Friday, March 20, 2020

Fear is the Enemy

Covid-19 (Of course. What else is there to write about?)

I have heard the scary numbers. They go something like this:

"In 1918 the Spanish Flu was caught by 27% of the world population with maybe as many as a million dying. If we apply the same percentages to today's population, we will see several million dead from Covid-19."

Well, this is true, but that's a BIG if.

As I discussed in my last post, we simply should not expect as wide a spread with this virus as happened 100 years ago. Wikipedia:

"Scientists offer several possible explanations for the high mortality rate of the 1918 influenza pandemic. Some analyses have shown the virus to be particularly deadly because it triggers a cytokine storm, which ravages the stronger immune system of young adults. In contrast, a 2007 analysis of medical journals from the period of the pandemic found that the viral infection was no more aggressive than previous influenza strains. Instead, malnourishment, overcrowded medical camps and hospitals, and poor hygiene promoted bacterial superinfection. This superinfection killed most of the victims, typically after a somewhat prolonged death bed."

In other words, it's likely the Spanish Flu is not what killed most of those people, but the infections that accompanied the flu. 

I repeat; today we have flush toilets, clean drinking water, far better nutrition, and antibiotics. We simply won't see the spread we saw with the Spanish Flu even if we weren't all holed up in our houses shivering in fear.

Toilets, clean water, and refrigeration were introduced on a wide scale in the first decade of the 1900s, taking some time to fill the country. My father who was born in 1938 remembers growing up without toilets a good deal of the time.  The flu shot and antibiotics were introduced during WW1. The Measles shot was introduced in the 40s. 

I am hearing a current death rate of anywhere from 1% to 3.4%. That cruise ship had a 1% death rate. But the truth is that the only ones being tested are those with severe symptoms. So the death rate is 1% of those with severe cases. Those with mild cases likely don't even realize they have the disease and never go see a doctor. 

A Stanford professor of Statistics ran the numbers from the cruise ship (noting that they were all elderly) and applied them to the general population, adjusting for age spread. He says the death rate of this virus is actually around .05%. The "normal" flu is .1%. So the normal flu kills twice the percentage that Covid-19 kills. 

(And do you know what people generally die of when they die of "the flu"? Dehydration or secondary infections. So, drink your water and wash your hands.)