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Thoughts on the coronavirus

This is an excellent article by James Hamblin about the coronavirus. He believes, along with many epidemiologists, that the disease (COVID-19) is unlikely to be contained, and may become endemic:

The Harvard epidemiology professor Marc Lipsitch is exacting in his diction, even for an epidemiologist. Twice in our conversation he started to say something, then paused and said, “Actually, let me start again.” So it’s striking when one of the points he wanted to get exactly right was this: “I think the likely outcome is that it will ultimately not be containable.”

But here’s the irony. It is unlikely to be containable because, comparatively speaking, the disease isn’t as fatal as other coronaviruses. In James’ words: The virus is deadly, but not too deadly.

As of right now, the fatality rate is believed to be less than 2%. SARS and MERS, on the other hand, were highly fatal to humans. H5N1 (avian flu), which emerged in the 90s, had/has a fatality rate of about 60%.

One of the problems with COVID-19 is that, for many people, the symptoms are mild or even non-existent. And that is precisely why it has been so difficult to pin down. If it affected everyone equally and as severely, then it would be far more containable.

But I am the furthest thing from an epidemiologist, so you should probably just go and read James’ article over in The Atlantic.

John Hopkins University also has this live map showing total confirmed, total deaths, and total recovered. At the time of this post, the fatality rate looks to be about 3.4%. But if you believe that many people are asymptomatic, the denominator is probably understated.

Naturally, we are all taking precautions, doing what we can to make our communities safe, and trying to quash this virus. And that is what we should be doing. At the same time, I found James’ article helpful at putting things into perspective.

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