindled.
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Aster

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Re: Coronavirus
« Reply #10 on: January 31, 2020, 11:29:40 AM »
I remember all of the panic in the U.S. from H1N1.

If the coronavirus had just showed up 3 years earlier, Big Urban College would have kept all of the portable hand sanitizer stations that we (and many other U.S. universities) invested a lot of money on back in 2009 for H1N1.

But we threw all of that equipment away. I wonder if we will have to buy that stuff all over again.

I read earlier this week that some U.S. cities (Los Angeles, New York) were experiencing critical supply shortages of facemasks. People are buying them all up and stockpiling them.

clean

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Re: Coronavirus
« Reply #11 on: January 31, 2020, 04:55:33 PM »
My concern is about the under reporting of the cases.  within the last 2 days I read an online article about a women that visited her parents over the Chinese New Year holiday in the prime city.  She and her father came down with something but the clinic would not test them for the coronavirus.  She indicated that there are 4 different tests and until the final test confirms it, they dont report it, but they were not given the last test so she was not added to the infected count. 

I am concerned that there are a lot of people that are in the same boat.  Not confirmed because the final test results are not in so there is an undercount.

Also in the news were reports of a new 1000 bed hospital to be ready in 10 days! This was first hitting the news when the official count was less than 3000 people!  Now if I remember the news, there are 1000 bed hospitals being built in 3 different cities. 

Why would you start something like that if the infections are still relatively low?  Also, IF the fatality rate is lower than SARS (which was reported to be about 10%) then why build, in 10 days, 3 hospitals?  Send most of the people home and wait out the illness!

In all, I think that there is more to be learned from this, and while I have grown skeptical of my OWN government, I absolutely Distrust  the  Chinese government!! 
"The Emperor is not as forgiving as I am"  Darth Vader

Caracal

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Re: Coronavirus
« Reply #12 on: February 01, 2020, 05:16:46 AM »
My concern is about the under reporting of the cases.  within the last 2 days I read an online article about a women that visited her parents over the Chinese New Year holiday in the prime city.  She and her father came down with something but the clinic would not test them for the coronavirus.  She indicated that there are 4 different tests and until the final test confirms it, they dont report it, but they were not given the last test so she was not added to the infected count. 

I am concerned that there are a lot of people that are in the same boat.  Not confirmed because the final test results are not in so there is an undercount.

Also in the news were reports of a new 1000 bed hospital to be ready in 10 days! This was first hitting the news when the official count was less than 3000 people!  Now if I remember the news, there are 1000 bed hospitals being built in 3 different cities. 

Why would you start something like that if the infections are still relatively low?  Also, IF the fatality rate is lower than SARS (which was reported to be about 10%) then why build, in 10 days, 3 hospitals?  Send most of the people home and wait out the illness!

In all, I think that there is more to be learned from this, and while I have grown skeptical of my OWN government, I absolutely Distrust  the  Chinese government!!

My understanding is that it goes both ways though. There are almost certainly more people who have this than the official count, but by the same token, that probably means that the mortality rate is lower than the official numbers too. Also am I right in thinking that it is possible there are lots of people who have pretty mild symptoms and thus would never even go to a hospital or doctor?

pigou

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Re: Coronavirus
« Reply #13 on: February 01, 2020, 09:05:59 AM »
Also in the news were reports of a new 1000 bed hospital to be ready in 10 days! This was first hitting the news when the official count was less than 3000 people!  Now if I remember the news, there are 1000 bed hospitals being built in 3 different cities. 

Why would you start something like that if the infections are still relatively low?  Also, IF the fatality rate is lower than SARS (which was reported to be about 10%) then why build, in 10 days, 3 hospitals?  Send most of the people home and wait out the illness!
I think this is China trying to show that they are able to deal with an outbreak and not wanting to be blamed for not having done enough. So much is really just about appearance, not about actual medical necessity. Also, it's a potentially useful "test run" for how to quickly establish medical facilities when (not if) there is a more serious virus outbreak.

I think it's also worth pausing to acknowledge how amazing an achievement it is to build 3 hospitals in 10 days. Yes, they're super temporary facilities and I'm sure they're not up to any building codes. But imagine you could do this cheaply in the rural US where so many people simply live too far from hospitals to get needed medical care. Who cares if it gets knocked down when a tornado hits: that's not when you'd be providing routine medical care anyway and you could have it standing again in a matter of days. There are these makeshift camps already where doctors provide free medical care for a day or two, but they're simply not able to offer anything beyond a check-up and prescriptions (you can't do surgery in a high school gym). (This would go into a healthcare thread, but it's still worth noting that the people who get help generally do have Medicaid -- so no deductible and a copay, if any, of less than $5. They just don't have physical access to doctors.)


What worries me most about this virus is that it's really fueling already existing xenophobia. An Uber driver yesterday told me he wishes he could decline all Chinese passengers. We also see economic damage as a result of the response (not the virus): halting flights is going to dampen business investments and reduce trade. Non-citizens who have been to China in the past 2 weeks are refused entry into the US, with US citizens facing mandatory quarantining. It's this sort of stuff that's much worse than whatever the fallout from the virus will end up being.

clean

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Re: Coronavirus
« Reply #14 on: February 01, 2020, 01:14:14 PM »
"The Emperor is not as forgiving as I am"  Darth Vader