Coronavirus Update: Is It Time To Panic?
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The Coronavirus has now been designated as a virus named SARS-CoV-2 and been specifically named “coronavirus disease 2019” or COVID19. Both the virus and the alarm are spreading.
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We originally reported on the Coronavirus on January 27, 2020, in this post. At the time, there were 1,000 reported cases in China and 5 cases in the United States, and no deaths were reported. A total of 16 countries were reporting cases on January 27th.
As of today, February 27, 2020, there were 78,191 cases reported in China with 2,718 deaths. Worldwide there have been a total of 81,109 cases reported with deaths totaling 2,789. That’s a significant increase after just one month.
As of today, a total of 42 countries have reported COVID19 cases including:
- Hong Kong
- Sri Lanka
- The Republic of Korea
- United Arab Emirates
- United Kingdom
- United States
*Algeria, Austria, Croatia, and Switzerland reported cases in the last 24 hours as of 2-26-2020.
Here are the latest critical statistics.
|COVID19 statistics as of 02-26-2020||Cases||Deaths||Spreading(>)|
|Actions taken to combat||Risk Assessment|
|China||78,191||2718||>||Quarantines/ ANT*||Very High|
|Outside of China||2,918||43||>||Identified as Pandemic||High|
|United States||53||0||>||Usual Precautions||Low|
|Middle East||158||15||>||Enhanced Precautions||High|
(Based on Situation Reports from WHO and the CDC)
*ANT – Avoid Nonessential Travel
The World Health Organization (WHO) is publishing daily situation reports tracking statistics worldwide related to COVID 19.
What is Coronavirus?
In actual fact, coronavirus is not a specific type of virus but rather a broad category of viral infections that are typically not dangerous. The common cold is designated as a coronavirus. However, people with compromised immune systems can develop a serious case. There are also coronavirus variants that are quite serious.
One serious coronavirus variant is MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome). Like the SARS variant, MERS presents acute symptoms severely affecting the respiratory system.
How Bad Can It Get?
According to John Barry, the author of The Great Influenza: The Epic Story of the Deadliest Plague in History, it has the potential to be disastrous. His book is about the Spanish Flu Pandemic of 1918. 500 million people were infected worldwide and 20 million died. Some historians say it was the real reason World War I came to an end.
Barry stated two primary concerns. Incubation periods and supply-chain impact.
The incubation period is the amount of time that a person begins to show symptoms after they have been infected. Historically, any contagious disease with a long incubation period has the potential to spread exponentially as infected people mingle with the general population and unknowingly infect those around them.
The Spanish Flu had a long incubation period and is one of the reasons it became such a deadly pandemic. As for COVID19, here’s what John Barry recently had to say:
“The critical question is: Can you infect someone else when you’ve been infected but don’t have any symptoms? The Chinese have made statements that they think that’s the case. If that’s in fact true, then there’s no chance of controlling this.”
According to a study just released by the CDC, COVID19 has the same incubation period as the Spanish Flu.
Who is Most Susceptible to COVID19?
A recent study of patients in China who had contracted COVID19 indicated that older males were more likely to succumb. There are also generalized concerns for the spread of COVID19 due to its highly contagious nature as a disease transmitted by airborne transmission and surface contact with a surface touched by an infected person.
This creates a situation where certain environments can increase the potential for spread given the number and diversity of people in those environments. Examples include:
- Public transportation including buses, trains, planes and taxis and terminals
- Restaurants, theaters, and other event venues
- Retail stores
- Hospitals and other healthcare facilities
The chilling conclusion when you consider those locations is that they include just about every destination someone would come in contact with on an average day. To complicate matters, the long incubation period for COVID19 that has just been established means that the disease has the potential to spread rapidly.
Of those locations listed above, the hospitals and healthcare facilities have been identified as the “hot zones.” In fact, hospitals in China have sprung up in a matter of weeks that are dedicated to close-quarantine of COVID19 patients only. No visitors.
In addition to older men, children have shown high rates of infection attributed to the general lack of awareness of preventive measures with children. Fatality rates are high in the elderly, children and people with chronic medical conditions.
Supply Chain Impacts
This seems to be an odd thing to worry about in the midst of a potentially deadly pandemic, but it’s all about how fragile systems can succumb to a sudden and significant decrease in manpower.
The supply chain in the United States is one of those fragile systems. It’s based on just-in-time manufacturing and delivery of just about everything. The reason is cost. It’s expensive to have “slack” in any system and businesses have taken extreme steps to reduce the slack.
The result is that many critical supplies are 24 to 48 hours away from an exhausted inventory. This affects not only food but medicine and even something as basic as coal. According to Barry,
“Most of the power plants in the United States are still coal-powered. They get their coal, most of them, from Wyoming. You see these enormous trains – that’s a highly skilled position, the engineers who move those trains which are a mile and a half long. Suppose they’re out. You’re not going to have power in many of the power plants.
“These are things that we don’t automatically think of as relating to a pandemic. Even a mild one that makes a lot of people sick without killing them will wreak an economic impact.
“In terms of the health care system, practically all of the antibiotics are imported. If you interrupt those supply chains, then you start getting people dying from diseases that are unrelated to influenza that they would otherwise survive. We had a small example of that with saline solutions bags which were produced in Puerto Rico. Because of the hurricane, Puerto Rico was no longer producing them; so we had tremendous shortages in those bags after the hurricane.”
The American work-ethic contradicts ideas about quarantines or managing illness on a personal level. People go to work sick all the time. As COVID19 spreads, new policies will no doubt be put into play requiring anyone who is ill to stay home from work. At that point, the manpower shortages will escalate and so will the economic impacts.
Is a Recession Possible?
There are troubling signals. The stock market recently suffered one of its largest drops in history directly tied to fears related to COVID19. But fear and declining investor confidence is one thing.
If the supply chain impacts start to occur, the economy could rapidly move into recession as shortages directly affect fundamental business, manufacturing, distribution, and commerce.
How Dangerous is COVID19?
The current fatality rate for COVID19 is 2% of those infected. Given the short time frame of the disease and general lack of data, the percentage may increase or decrease. The daily CDC reports are the most reliable resource for tracking infection and fatality rates and percentages.
The fatality rate of the Spanish Flu of 1918 was estimated in a range of 10 to 20% fatality or 3 to 6% of the world’s population at that time. Whether or not COVID19 has that level of impact remains to be seen.
Current Recommendations for Avoiding COVID19 infection
The Centers for Disease Control have extensive advice and checklists for avoiding pandemic respiratory infections. They cover details related to various locations, venues, and events. These are commonly referred to as NPI’s or “Nonpharmaceutical Interventions.”
For now, it’s the only way to prevent contracting COVID19 due to the fact that neither an immunization nor a pharmaceutical cure available at this time. Here are the highlights:
- Hand washing may be the most critical and effective step to avoiding infection. Anti-microbial hand sanitizer is also recommended.
- Face masks are showing to be less effective although they do help to contain transmission of COVID19 from someone who is infected.
- The CDC has stated that people planning on travel on cruise ships to Asia reconsider their travel plans.
- Due to the fact that this is a rapidly evolving situation, it’s recommended that you look carefully at NPI situational recommendations to avoid disease transmission.
Symptoms of COVID19
For confirmed coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) cases, reported illnesses have ranged from mild symptoms to severe illness and death. Symptoms can include:
- Shortness of breath
CDC believes at this time that symptoms of COVID-19 may appear in as few as 2 days or as long as 14 days after exposure. This is based on what has been seen previously as the incubation period of MERS-CoV viruses.
If You or Someone You Know is Infected with COVID19
If you are sick with COVID-19 or suspect you are infected with the virus that causes COVID-19, follow the steps below to help prevent the disease from spreading to people in your home and community.
Stay home except to get medical care.
You should restrict activities outside your home, except for getting medical care. Do not go to work, school, or public areas. Avoid using public transportation, ride-sharing, or taxis.
Separate yourself from other people and animals in your home.
As much as possible, you should stay in a specific room and away from other people in your home. Also, you should use a separate bathroom, if available.
Call ahead before visiting your doctor.
If you have a medical appointment, call the healthcare provider and tell them that you have or may have COVID-19. This will help the healthcare provider’s office take steps to keep other people from getting infected or exposed.
Wear a facemask.
If you are sick, you should wear a facemask when you are around other people and before you enter a healthcare provider’s office.
Cover your coughs and sneezes.
Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw used tissues in a lined trash can; immediately wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains 60 to 95% alcohol, covering all surfaces of your hands and rubbing them together until they feel dry.
Clean your hands often.
Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains 60 to 95% alcohol, covering all surfaces of your hands and rubbing them together until they feel dry. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
Avoid sharing personal household items.
You should not share dishes, drinking glasses, cups, eating utensils, towels, or bedding with other people or pets in your home. After using these items, they should be washed thoroughly with soap and water.
Clean all “high-touch” surfaces every day.
High touch surfaces include counters, tabletops, doorknobs, bathroom fixtures, toilets, phones, keyboards, tablets, and bedside tables. Also, clean any surfaces that may have blood, stool, or body fluids on them. Use a household cleaning spray or wipe, according to the label instructions.
Monitor your symptoms.
Seek prompt medical attention if your illness is worsening (e.g., difficulty breathing). Before seeking care, call your healthcare provider and tell them that you have, or are being evaluated for, COVID-19. Put on a facemask before you enter the facility.
Monitor Developments and Consider Your Situation
The level of risk for anyone is proportional to their location, their proximity to others who are infected and their level of concern. The CDC has confirmed that the virus will spread in the U.S.
The best recourse is to continue to monitor local news broadcasts to any outbreaks in your area and consider the advice of local emergency management. In the end, how you respond to COVID19 is a personal decision. Just make sure you base any decisions on facts.
Hopefully, you’ve already stocked up on pandemic supplies. If you haven’t, now is the time. Face masks are already hard to find on Amazon, but you may still be able to find them at the store. Here are some other articles you may want to read:
- 25 Supplies You Need To Survive The Next Pandemic
- How To Set Up A Medical Quarantine In Your Home
- Medical Supplies That Will Disappear Fast In A Crisis
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