More good news on the Wuhan flu front

Two stories today suggest again that there is no reason to fear COVID-19, especially if you are healthy and young.

The first story suggests that social distancing, masks, and the incessant cleaning of surfaces are ridiculous over-reactions and likely unnecessary. Nor am I surprised. We have always had similar expectations from all other flu-like illnesses, and have never required these paranoid requirements in the past. It is time for them to stop.

The second story provides more evidence that the epidemic is dying, as predicted and like all similar flu-like epidemics.

The team has recruited 10,000 people to test the vaccine, some of whom will be given the vaccine and others a placebo. But as it is unethical to purposely infect people in the trial with COVID-19, participants will be asked to go about their normal routine in the expectation that some will be exposed to it naturally. However, that is unlikely to happen if the virus is not spreading, meaning that no conclusions can be drawn one way or the other about the vaccine’s efficacy.

Hill expects that fewer than 50 people in the test population will catch the virus, but if less than 20 test positive the results may be useless “It is a race, yes. But it’s not a race against the other guys,” he said. “It’s a race against the virus disappearing – and against time. We said earlier in the year that there was an 80% chance of developing an effective vaccine by September. But at the moment, there’s a 50% chance that we get no result at all.

Let me repeat this: They have 10,000 volunteers, and expect fewer than 50 of those to get infected with the Wuhan flu. In other words, this seasonal epidemic is going away, as such things do. It might return in the fall, but expect that return to be smaller, and hopefully if some government officials get their brains out of their behinds and focus on protecting the sick elderly, it will have little impact.

In any case, the evidence continues to point to the end of the epidemic, and in the process the discovery that the virus is relatively harmless to almost everyone. People have got to relax and stop being so afraid. It is not the bogey-man the press and the politicians have claimed it to be.

The real facts about COVID-19 show the panic about it is absurd

UPDATE 2: The article censored by Medium has now been posted at zero hedge, and I have changed the link below. As I said, spend some time reading it. The information is substantial, the analysis thoughtful and detailed, and the perspective calm and rational.

UPDATE 1: The article I link to has been blocked by the server. You get this message:

Error
410
This post is under investigation or was found in violation of the Medium Rules.

Or to put it more bluntly, “Medium Rules” are hostile to thoughtful, fact-based analysis. Quite disgusting. If I was the writer I would switch servers in a heartbeat. And if I was another writer on the same server I’d tell them to go to hell as well.

You can read another analysis of the article here, which provides a few more quotes from the article. I will also not be surprised if the article reappears shortly.
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Original post:

Link here. The article is incredibly detailed about every single aspect of the virus, and finds that it is simply not significantly different from the flu. The numbers outlined also confirm my conclusions from earlier in the week, that the panic over the Wuhan/COVID-19/coronavirus are simply unwarranted. More than anything else, this fact about the virus illustrates this fact:

Dr. Paul Auwaerter, the Clinical Director for the Division of Infectious Diseases at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine echoes [other findings], “If you have a COVID-19 patient in your household, your risk of developing the infection is about 10%….If you were casually exposed to the virus in the workplace (e.g., you were not locked up in conference room for six hours with someone who was infected [like a hospital]), your chance of infection is about 0.5%”

According to Dr. Auwaerter, these transmission rates are very similar to the seasonal flu.

To put it mildly, this epidemic is a nothing burger. Yes, it is killing a small percentage of the population worldwide, but almost all of those are old and already sick. Yes, it is spreading fast, but the spread is comparable to the flu and is thus not special or unusual.

And yes, actions to slow the spread will be helpful to both the scientists trying to come up with treatments and cures and the healthcare system that has to treat this new influx of patients, but the autocratic restrictions being imposed by state and city governments in the U.S. are almost all counter-productive. As the article notes:

Local governments and politicians are inflicting massive harm and disruption with little evidence to support their draconian edicts. Every local government is in a mimetic race to one-up each other in authoritarian city ordinances to show us who has more “abundance of caution”. Politicians are competing, not on more evidence or more COVID-19 cures but more caution. As unemployment rises and families feel unbearably burdened already, they feel pressure to “fix” the situation they created with even more radical and “creative” policy solutions. This only creates more problems and an even larger snowball effect. The first place to start is to stop killing the patient and focus on what works.

Start with basic hygiene: The most effective means to reduce spread is basic hygiene. Most American’s don’t wash their hands enough and aren’t aware of how to actually wash your hands. Masks aren’t particularly effective if you touch your eyes with infected hands. Ask businesses and public places to freely distribute disinfectant wipes and hand sanitizer to the customers and patrons. If you get sick or feel sick, stay home. These are basic rules for preventing illness that doesn’t require trillions of dollars.

Meanwhile, our federal government is about to pass a one to two trillion dollar stimulus bill that will further bankrupt the government, aimed at distributing money, not for developing and making available the necessary drugs to combat the virus, but to their buddies and to Americans as a pay-off for their terrible policies that are destroying jobs, incomes, lives, and the economy.

Read it all. Take your time doing it, as the amount of information is substantial. The bottom line, however, is that if you inform yourself properly about COVID-19, you will realize that we are panicking for no reason. And with our panic we are allowing corrupt politicians to destroy our freedoms and rights while they increase their power over us.

French and American studies find drug that can treat COVID-19

It isn’t a vaccine that will prevent infection, but tests in France and in the U.S. now show that a drug normally used to treat malaria is very effective in reducing the symptoms of the Wuhan virus.

He said that the first Covid-19 patients he had treated with the drug chloroquine had seen a rapid and effective speeding up of their healing process, and a sharp decrease in the amount of time they remained contagious.

Chloroquine – which is normally used mainly to prevent and treat malaria – was administered via the named drug, Plaquenil.

The drug is readily available and can be prescribed to anyone who is considered threatened by the virus to help them get better why reducing the chances of them giving it to others.

COVID-19: the unwarranted panic

Four more stories today indicate once again that the worldwide panic over the corona/COVID-19/Wuhan virus is strongly unwarranted:

The first report, from the science journal Science, provides an update on the situation in South Korea, where testing for the virus has been the most thorough of any nation in the world and where, because of that extensive testing, has shown the death rate has turned out to be far lower than the preliminary statistics have suggested. Out of a population of 50 million, slightly more than 8,000 have been infected, with only 81 dying. This is a death rate of 0.9%, higher than the flu’s 0.1% but not horribly so. And like the flu, most of those deaths have been among the elderly.

The numbers there are now dropping, indicating that the disease might have run its course without causing a catastrophic disaster. There is still a chance it could break out again, but the data suggests otherwise.

Moreover, South Korea controlled the situation without any strong-arm authoritarian tactics, as seen in China and as becoming popular here in the formerly free U.S.

“South Korea is a democratic republic, we feel a lockdown is not a reasonable choice,” says Kim Woo-Joo, an infectious disease specialist at Korea University.

It sadly appears that South Koreans might value freedom more than too many of today’s Americans.

The second article describes research from Wuhan in Hubei province in China, reconfirming the South Korean data. There it appears the death rate was 1.4%, only slightly higher than in South Korea. And once again, the death rate is mostly confined to the older population with already existing health issues, like the flu:
» Read more

Tuesday at the non-existent Lunar & Planetary Science Conference

Boulder on Bennu with changes in layered texture changes

Today was supposed to have been the second day of the week-long 51st annual Lunar & Planetary Conference, sadly cancelled due to fear of the Wuhan virus. As I had planned to attend, I am now spending each day this week reviewing the abstracts of the planned presentations, and giving my readers a review of what scientists had hoped to present. Because I am not in the room with these scientists, however, I cannot quickly get answers to any questions I might have, so for these daily reports my reporting must be more superficial than I would like.

On this day the most significant reports came from scientists working on the probes to the asteroids Bennu and Ryugu as well as the probes to the Moon. The image to right for example is from one abstract [pdf] that studied the texture differences found fourteen boulders on Bennu. The arrows point to the contacts between the different textures, suggesting the existence of layers. Such layers could not have been created on Bennu. Instead, these rocks must have formed on a parent body large enough and existing long enough for such geological processes to take place. At some point that parent body was hit, flinging debris into space that eventually reassembled into the rubble pile of boulders that is Bennu.

Other abstracts from scientists from both the Hayabusa-2 mission to Ryugu and the OSIRIS-REx mission to Bennu covered a whole range of topics:
» Read more

Arianespace suspends all launches from French Guiana due to COVID-19

The insanity mounts! Arianespace today announced it is suspending all launches from its French Guiana launchsite due to COVID-19.

No word on how long this suspension will last. So far, French Guiana has six confirmed cases of the Wuhan virus. In recent years that nation has routinely seen between one to two thousand flu cases. I wonder why they didn’t shut down then?

Or if they can ever reopen, considering the severity of flu cases annually?

Coronavirus and the madness of crowds

Yesterday I got a bit of frustrating and disappointing news. The 51st Lunar and Planetary Science Conference (LPSC-51) to be held in the Houston suburbs beginning on March 15 (to which I was planning to attend) had been canceled due to coronavirus/COVID-19 fears. From the organizers’ email:

We regret to inform you that LPSC 51 will be cancelled due to concerns about COVID-19. This difficult decision has been made after a careful assessment of the risks as determined by the CDC and WHO; consultation with NASA PSD leadership; and consideration of community feedback. We are fully committed to ensuring that our conference attendees remain safe and well.

The organizers had earlier in the week sent out an email stating that they were considering their options because of the epidemic, and would announce a decision on March 6. That they pushed forward the cancellation decision by two days was almost certainly prompted by the revelation yesterday that a case of coronavirus had been confirmed in Houston.

To say this is a disappointment is an understatement. I was very much looking forward to meeting face-to-face many of the planetary scientists I have been corresponding with during the past few years. I was also eagerly anticipating getting an up-front look at the most recent discoveries in the exploration of the solar system, and to pass those discoveries on to my readers.

My disappointment however must pale in comparison to the disappointment of the scientists involved, especially the younger ones trying to establish themselves in the field. They need conferences like this to not only promote their work, but to network and to learn for themselves what others in their field are doing.

What makes this decision more appalling to me is how completely pointless and fear-driven it is. While it makes sense to try to slow the spread of the disease while scientists scramble to understand it and possibly develop a vaccine, it also makes no sense to stop living and to cease all effort out of mindless fear and ignorant panic.

And what we have today is the latter. This planetary conference was not the only one cancelled this week. On March 2 the American Physical Society panicked and cancelled its only annual convention, only 36 hours before it was about to begin, out of a fear that a gathering of 11,000 scientists from all over the world would help spread the disease.

This decision was absurd, however, as a large bulk of the conference’s attendees had already arrived. The cancellation thus accomplished practically nothing to stop coronavirus, while succeeding ably in stymying the spread of knowledge.

The simple fact is that though COVID-19 is a concern and must not be ignored, it is hardly the worldwide crisis being touted by our mindless press, odious politicians, and largely politically correct intellectual community.

A rational look at the facts give a bit of context that deflates the balloon of this madness. Several facts, both good and bad:
» Read more

Coronavirus update

This article about the coronavirus epidemic (the virus is now officially dubbed Covid-19) focuses initially on how the Chinese are even quarantining bank notes in their effort to stem the disease’s spread.

I instead found this quote farther down the page much more significant:

More than 1,380 people with the virus are now confirmed to have died and more than 64,400 have been infected in at least 28 countries and regions.

The death rate of the disease, even as it has grown, remains about 2%. While tragic, this number suggests this hardly has the makings so far of a worldwide catastrophe. If anything, it appears to be about as deadly as the flu, which isn’t something to take lightly but also does not warrant any need for panic or desperation. The flu in the 2017-2018 season in the U.S. infected an estimated 45 million, killing about 61,000, a far lower death rate but impacting far more people. Like the flu, Covid-19 appears to be more deadly to older patients.

This epidemic needs to be taken seriously, but it so far does not justify any panic.

Update on coronavirus spread

Link here. As expected, the situation in China continues to be serious and somewhat out of control. The key data point however is this:

The number of confirmed infections across China has risen to 7,711, resulting in 170 deaths. By comparison, there were 5,327 cases of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in China during the 2002-2003 outbreak, although that virus was more deadly, claiming 349 lives.

In about a week the number of those infected has grown exponentially, far far faster than the previous SARS epidemic. In one week it just about passed SARS, which took a year to accumulate the same numbers.

At the same time, coronavirus still appears relatively mild, having produced half the deaths, about 2% of all those infected. This number however can easily rise, as the disease is still in its early stages for the majority of those infected.

So far the detected cases outside of China remain small, but they are also on the rise, including the first detected human-to-human transmission entirely within the U.S.

Once again, it is essential that no one panic over this virus. Its potential danger should also not be poo-pooed. Until we know more, it poses a threat that must be faced.

Coronavirus update

Link here. In the past five days the number of people known to be infected has grown from about 450 to now more than 1,400, with deaths rising to 41 total. (The rate of deaths to those infected however has dropped, from 5% to less than 1%.) Also, a very small number of cases have been found in other countries throughout the world, limited so far to people who had recently been in the region of China with the most infections.

How serious is this epidemic? The rise in cases in only a week is concerning for sure, as very quickly the numbers are beginning to match the SARS epidemic in 2002-2003, which took a year to get to 8,000 infected. The so-far low death rate however suggests the disease is manageable.

The situation in China however is very serious. They have locked down regions with populations in the multi-millions, and the number of cases might soon strain their health system. Worse, we do not know if the numbers the non-transparent communist government is posting are accurate. There have been numerous rumors all week that the infection count is far higher than what has been publicly revealed. This could be true, or not. The rumors exist because no one trusts the communists to allow the truth to be published.

At the moment it still appears to me that, at least outside of China, the situation is under control. Whether it remains that way we can only wait and see.

An update on the new virus outbreak originating from China

Link here. The numbers of people so far infected is hardly gigantic, less than 450 worldwide, with almost all confined to one province in China.

You can also find out some general information about this particular virus as well as other related viruses, such as SARS and MERS, in this separate article. All are far less threatening that press reports make them appear. For example, SARS only infected 8,000 people total, killing a little less than 10% of those infected.

This new virus appears so far to be even less deadly, with nine deaths total, about 5%.

While under no condition should this outbreak be ignored or poo-pooed, it is very important to recognize that, at least so far, it is hardly an epidemic that will wipe out civilization. This could change with time, but I doubt it.

First confirmed Ebola case in Uganda

Officials have now confirmed the first case of Ebola in Uganda since the present outbreak of the contagious disease in the Congo.

The confirmed case is a 5-year-old child from the Democratic Republic of the Congo who travelled with his family on 9th June 2019. The child and his family entered the country through Bwera Border post and sought medical care at Kagando hospital where health workers identified Ebola as a possible cause of illness. The child was transferred to Bwera Ebola Treatment Unit for management. The confirmation was made today by the Uganda Virus Institute (UVRI). The child is under care and receiving supportive treatment at Bwera ETU, and contacts are being monitored.

The Ministry of Health and WHO have dispatched a Rapid Response Team to Kasese to identify other people who may be at risk, and ensure they are monitored and provided with care if they also become ill. Uganda has previous experience managing Ebola outbreaks. In preparation for a possible imported case during the current outbreak in DRC, Uganda has vaccinated nearly 4700 health workers in 165 health facilities (including in the facility where the child is being cared for); disease monitoring has been intensified; and health workers trained on recognizing symptoms of the disease. Ebola Treatment Units are in place.

In response to this case, the Ministry is intensifying community education, psychosocial support and will undertake vaccination for those who have come into contact with the patient and at-risk health workers who were not previously vaccinated.

There also remain questions about how effective the vaccine is. It seems to work to protect from ebola, but only if you haven’t already become infected. Since the vaccine has not been fully tested, the real scientific questions remain.

New ebola drug appears somewhat effective

Drug trails in Guinea of a new ebola drug suggest that it might have some positive effect on mortality.

A researcher who had seen the data and asked not to be identified told Science that favipiravir did not help all of the patients treated with it at two trial sites in Guinea. In a subset of trial participants who had low levels of Ebola virus in the blood, however, the mortality was just 15%. In similar patients who entered the centers earlier and did not receive favipiravir, mortality was 30%.

The trials with this drug are being conducted without a control group, which makes it harder to pin down the cause of these results. The article also describes several other drugs being readied for testing, some of which are expected to be more effective.

The trials, however, are faced with two issues. First, the easing of the epidemic is making it more difficult to do the studies. And second,

So far, Guinea and Sierra Leone, where Ebola is still infecting dozens of people a week, have refused invitations to join the study. Their main stumbling block is trial design. ZMapp will be the first Ebola treatment that will be tested against a placebo control. “I think that’s the only way to tell whether these drugs are safe and effective,” Lane says. The governments of Guinea and Sierra Leone, as well as Doctors Without Borders, which runs Ebola centers in those countries, have for ethical reasons been reluctant to participate in treatment trials that use a placebo.

The moral dilemma of doing drug tests where some patients get a placebo has always been a problem for medical research. It is therefore not surprising to see it here as well.

Ebola’s rate of growth

The journal Science provides a detailed analysis of the infection rate of ebola, as well a reasonable estimate of the present and future number of cases.

The article makes two key points. First, the trends “…clearly show that the number of cases has roughly doubled every 3 to 4 weeks and that this trend is continuing. If underreporting gets worse, however, it may be even more difficult to discern such trends.”

Second, there is some good news in the worst effected countries.

The number of new cases in some areas at the epicenter of the outbreak– Kenema and Kailahun districts in Sierra Leone and Liberia’s Lofa county–has been dropping, and that’s not a result of underreporting, says Dye. “It has happened for a sufficiently large number of weeks now that we are confident that it’s a real reduction in incidence on the ground, probably related to control measures,” he says. “Our colleagues working on the ground believe it is too.”

One important factor has been the increase in safe burials, Dye says. (The bodies of Ebola victims are very infections.) People in the affected areas have resisted abandoning traditional burial practices that carry a high risk of infection, but in these three areas, local leaders, supported by WHO and others, have come to advocate a change. If that happens elsewhere, says Dye, “we expect to be able to cut out a substantial amount of infection in the community.”

Russian authorities struggle to contain the spread of African swine fever, a deadly virus that attacks pigs.

Russian authorities struggle to contain the spread of African swine fever, a deadly virus that attacks pigs.

Russian authorities have incinerated tens of thousands of pigs and closed roads in the past few weeks, in an attempt to contain an emerging outbreak of African swine fever, a viral disease so lethal to the animals that it has been likened to Ebola. The spread of the disease comes with a heavy economic toll — last year, the Russian Federation lost 300,000 of the country’s 19 million pigs to swine fever, at an estimated cost of about 7.6 billion roubles (US$240 million).

This year there will be more cases of whooping cough in fifty years.

Not good: This year there will be the most cases of whooping cough in more than a half century.

The CDC is trying to figure out what’s going on, but Schuchat said a couple of factors are clearly at work. The formulation for the whooping cough vaccine was changed in 1997, and kids hitting age 13 and 14 now are the first to have been fully vaccinated with five doses of the new vaccine. The new formulation causes less of a reaction, but it may also wear off sooner, Schuchat said.

The older vaccine was made using a whole pertussis bacterium. It was very effective, but it did cause swelling in some kids who got it, and sometimes caused a fever — something that scared parents. It also was widely blamed for causing rare but serious neurological reactions, although Schuchat said studies have not confirmed this.

I imagine the formulation was changed because of the uproar in the 1990s about the dangers of the old vaccine.