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Is the Wuhan Coronavirus a Pandemic?

I’m confused, the virus is mostly relegated to China, and the U.S. appears to be in the midst of a fear information campaign.

Wired, the New York Times and now the BBC are all writing headlines about how this could be a pandemic.

They are citing “experts”. If the China outbreak goes somewhere else, then it’s serious. How close are we to that in early February? Potentially in Thailand, Japan and perhaps the United states.

This world terrifies us, especially since mathematically we are due for one. A pandemic — that ongoing epidemic on two or more continents — would already be an economic and global public health disaster. Most of us don’t remember 1918.

We compare things to SARS. But SARS didn’t have flu-like contagious patterns.

Meanwhile, the 1918 “Spanish flu” killed only about 2.5 percent of its victims, that’s about the same as the novel Wuhan coronavirus. Back in 1918, things were different. Infected so many people and medical care was much cruder then, 20 million to 50 million died.

The Number of Cases are Doubling Every Four Days

Neighboring countries from China are clearly at more risk. Hong Kong hasn’t even closed all of its borders yet in spite of protests from its medical community. The CDC in the U.S. is taking a hard-line approach to quarantine checks, but every day new cases are popping up.

The stock market still thinks the coronavirus is just a blip in a “bad quarter”, but what if it’s more serious — what could happen then? Already the world is gripped in a kind of panic — in part created by the U.S. Media.

The New York Times found a retired source. It is “increasingly unlikely that the virus can be contained,” said Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, a former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But is this responsible journalism? Wired had already published something with the word “pandemic” in the title days if not a week before.

Alarmist, maybe? But what if the novel coronavirus mutates and super-spreaders do augment its status as more than just an epidemic? Anything is possible, if new outbreaks occur the fear of the virus would become very intense and lead to some drastic measures perhaps in society.

Discrimination Against Asians is Becoming More Common

My Asian friends living in Toronto already have been experiencing some racism in supermarkets, the subway and at work — as some of us in Montreal can attest to as well (especially if we wear masks in public).

At the time of writing this there are 27 countries impacted with at least one case of the novel wuhan coronavirus.

What began in mid-December as a mysterious cluster of respiratory illnesses in China has now killed more people than SARS, a total of 362 people. However more outbreaks raise the possibility of this spreading globally for weeks, perhaps months.

A vaccine would take anywhere from six months to a year to produce and how effective could it be if the virus mutates? The term “Pandemic” is typically a serious description that is reserved for an infectious disease threatening lots of people all over the world simultaneously. Judging from China, if other outbreaks occur this coronvirus could become such a case.

Global cases of the virus are also doubling every four days, however the majority of these are passengers from the Wuhan area. Pandemics are typically more likely if a virus is brand new, able to infect people easily and can spread from person to person in an efficient and sustained way.

The corona-virus has an R score of around 2 point something (contagion), with a mortality rate of likely around 2%. That’s not particularly contagious or deadly.

The BBC mentions that according to the World Health Organization’s (WHO) description of pandemic phases, coronavirus is only a step away from being a pandemic. I find this hard to believe, as the WHO had to have several meetings before even declaring it a public health global emergency.

Virology experts are saying that masks and closing borders to highly infectious pathogens never succeeds completely because all frontiers are somewhat porous and we don’t even have enough information or any treatment for the virus yet.

Wuhan Virus has 15% Chance of Becoming Global Pandemic

I would give this novel coronavirus about a 15% chance of becoming a Pandemic. This is because for now it’s relegated to China.

“This looks far more like H1N1’s spread than SARS, and I am increasingly alarmed,” said Dr. Peter Piot, director of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. “Even 1 percent mortality would mean 10,000 deaths in each million people.”

Japan, Thailand and Singapore could see outbreaks if cases reach higher than 50, it would be more difficult to contain.

If the Wuhan virus reached India, Africa or South America at scale, it would obviously kill a lot of people.

There are risks to what the Wuhan coronavirus could become. The virus is clearly being transmitted through casual contact even if family relations and spouse relations are the most common cases of human to human transmission thus far. An Uber taxi could also be enough to get the virus, so our behavior is likely to change if this becomes a global outbreak.

For China however we should have more compassion. Life in China has radically changed in the last two weeks. Streets are deserted, public events are canceled, and citizens are working from home, if at all. China could be facing it’s biggest internal threat for public disorder in many decades.

The novel Wuhan coronavirus needs to be monitored carefully but the spread of fear is getting out of control. There have only been 17,000 confirmed coronavirus cases and around 360 deaths, mostly in China. Though real numbers in China are likely much higher. Without outbreaks in other parts of the world, we have to remain rational about this virus compared to the sum total experience we have with all viruses.

Greta Thunberg wants us to panic about the environment and climate change, but the Wuhan virus this month, feels like a more pressing concern.

I’m a writer for the Last Futurist, a site about the future of artificial intelligence.

The Last Futurist

The Last Futurist are my new media rants on the world.

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