Note the case reports from bellwethers Taiwan, Singapore, and Hong Kong.
China Has a Way With Germs
Over the next several days and weeks, we would experience the amazing culture of China, in several different cities. But some things stood out to this germophobic American. I watched a man hock up something from his chest and spit it on the floor, right next to us, in a restaurant. No oysters for me, thanks. I’ve suddenly lost my appetite.
We visited a Hutong (inner city – where the locals live) and saw raw chickens, skinned and bleeding, just laying on the floor, waiting to be thrown on a restaurant grill…for public consumption. No FDA or USDA or food inspectors or “codes” to comply with, here. But why? This is the last purely communist country on earth. You’d think there would be red tape everywhere. What was happening here?
Then, my wife and I had to rush our newly adopted, 8-month-old daughter to the public hospital…and suddenly it all started making sense.
As we stepped in more urine, took our number from the print-out machine, walked past the line of children whining and crying from the scalp IVs in their heads, then rushed to clean up blood and mucus (left by the last patient) on the plastic table they were now laying our baby on, then waited on the ONE overworked doctor (attending to no less than three hundred people) try to round up a basic anti-biotic to administer to my daughter (right there on site – no refills) it dawned on me what I was seeing and what I had been seeing this whole time. I wasn’t watching a “backward” culture or a third-world society. These people weren’t genetically inferior to first-worlders. They weren’t “less-evolved” than I was.
I was witnessing the kind of maximum, almost brutal efficiency a society must develop when the state is the master and the individual is merely a subject. Why would a Communist country not have an effective FDA? Because who are you going to complain to if you get tainted food? The government? They don’t answer to you. The press? They are owned by the government. And again, they don’t answer to you.
So what if you don’t like the conditions in the hospital? Where else are you going to go? This hospital is the last (and only) stop. You can’t opt for another place and then just pay out of your own pocket. The government has capped financial upward mobility. There is now “income equality.” And that means nobody has the means to buy their way into a different (or better) situation. And even if you could, one doesn’t exist. The state provides it all. You’re stuck. __ Birth of a Virus
In Singapore, Things are Different
Singapore has a relative few cases of Covid 19 considering how close the ties are between the island nation and mainland China. The keys are vigilance and caution — with none of the panic that US media outlets keep trying to stoke.
Despite news photos showing long lines in Singapore supermarkets, my neighborhood markets have been calm and fully stocked. Even so, when I realized I needed a half-cup of milk to make a frittata one recent afternoon, I searched “dairy-free frittata” before deciding I had no choice but to go to the store.
I sneezed in the supermarket checkout line and instantly felt guilty.
Fear of empty shelves, by the way, seems to have driven many Singaporeans to online shopping, making online grocery delivery slots potentially a scarcer commodity than hand sanitizer.
It seems no one is holding escalator railings anymore, which is an accident waiting to happen. __ Life in Singapore
Of course, Singapore has a reputation for cleanliness. A person could once be caned for publicly chewing gum in Singapore.
We continue to monitor the case counts in Singapore, Taiwan, and Hong Kong — where the ties to mainland China are very strong, but the infection counts remain relatively low, considering.
Meanwhile in Iran, a Coronavirus Wildfire Burns
The vicious outbreaks of coronavirus in Iran, Italy, and South Korea, all have direct links to the Wuhan outbreak. But each country somehow allowed things to get out of control in specific areas, very quickly. In Iran, about a dozen government officials are infected, and one official has died.
Security forces deployed drones and water cannons across Iran on Tuesday in a bid to contain the coronavirus, a sign of the severity of the country’s outbreak.
Footage broadcast by Iranian state media showed water cannons, usually used to disperse anti-government demonstrations, spraying the streets with disinfectant. A banner on the side of one of the vehicles read: “Operation Crackdown on Corona.”
The use of these measures comes as Iran grapples with the most severe levels of contagion outside China. Iran’s Health Ministry confirmed that 77 people have now died of the disease, while there are now over 1,500 confirmed cases nationwide. Multiple reports from both within Iran and in international news agencies have challenged these statistics as significantly lower than the real numbers. This weekend, BBC Persia cited health sources claiming that at least 210 people may have already died, far above the official figure. __ Source
Vaccine Technology is Improving
Thanks to some advances in vaccine technology, we may only have to wait months instead of years for an effective vaccine to the novel coronavirus Wuhan 2019.
The new technologies that are being harnessed are what are known as vaccine platform technologies. Vaccine platforms, as my colleagues and I wrote in a report assessing their promise, offer a means to use the same building blocks to make more than one vaccine. To slightly oversimply, a vaccine platform confers the ability to switch out the pathogen being targeted very rapidly, akin to changing a video game cartridge. Indeed, the recently FDA-licensed Ebola vaccine uses another virus as a platform with the requisite Ebola protein inserted.
Because of this rapid availability to utilize platforms for a variety of different targets, the initial development process can be significantly shortened. This is especially true for vaccines utilizing the genetic material of the target alone. These DNA and RNA vaccines basically can be “printed” once the genetic sequence of the target is known.
Off Topic: How is aging similar to climate change?
Answer: Climate is always changing, and you are always aging.
As gerontologists Sean Leng and Brian Kennedy put it, “Aging is the climate change of health care.”
… In 2013, a team of international researchers identified nine “hallmarks of aging”: disrupted communication between cells, genome mutations (associated with cancer), telomere shortening, changes in DNA’s chemical structure (apart from the genetic code), degradation of cellular proteins, diminished cellular ability to identify and adjust to nutrient levels, impaired mitochondrial functioning, cellular senescence (when cells stop dividing and growing due to age), and nonrenewal of stem cells. While each hallmark has symptoms, “there are no biomarkers to describe aging overall,” according to Chuck Dinerstein, senior medical fellow at the American Council on Science and Health. These hallmarks occur in every human, and because many of them occur simultaneously, it’s difficult to tease out each individual process or to identify causal relationships. We know that the net effect is aging, but there’s a lot scientists don’t yet know about the processes that causes these hallmarks. Hayflick has argued that differentiating between aging and age-associated diseases is crucial, and that the lack of distinction between them “is the most serious impediment to our understanding of the aging process.” __ Source
Achieving effective treatment for aging is likely to help in achieving effective treatment for many diseases — both degenerative types of diseases as well as infectious diseases. The current global outbreak of novel coronavirus appears to be most lethal for the elderly, which is also the case for many endemic infectious diseases such as seasonal flu.
As we suggested a few days ago, you may find it educational to continue to monitor cumulative case counts for Singapore, Taiwan, and Hong Kong, all kept updated by the South China Morning Post.
We continue to see conventions and trade shows being cancelled around the world. The wisdom of governments that instituted early travel restrictions on travelers from infected regions of China, continues to be supported by the worldwide infection counts.
Case Fatality Rates: Flu vs. Coronavirus 2019
Of those who are infected by novel coronavirus 2019, how many can be expected to succumb to the infection? Here is one take on the question:
The WHO said in a press conference Monday that in Wuhan, China, the city where the virus emerged, the mortality rate ranged from 2% to 4%. Officials said that in the rest of China, outside of Wuhan, the mortality rate of coronavirus is 0.7%.
Mike Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, said the mortality rate in China has since risen to 0.9%.
… Christopher Mores, a global health professor at George Washington University, helped make sense of some figures. He calculated the average, 10-year mortality rate for flu using CDC data and found it was 0.1%. That 0.1% rate is frequently cited among experts, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
Another recent study, considered the largest on COVID-19 cases to date, researchers from the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Protection, analyzed 44,672 confirmed cases in China between Dec. 31, 09 and Feb. 11, 2020. Of those cases, 80.9% (or 36,160 cases) were considered mild, 13.8% (6,168 cases) severe and 4.7% (2,087) critical. “Critical cases were those that exhibited respiratory failure, septic shock, and/or multiple organ dysfunction/failure,” the researchers wrote in the paper published in China CDC Weekly. __ https://www.livescience.com/new-coronavirus-compare-with-flu.html
The calculation is fairly simple, but getting accurate numbers to plug into the formula can be next to impossible sometimes.
Still More: As increasing numbers of people see the wisdom in working remotely from home, this novel method of connecting biological neurons with artificial neurons may someday prove useful. If an accurate coder-decoder intermediary between the biological and the micro-electronic worlds can be perfected, better means of telepresence can help to slow a pandemic down.