Strategy ( not the Flu)

I’ve seen people compare the new coronavirus to influenza.  Some have said that we should worry more about the flu, since it kills every year (maybe 10,000 in the US last year). They are mistaken. The danger in this case is not entirely clear, but on the high end, we’re talking big trouble, way bigger than current influenza strains.

Current flu strains seem much less severe that this new coronavirus, much less likely to put you in intensive care or kill you. Fewer people are susceptible to the flu: we have a vaccine, and most people already have some degree of immunity from vaccination and past bouts with the flu.   We have somewhat useful antiviral drugs for the flu.

2019-nCoV: it’s new, nobody is immune. As yet we don’t know of antiviral drugs that are effective against it, although people are certainly trying out existing ones.  Perhaps we will get lucky. We will be working on a vaccine, and that is likely to succeed eventually, but  that takes time, on the order of a year or more.  Supportive care is helpful: ventilation and oxygen can give you time to beat the virus.

Even without a vaccine or useful drugs, you can foresee an end to it – say after most people have already had it. Fires need fuel.

It seems to spread fairly efficiently, comparable to influenza.  You have to think of two regimes of severity:  what happens when A. there is supportive care (hospitals, ventilators, oxygen) and B. when there is not. If it becomes common enough, regionally, you go from regime A to regime B (capacity for supportive care is limited) – and since it is new, since nobody is immune, that might happen.  Regime B looks not so good: in Wuhan, a few percent lethality, mainly among older men.

What’s the death rate in situation A? Hard to say.  For that matter, what’s the true number of people infected?  Also hard to say, but there is reason to think it’s lot higher than the official number, which ( I think)  is limited by the number of testing kits available. That may mean that the fraction of people infected that get terribly sick is lower than current reports suggest  – but since the majority of all cases must be very new, maybe they haven’t had time to get that sick yet. And then, we know that some people in Wuhan are dying without managing to get into a hospital – and without their deaths being counted.  But is this common enough to materially change the picture?

Even if the authorities in China are telling all they know, they themselves likely don’t  know enough. Might they be lying?  Sure. Lying about the 1918 flu epidemic was routine: that’s why it’s called the Spanish flu, since Spain was neutral and didn’t censor the newspapers.

The only thing you can be confident of is that the situation is no _better_ than the official line – the current story is against interest,  very bad for business.

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279 Responses to Strategy ( not the Flu)

  1. Maciano says:

    Neil Ferguson, a mathmatical biologist from Imperial College UK, believes the amount of infections is 50k per day right now. He also said the infections would peak in 2 months in the Wuhan epicenter.

    At first I thought he was alarmist, but then I googled him and saw he actually had a good predictive record during the Zika & Ebola outbreaks (which, at the time, was non-alarmist).

    • Neil Ferguson, a mathmatical biologist from Imperial College UK, believes the amount of infections is 50k per day right now.

      Surely that can’t be right. But I suppose if many people are exhibiting much more mild symptoms and do not seek health care, as he claims, it might be possible.

      • Maciano says:

        Well his math indicates otherwise.

        And I sure hope your gut feeling is more right than his math!!!

        • dearieme says:

          “Well his math indicates otherwise.” His math indicates the consequences of the assumptions he makes. How good are his assumptions? How good are the data he bases them on?

          Aren’t we still in the world of Nobody Knows?

          • John Massey says:


          • dave chamberlin says:

            Good point but somebody does know, the Chinese government and they are keeping a lid on that knowledge. The organizations CDC and WHO along with Neil Ferguson don’t have any idea on key statistical data that is required for anything near an accurate prediction of future events. Even with that knowledge factors can vary widely. The infection rate called the R naught or R-0 meaning the expected number of cases directly generated by one case needs to be known and it isn’t. The number of people infected needs to be known and it isn’t.
            Even with these numbers things can change rapidly. Crowded Chinese city streets can be turned into ghost towns where people only go out to buy groceries one hour every other day. Viruses can and often do mutate to be more infectious and more or less deadly.

            • dearieme says:

              “somebody does know, the Chinese government and they are keeping a lid on that knowledge.” I wouldn’t bet on their knowing. That would require accurate reporting up the chain of command: not too likely. It would also require those on the “front line” to have enough testing kits, and having access to representative samples of the population and the infected population.

              I can’t tell whether the Chinese govt is reacting rationally to a calamitous medical emergency or is just in blind panic at the fear of its own overthrow.

              • dave chamberlin says:

                I like you. Can i say that? I like you. You are bright, you cut though the shit, you are to the point.

  2. Stuart Harvey says:

    In China the number of cases reported each day indicates the total number of known cases is doubling roughly every six to seven days. The number of reported deaths relative to the number of reported cases has remained roughly constant at about 2 to 3 %, for the last ten days or so.

  3. John Massey says:

    There’s a luxury cruise liner (the Diamond Princess) currently anchored in quarantine in Yokohama. It had one old guy on board who disembarked in Hong Kong before it sailed for Japan, and he tested positive for 2019-nCoV in HK. The ship has 3,100 passengers and crew. All passengers are now confined to their cabins for 14 days straight, and it’s no longer luxurious; it’s a floating prison. But it seems to represent a nice little confined sample to get some numbers from, although I suspect the R0 might be at or towards the upper end. Cruise ships are floating coffins at the best of times, and this is not the best of times.

    So far they have tested 273 passengers. 61 of the 273 have tested positive for the coronavirus, and they have been taken off and hospitalized. People who have tested negative have to stay on board, so they could still yet become infected by multiple different pathways, despite cabin confinement. Eventually they will have to test all 3,100. It seems to be taking them a long time, or maybe I’m just impatient. Or maybe for me time has dilated because I’m now in a constant state of being hyper-alert, induced by the ‘situation’ (which is really not a good way to be for very long, and I’ve been through this shit three times – once during a polio epidemic which I still vividly remember when I was 3 years old before there was any vaccine, once during the SARS epidemic in Hong Kong in 2003, and now this, and it gets very old very quickly).

    There is another cruise liner (the World Dream) anchored in quarantine in Hong Kong, total 3,600 passengers and crew. No numbers from that yet, but that could provide an interesting comparative study to the other one. That had 8 passengers from a previous cruise that subsequently tested positive (so, not actually on board with any of the current passengers, but I presume at least partly the same crew, plus you need to think about virus deposited on surfaces (fomites) that might not have been disinfected effectively – there must be a huge number of such surfaces on a ship that size). Plus there’s possible transmission through the sewage and drainage systems. Those passengers are not being confined to their cabins…..yet. As far as I know, none have been tested yet.

    So, watch this space. Or you can google the ships – I’ve given you the names. Do I have to do all the hard work around here?

    • Smithie says:

      Never understood the attraction of cruise ships.

      All you need to know about is norovirus.

    • Yosemite Sam says:

      And of course now there is a cruise ship with a suspected case in New Jersey, and they tested 4 people and told the other 1000+ passengers they were free to go. So if ~50 were already infected like in Japan they just sent a bolus of carriers into the most densely populated metro area in the U.S. Definite bad juju.

    • John Massey says:

      They just got 3 more confirmed cases from the Diamond Princess. The funny (but not really) thing is that, every time they find another infected case on the ship, it pushes back the end date for the 14 day quarantine period – each new case starts the 14 day clock from day 0 again. And, as I said, people who test negative are not allowed off, they have to stay on the ship. No idea why.

      The way it is going, no one is ever going to get off that ship until they have all been infected.

      On the other ship, the World Dream, 3 crew members have tested positive. So those folks are there for the duration as well.

      • John Massey says:

        That report proved to be false. All passengers and crew on the World Dream anchored in Hong Kong have tested negative, so they have now all been permitted to leave the ship.

        That just leaves the Diamond Princess anchored in Yokohama. Similar numbers of passengers and crew, so if little Hong Kong can test everyone on board the World Dream by now, what is taking the Japanese so long?

        • gothamette says:

          I don’t know but speculation is useless, so as long as they are quarantined, we’re safe.

          But I’m a little scared of the virus “immigrating” into the US over the US-Canadian border. In this case, that’s the border that scares me, because of all the Chinese going to Canada. Frau Katze mentioned this.

          Of course, “experts” are already assuring us that travel bans backfire.

          I cannot believe the idiocy of idiots. Quarantine is the only way to handle epidemics like this.

        • gothamette says:

          135 infected on the Diamond Princess, but Japan isn’t testing all of the passengers. Why?

          • gothamette says:

            Just read that there are 3700 people aboard the Diamond Princess, and so far 135 infected. Doubtless there will be more.

            Sorry to sound heartless but this is a natural science experiment.

            • John Massey says:

              “Too difficult”, apparently. They are testing people who develop a fever, people over 80 who feel sick, and anyone who had “close contact” with infected passengers. That seems a bit rough on the passengers who have already tested negative but are not permitted to leave the ship, plus I don’t know how they are defining “close contact”. They are all stuck in cabins smaller than motel rooms and breathing air from the same central air conditioning. (Chinese authorities have said that it can’t be spread by aerosols, but they have said a lot of things, starting with how there was no person to person transmission.)

              In the case of the ship anchored in HK, it was only the crew members who had any contact with the 8 infected people who had previously been on the ship on the preceding voyage (bearing in mind that these ‘luxury’ cruise ships carry a big crew), so they tested all of the crew. None of them tested positive (from 3 tests each), so then they let all of the passengers disembark. It’s not absolutely perfect (someone could have picked up some virus from a surface on the ship), but it seems like a reasonable compromise. Nothing is going to be perfect.

              • gothamette says:

                They aren’t testing everyone because they can’t. And this is the Japanese!!

                We (Americans and Australians) ought to be readying testing equipment in large numbers. But people don’t want to pay for what they might not have to use.

                A dilemma of capitalism.

            • Frau Katze says:

              Lion of the Blogosphere is theorizing that Chinese can’t test for it.

              He’s suspicious because of the Japanese saying they won’t the 3700 people on the ship, many of whom are likely Japanese. The ship is only sailing in Eastern Asian ports.

              CDC released a test kit Feb 6


              • gothamette says:

                Right – A day or so ago I posted a tweet here about the fact that the Chinese don’t have enough test kits. This is already well-known.

              • Frau Katze says:

                How can we trust the Chinese data then?

              • John Massey says:

                A lot of people on the ship are white Australians – some of them have been interviewed by telephone. They boarded the ship in Sydney. You can look up the itinerary for the cruise.

              • Frau Katze says:

                I did find an itinerary that said they dropping Australia and listed only East Asian ports. Perhaps that’s to come, if you are positive about Australia. It also said the currency in use aboard the ship was Japanese yen.

                It was not the Princess Cruise Line site.

                I cannot find the info on the Princess Cruise Line site, it’s all about the virus.

                It doesn’t much matter at this point.

              • John Massey says:

                I am absolutely positive that there are quite a few Australians of European ancestry on board the ship – some were interviewed, gave their names, where in Australia they are from, why they went on the cruise (wedding anniversary or whatever), and that they boarded the ship in Australia.

                If that cruise line has now dropped Australia from that cruise itinerary going forward, I don’t know anything about that.

                Chinese authorities are now saying that they have evidence that the coronavirus can be spread by aerosols, which means that passengers forced to remain in their cabins on board the ship could be getting infected through the central air-conditioning. If that is the case, not testing them and not permitting them to leave the ship is not only in effect an experiment, it is bordering on criminal in my view, given the high proportion of patients who have already been infected.

              • Frau Katze says:

                @John Massey The doctor in the video was shocked that a country like Japan did not have the resources to test all the passengers. What about less prosperous countries, he asks. CDC released a test kit several days ago although I don’t know how many there are available.

              • John Massey says:

                I am also shocked, but not as shocked as he is, because I have been to Japan quite a lot. In many ways is is actually not as advanced as the impression a lot of people have, and now has a very big problem with ageing population. They are using robots to provide care to the elderly, rather than permitting more migration to alleviate the problem. They could well have a capacity problem in producing enough test kits.

                In China they are churning out test kits as fast as they can go, but they need all they can produce themselves; they have none to spare for less developed countries. The same is true for protective clothing and equipment for medical staff, and masks for members of the public to wear to protect themselves. All countries including in Europe are hoarding their production of masks – you can’t order them online from anywhere. I know – Hong Kong has a severe shortage of masks too, and Hong Kong is developed and wealthy. A friend said she can get my family some masks from Thailand, but warned that they will be black coloured, to which my wife replied: “I don’t care if they are shit coloured.”

                So, if is becomes a self-sustaining epidemic in poorer, less developed countries, it is going to be bad for them.

              • Frau Katze says:

                @John Massey There’s a video going around showing the doors to a large building being sealed shut and barred. People are saying it’s an enforced quarantine in Wuhan. How would the people get food? Is it for real, do you know?

              • John Massey says:

                Yes. For each household, only one person is allowed out of home every so often to buy food and other essentials, maybe once every four days or something like that. But a lot of people are afraid to go out anyway, so a lot will be complying voluntarily. The worst problem is boredom, and lack of exercise – can’t go outside and go for a good long walk.

                One Chinese Australian guy spoke by phone to his parents in Wuhan yesterday, and said “They are fine, but they are bored beyond belief.” He had flown to Wuhan to see them at Chinese New Year, and got stuck there when the city was locked down. He was evacuated on a flight organised to get Australian citizens out of Wuhan. So then he had to spend 14 days in quarantine when he got back to Australia. He said when he was finally able to go outside and walk around, it felt like a luxury.

                Quarantines always involve some enforcement, which can look and seem harsh, but they are important. Two people in quarantine in Hong Kong broke out a couple of days ago and have disappeared – the Police are hunting for them. If they find them, they will be sent back, by force if necessary.

                In some of the cities in Zhejiang Province, some of the city officials have been overzealous and have inhibited people’s movements too much, so they have been told to ease off. I guess some of that will happen in quite a few cities – city or provincial government officials over-reacting and being overly restrictive.

              • Frau Katze says:

                @John Massey We are not exactly in uncharted territory but quarantines on this scale have not been seen in the West since the days of smallpox, 60 years ago, I read somewhere.

                Certainly quarantine is useless if not enforced. I would be one who would be staying in voluntarily.

                I am rather annoyed that the government of Canada has not stopped non-citizens coming here from China for the duration of the epidemic. That seems short sighted to me. Our leader is noted for his exceptional stupidity.

              • John Massey says:

                The Chinese central government is responding to this very aggressively. They are determined to try to beat it. They know what a threat it is.

                Xi Jinping: “As it goes for Wuhan, so it goes for Hubei. As it goes for Hubei, so it goes for China.”

                Me: “And as it goes for China, so it goes for the world.”

                When my wife was 16 years old she contracted tuberculosis. She was quarantined at home for one full year, except for a short daily walk accompanied by her grandmother to a nearby medical clinic so they could supervise her taking her medication, because they did not trust her to take it unsupervised. She did not object – at least she got out for a short walk every day.

              • John Massey says:

                No point getting the Police to check on my wife to make sure she was complying with the quarantine, though. Her father was a Police Officer 🙂

              • gothamette says:

                Thanks for all this info. It’s much better than what we get from the mainstream media.

              • gothamette says:

                “The Chinese central government is responding to this very aggressively. They are determined to try to beat it. They know what a threat it is.”

                The impression we get, well, the impression I get, from twitter and all, is that the Chinese authorities are being so mean to the poor people…dragging them off, sealing them off…
                but what are they to do? They must quarantine!!

                I think actually the Chinese government (CG) is handling it as best they can. Better probably than we would have handled it, with our obsession about rights. We should all remember that our freedom is very contingent, and be grateful to do something as mundane as a walk outside – but under the circumstances, the CG had to do it….

                The problem is one deeply embedded in Chinese culture, and sorry (not sorry) the Chinese people have only themselves to blame. Shut down those wet markets, stop the trade in rare animal parts, join the f’ing 21st century. Even if it’s just a minority, a country where it’s OK to eat tiger testicles should be shamed and isolated.


              • gothamette says:

                PS to my comment – I should add that I think the Chinese people have behaved magnificently. I don’t even want to think how people would have behaved in, say, Chicago.

              • John Massey says:

                You have reminded me – two infected people in Chicago have recovered and have been released.

                I currently have waaaaay too much data stored in my head, and not enough computing power to analyse it all.

              • gothamette says:

                You do have a lot of data – I didn’t know about the Chicago infections. Let’s hope there aren’t any more.

                We’ve had 6 possible cases in NYC; 5 cleared, one is under quarantine now.

                What do you bet that it’s only a matter of time before we get an outbreak in NYC?

          • gothamette says:

            @Frau K:

            Look at the tweet up-blog I linked to.

            Answer: we can’t.

            We’re in the dark. And likely to stay that way.

            The British situation is very worrying.

  4. The Z Blog says:

    This is a great example of watching what people do versus what they say. The way China has responded is far out of line with a severe flu outbreak. Instead, they are acting on the belief this thing is both highly contagious and deadly. At the minimum, the party sees this as a threat to stability.

    I think the way to bet is they are acting out of ignorance. They don’t know what they have on their hands in terms of the disease itself and just how many people have been infected. The fear of the unknown is driving the response.

    There’s also the endemic dishonesty in the Chinese bureaucracy. The people at the bottom lie to their bosses, who then lie to their bosses. The people at the top understand this and they may be trying to motivate these people to exaggerate the severity. That way they are always working from the worst case scenario.

    • dave chamberlin says:

      My heart goes out to the Chinese people, if this epidemic is as bad as I think it is, I don’t blame President XI for lying about the number infected or the number dead. Panic kills too.
      49% of Chinese men smoke and one study looking at SARS, very similar virus, indicated smokers are at a much higher risk.

      • Frau Katze says:

        Aside: China really should be strongly discouraging smoking. I read that benefits of not smoking are giving longer life spans in Western countries where smoking is now considered low class.

        • John Massey says:

          It is, they have done a lot to discourage smoking, but Chinese can be a stubborn, intractable lot. I know, I’ve been married to one for 40 years, and she’s still really bad at obeying my instructions 😛

          Not just China – Japan, Indonesia, you name it. E and SE Asia lags the rest of the world, which is why the tobacco companies are particularly targeting those countries.

  5. J says:

    It was thought that the 2019-nCoV originated in bats. However, no bats were sold at the Wuhan seafood market (they were hibernating). Now the humble pangolin is accused of transmitting the virus to humans. The RO is estimated at 2.2 At this slow rate, it may take two years till the epidemy burns itself out. We will have to get used to its presence.

    • J says:

      P.S.: I meant that the survivors will have to get used to it.

    • Frau Katze says:

      The theory is that other animals, that are on sale, can get it from bats.

      One UK Dr, who is doing a daily update, thinks the “wet markets” are unsanitary in general. They slaughter animals on site.

      Bats seem to carry a lot of viruses that humans are susceptible to. There’s a rare but deadly one called Nipah virus that is spread by drinking raw date palm juice, that’s been infected with bat droppings. It’s strictly tropical, mainly Bangladesh.

      Why bats?

      • Smithie says:

        Despite all the disgust reactions people are having at the strange things some Chinese eat, I bet anything that it passed through chickens. It’s a question of quantity. There are lots and lots of chickens. And I don’t believe that China has developed the industrial agriculture, where they are all housed in warehouses. (BTW, the movement in the West to freerange chickens is probably a very bad idea.)

        Why did it probably start in bats? My guess is two reasons. 1.) They fly, so they make good dispersal mechanisms. 2.) They are mammals, so have a close enough physiology that there is a greater danger of crossover.

        BTW, though birds can, of course, be dangerous, and may have served as an intermediate pathway here (at least IMO), some organisms that infect mammals will die instantly when they get inside birds. The reason is unclear. It might be their extremely high blood pressure, or that their complement is different.

        • Frau Katze says:

          Some influenza strains come from birds but I don’t think it’s confirmed yet about this corona virus. I don’t know much about it.

          It occurred to me also bats are rare flying mammals and maybe it’s that simple.

        • Frau Katze says:

          The reason they carry so many viruses is that they’re common flying mammals plus some extra factor concerning the demands of flight, according to this article.

          Also, note this

          Scientists in China were already studying the bats carefully, well aware that an outbreak like the current one would most likely happen.

          Last spring, in an article on bat coronaviruses, or CoVs, a group of Chinese researchers wrote that “it is generally believed that batborne CoVs will re-emerge to cause the next disease outbreak.” They added, “In this regard, China is a likely hot spot.” This wasn’t clairvoyance, but conventional wisdom.

          • Rob says:

            I wonder if bats harboring so many viruses is adaptive, to infect predators or competitors, including other bats. It seems that carrying an infectious agent to kill predators could be an adaptation just like being poisonous, though I’ve never heard of it.

          • Smithie says:

            Interesting article.

        • Rob says:

          some organisms that infect mammals will die instantly when they get inside birds. The reason is unclear. It might be their extremely high blood pressure, or that their complement is different.

          That’s really interesting. Does this only apply to bacteria, or viruses and eukaryotic stuff too? If it’s blood pressure, not much we can do, but if it’s molecular, that’s something that can be adapted and modified into medicine. I hope there are people working on this. In general we look for model organisms that can be infected with a disease, and don’t do much to find ones that can’t. A lot of times it’s due to receptor differences that can’t transfer. Great apes can’t get infected with HIV, or maybe it doesn’t get hem sick, I can’t remember. Why? Primate research on AIDS using HIV/SIV chimeras. But what if they make a small molecule or peptide that disables HIV extracellularly. Maybe their T-cells produce something intracellularly that prevents productive infection. Maybe their macrophages can’t be infected. If there’s something besides receptor differences, there’s could be something worth knowing about.

          • DRA says:

            Many types of bats roust in massive dense colonies, so they can cook up a lot of communicable diseases. Such environments also select strongly for being able to survive such diseases, at least relative to their life span.

            • Frau Katze says:

              Apparently some of them are quite long-lived. Here’s more from the article. There’s a paywall, but you get a certain number of free reads. I had canceled over Sarah Jeong but I restarted it. She’s left now.

              Dr. Peter Daszak, president of EcoHealth Alliance, who has been working in China for 15 years studying diseases that jump from animals to people, said, “We don’t know the source yet, but there’s pretty strong evidence that this is a bat origin coronavirus.” He said, “It’s probably going to be the Chinese horseshoe bat,” a common species that weighs up to an ounce.

              If he’s right, this strain will join many other viruses that bats carry. SARS and MERS epidemics were caused by bat coronaviruses, as was a highly destructive viral epidemic in pigs.

              One bat can host many different viruses without getting sick. They are the natural reservoir for the Marburg virus, and Nipah and Hendra viruses, which have caused human disease and outbreaks in Africa, Malaysia, Bangladesh and Australia. They are thought to be the natural reservoir for the Ebola virus. They also carry the rabies virus, but in that case the bats are affected by the disease.

              Their tolerance of viruses, which surpasses that of other mammals, is one of their many distinctive qualities. They are the only flying mammals, they devour disease-carrying insects by the ton, and they are essential in the pollination of many fruits, like bananas, avocados and mangoes. They are also an incredibly diverse group, making up about a quarter of all mammalian species.

              But their ability to coexist with viruses that can spill over to other animals, in particular humans, can have devastating consequences when we eat them, trade them in livestock markets and invade their territory.

              Learning how they carry and survive so many viruses has been a deep question for science, and new research suggests that the answer may be how the bats’ evolutionary adaptations to flight changed their immune systems.

              In a 2018 paper in Cell Host and Microbe, scientists in China and Singapore reported their investigation of how bats handle something called DNA sensing. The energy demands of flight are so great that cells in the body break down and release bits of DNA that are then floating around where they shouldn’t be. Mammals, including bats, have ways to identify and respond to such bits of DNA, which might indicate an invasion of a disease-causing organism. But in bats, they found, evolution has weakened that system, which would normally cause inflammation as it fought the viruses.

              Bats have lost some genes involved in that response, which makes sense because the inflammation itself can be very damaging to the body. They have a weakened response but it is still there. Thus, the researchers write, this weakened response may allow them to maintain a “balanced state of ‘effective response’ but not ‘over response’ against viruses.”

              • gothamette says:

                It’s fascinating scientifically but the only thing I care about is containing this virus.

                The upshot is: bats can harbor viruses that can kill humans, just as goats can eat poison ivy, and birds eat seeds that are poisonous to us. Somehow other critturs have evolved to live with viruses that would kill us. This is not surprising.

                We are guests in the natural world, and the natural world is full of things that can kill us. Lots of us. Sooner or later, quick or slow.

                I can deal with that.

                What I can’t deal with is “experts” who advise us to do things that would kill lots of us, quickly, and that these dumbass experts have plum positions in major public health policy organizations, and they testify in front of Congress.

                The travel ban can “backfire,” they say. I won’t tell you what I really think we should do with these people.

            • Rob says:

              Yes, but that’s just the sort of thing that leads to evolution. Why don’t they clear the infections? Maybe because staying infectious is an adaptation. Maybe not clearing infections is just a side effect of lower immune activation so the side effects of inflammation etc. don’t do as much damage. Do some bats have infectious poop because pooping on fruit infects other animals (bats and non bats) that would be competitors for the fruit?

              In the past there were people who thought Komodo dragons had bacteria in their saliva that killed their prey. Turns out they have venom, but the idea that infectious agents can be commensals isn’t crazy.

              Come to think of it, being well while spreading typhus could be an old adaptation. Kill competitors using the same water supply. Both in one’s own tribe and competing tribes. One’s relatives would be more likely to also be carriers.

              Certainly carrying diseases helped the conquistadors in their conquests in the New World.

              Cochran, is this crazy?

          • Smithie says:

            The example that comes most immediately to mind is T. cruzi. It is a trypanosome, from Central America, causes Chagas Disease. It’s Eukaryotic. I imagine it applies to some others too. Perhaps some viruses and bacteria, but I’m not sure.

            I think the answer is probably a difference in avian complement. Might be some protein or two that is a little bit different. Not sure, if it would cause problems if you put it in a person, or not. Or how useful it would really be.

            But it might be a cool idea to research, if you were trying to genetically engineer super-soldiers, immune to bioweapons.

            • Rob says:

              Or just something that could be given in a shot. Maybe chimeric proteins of human/avian complement that would interact with the disease and with the immune system.

        • DRA says:

          Think i’ve heard that birds have a higher body temperature than comparable mammals.

          • Smithie says:

            If we can believe the details of project Blue Peacock, the British designed nuclear mines that would be kept operational in winter by sealing a live chicken inside them, with food for it to eat.

            Of course, the Cold War is over now, but I like to imagine a Soviet soldier trying to disarm the bomb and and being attacked by a broody hen.

      • mbwheats says:

        Bats live in gigantic colonies where there’s lots of opportunity for disease to spread. They’re like humans in that respect. Most species have nothing like the disease burden of humans or bats.

      • Bert says:

        “In evolutionary biology, the flying primate hypothesis is that megabats, a subgroup of Chiroptera (also known as flying foxes), form an evolutionary sister group of primates. The hypothesis began with Carl Linnaeus in 1758, and was again advanced by J.D. Smith in 1980.”

  6. dave chamberlin says:

    I talked too much in the last blog thread about corona virus and I won’t do that again. Sorry. But I left some fantastic links for interested people who want real science updates to explain this ongoing phenomenon. Here they are, they update almost daily which is great.
    Dr Roger Seheult at Medcram.
    Dr John Cambell
    Johns Hopkins dashboard for coronavirus

    I shorted the Chinese stock exchange and a few cruise line stocks. When I sell them, I will give a donation to my favorite blog, westhunter, thanks Greg.
    Speaking only on the economic impact of this pandemic, the above links cover the medical impact and I agree with Gregs’ summary and can’t improve on it, I think it’s nuts that stocks went up in the USA. Prediction models show this to peak in Wuhan mid April and China mid May. That this won’t seriously impact the USA economy is nuts. The supply chain from China to the USA in every damn thing you can think of will come to either a grinding halt or be seriously impaired until this passes. When a vaccine that actually works and can be produced in ginormous quantities China will bounce right back.

    The Chinese people can tell you don’t trust the data the Chinese government is providing. However as this spreads internationally the medical analysis will get better and better. Infection rate: highly discouraging. Death rate outside of China: low so far, way lower than in Wuhan, which is good news.

    • Frau Katze says:

      Those are good links. I finally understood about the dangers of pneumonia which can result in needing oxygen from Dr Campbell. He says even a Western country would have trouble providing a vast amount of oxygen.

      If you don’t develop pneumonia your survival chances are much better.

    • Frau Katze says:

      Lion of the Blogosphere sold all his stocks. They’re at record high now. he says.

      Shorting cruise ship stocks sounds right.

    • Petja Ylitalo says:

      We don´t know death rate outside of China yet, since people haven´t had time to die yet.
      Some hospital dude took some stats, and from those he followed it was usually 1 week from first symptoms to serious symptoms, and 3 weeks from first symptoms until death.
      3 weeks ago there were pretty much 0 (known) cases outside China.

      Not that we know the death rate in China either, since while there has been enough time for early groups to mostly die or recover, for those the problem is that mild cases probably did not get followed up, so those rates of 5..10% are for those bad enough to go to hospital.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Off topic, but which publications are worth reading regularly and getting a subscription to? What do you read regularly, Greg, if I may ask?

  8. BB753 says:

    Working with the worst case scenario seems sensible to me. “Expect the best. Prepare for the worst.”

  9. NobdyExpectsThe... says:

    The number of international cases, is possible to draw conclusions from them? The mortality rate seems to be lower (2 deaths/~350 cases), at least for now…

    Maybe the result of a lot more regime A than B outside of China? Or just too early for most of them?

    • John Massey says:

      Click to access enhanced_sur_pneumonia_wuhan_eng.pdf

      26 cases so far in Hong Kong. Regime A. One fatality, 39 year old male – pre-existing heart condition and died suddenly of heart failure. He was a HK resident who became ill after he returned from a trip to Wuhan. Doctors have reported that at least 2/3 of the patients are not unwell enough to need oxygen. Some have been hospitalised since January 21. Typically, shortness of breath and pneumonia symptoms emerge on the 8th day after the first symptoms appear (persistent dry cough, fever), so a lot of those patients have had time to develop pneumonia by now if they were going to. On the other hand, none are reported yet to have fully recovered and been discharged. Mainland Chinese medical authorities have warned that people remain infectious after recovery as long as there is still virus in their bodies, so they are likely to be detained in isolation until they are tested again and found to be virus-free.

      The only other fatality so far outside of Mainland China was a 44 year old Chinese male from Wuhan who traveled to the Philippines, was hospitalised, tested, diagnosed and died there. Also reported to have a chronic pre-existing health condition. Regime A.

    • John Massey says:

      Addendum – I would say that all of the cases in Mainland China so far outside of Hubei Province are Regime A rather than B.

      Outside Hubei, the two provinces reporting the highest number of known cases are Guangdong and Zhejiang, each with more than 1,000 cases. Guangdong has 1 fatality and Zhejiang has 0. Fully recovered so far: Zhejiang 127, Guangdong 97.

      Hubei – definitely Regime B. 24,953 confirmed cases, 699 deaths (out of 722 for the whole of Mainland China), 1,115 fully recovered.

      So, calculated mortality so far for Hubei is close to 3%, while for the rest of Mainland China I calculate it’s currently 0.24%. That could change, obviously – actually is changing, rising gradually as cases progress.

  10. John Massey says:

    Speculation about the source here is pretty futile, to be honest. The source has still not been identified, although there are a number of ‘likelies’. Mainland Chinese scientists are now thinking that there could have been a number of proximal causes, while the original source is almost certain to be bats. Hubei has one endemic species of fruit eating megabat in the north of the province and numerous species of insect eating microbats.

  11. dave chamberlin says:

    The data out of China is impossible to interpret because we can’t trust it. But even with this cloud some things are becoming clear. It’s very infectious. Even with one person per household allowed to leave their house once every other day, it’s still spreading. How quickly it spread on that cruise ship John Massey talked about earlier in the thread confirms this as well. Combined with the infectiousness of this virus is the fact it makes a large percentage, maybe 20% of the people who catch it very sick and requiring intensive hospital care for weeks. Combine these two factors and you can see how Regime B can happen anywhere.

  12. John Massey says:

    Cruise ships are notorious. R0 is likely to be at the high end.

    I’m watching Shenzhen closely because it’s immediately across the border from Hong Kong, lots of people cross the border every day to work or go to school, and cross-border traders, truck drivers (HK gets most of its food supply and supply of other essential goods from the Mainland, and that all needs to be trucked across the border every day) plus it’s very cosmopolitan, with a high population of foreigners living and working there. Plus we have family friends living there and talk to them by phone frequently, and they say what they like. It’s impossible to fake the numbers there – you can censor the Internet (but stuff still gets out on Weibo and WeChat before the censors get a chance to take it down); you can make bizarre assumptions about millions of people’s phones being tapped, but you can’t censor what people say after they cross the border.

    Shenzhen reached the stage of a self-sustaining epidemic in the local community there some time ago, people can leave their homes whenever they want, but the number of known infected in Shenzhen is not rising that quickly. Actually, it’s pretty slow (so I suspect a lot more mild cases that are just not known about, and people are recovering without needing hospital treatment). If it was raging through the community, people would know.

    The R0 is likely to be higher than seasonal influenza because of lack of immunity, but it’s not that high, considering transmission is a geometric progression, with the occasional ‘super spreader’. Modelers at Hong Kong University assumed an R0 of 2.68 (don’t know where they got that from, but it’s a suspiciously precise number), and came up with an estimate for the Mainland of 3x the number of known infections. But nowhere near the number estimated by Ferguson – don’t know what assumptions he is making about input data, but there’s no reason to believe he would know those better than academic researchers here who have good and frequent Mainland contacts.

  13. John Massey says:

    Hong Kong is teetering on the brink of a locally self-sustaining epidemic of 2019-nCoV. The next two weeks are likely to be critical. The HK Centre for Health Protection doesn’t cover anything up or give fake numbers – I know that for a certainty. And I ain’t no stinkin’ Chicom, I’m a boy from the Australian bush who doesn’t know how to lie. So, you can go here and see how it develops:

    Click to access enhanced_sur_pneumonia_wuhan_eng.pdf

    If you scroll down, there is a useful colour coded plot of the ‘epidemic curve’ – watching how that develops could be interesting and informative.

  14. gothamette says:

    Has anyone been able to determine how this virus crossed into the human race?

    I keep reading conflicting accounts. It came from eating food from the wet market, it didn’t come from eating food from the wet market. Well, it had to come from somewhere.

    It came from bats. No, it came from pangolins.

    What is going on?

    • John Massey says:

      Truth? No one knows, exactly. Very likely to have originated in bats (almost certainly), but Chinese scientists now suspect there could be multiple proximal causes, not just that one wet market that was originally implicated (because quite a few early cases had no possible connection to that market, including the first known case, a woman who developed symptoms on 1 December 2019). The genome is very similar to a coronavirus genome in one species of bat, but with some changes.

      This also happened with SARS – strongly suspected to have come from bats via civets, but could have come from multiple other animals as well (some one said other predators – civets are predatory animals).

      People are (understandably) rushing to get research papers out, and none of them has yet had peer review, so take everything you read about it with a grain of salt. Plus the mainstream media (and social media, which are even worse) latch onto all of this stuff and mangle it.

      It might never be known precisely, because there might not be a precise single answer.

      • gothamette says:

        Thanks. One more question and please don’t laugh at me: Why China?

        Don’t laugh. Country Americans eat all sorts of wild game, and yes, they have all sorts of funny critturs in their meat.

        OK, laugh, but my question is serious.

      • John Massey says:

        I wouldn’t laugh at you. Not ever, unless you were making jokes.

        I think the issue is not the eating part (that can kill individual people, or give them nasty parasites), it is the environment in the wet markets – the sections where they sell birds, reptiles and mammals are singularly insanitary. They are sold live and killed, skinned or plucked and gutted there, so there is blood, guts and feces all over the place, with people wading around in it and getting their hands into it, breathing it in, and occasionally someone comes with a hose and hoses some of the mess down the nearest drain with cold water. No one wears gloves, or any other kind of protective clothing. That is the environment where a disease can jump from an animal into a human.

        Considering that, it’s actually a fairly rare event. Six little kids died of H5N1 bird ‘flu in Hong Kong in 1997 from playing on the ground contaminated with chicken feces in a wet market. There was SARS that jumped into humans in Guangzhou in 2003, probably into people who were shopping for ‘exotic’ animals to eat in one or more wet markets. I have read that humans in Africa got HIV from eating ‘bush meat’ (chimpanzees and gorillas), but it seems more likely to me that the disease transfer happened during the killing, skinning, gutting and butchering part rather than the eating part, unless they were eating it raw or inadequately cooked.

        I have skinned, gutted and butchered wild animals that I have shot, and sheep that I have killed – it’s a filthy process when done outside on the ground, not in a proper abattoir. But the animals I butchered, and the animals that Americans hunt, don’t carry coronaviruses or influenza viruses. Wild ducks, maybe, with avian viruses, but those get taken home and prepared in relatively sanitary conditions.

        This issue is not going to go away until China, and other E and SE Asian countries, get serious about banning the sale of live animals for food in markets.

        Influenza viruses jump from ducks into humans in southern China quite a lot, because the humans live (and eat and sleep) in very close proximity to literally thousands of ducks (so there’s the feces issue – the fecal-oral route is a favourite one by which viruses infect people, either directly, or they get virus on their hands and then transfer them to the mucous membranes in their mouths, noses or eyes). A lot of the seasonal influenza viruses originate in southern China because of that. But those are avian viruses, not coronaviruses.

        That’s not where the 2009 H1N1 ‘swine ‘flu’ pandemic happened – that happened in Mexico and the USA, and they don’t seem to have figured out exactly how that happened, but it was a pretty bad one. The 1918 Spanish ‘flu was also an H1N1 strain, and that was really bad. And it didn’t happen in Spain; it was probably infecting troops in the trenches during the dying stages of WWI.

        • gothamette says:

          Thanks, John. You’ve done a good job explaining the conditions for the growth & spread of viruses but….

          Why not India? Don’t these conditions pertain there, too?

          I’m no expert on the diseases American critturs carry, but they do carry them, and we still have a non-trivial number of Americans who shoot ’em and eat ’em, yet I don’t hear of epidemics being started by our Jed Clampetts. (“And then one day he was shootin’ at some food, and up through the ground come a bubbling crude” – I’m sure you remember that!)

          It just seems to me that China and Africa get the prize for coming up with new viruses, and of the two, China gets pride of place.

          • John Massey says:

            I don’t know much about India, but no, I don’t think the same conditions pertain there at all.

            Chinese people in particular have an absolute obsession with food being as fresh as possible – that’s a good thing when it comes to eating fish or seafood in general, and pork (which doesn’t keep well and can kill you if it goes off – that is allegedly what killed Siddhārtha Gautama) but it results in this unfortunate and imprudent practice of selling live animals in markets in very insanitary conditions. They need to stop it, permanently, and adhere to that strictly.

            Um…Beverley Hillbillies? I’m not American, remember, but I’ve been exposed to a smattering of real culture 🙂

            People in Europe (and I presume also the USA) kill and eat wild boar. I wouldn’t, they are full of parasites. That won’t do someone a lot of good if the meat is not cooked enough to kill the parasites. But it won’t result in an infectious disease jumping into humans. I don’t know what other things Americans eat. Not skunks, I’m pretty confidant of that.

            Sushi chefs are supposed to be trained to spot parasites in fish, but I still won’t eat raw fish. The tapeworms from fish are the most injurious to humans (and I’m too skinny to need my own personal tapeworm). But again, while the parasites won’t do an individual swallowing them or their eggs any good, it won’t result in an infectious disease jumping into humans.

            There are all the zoonotic diseases humans got from animals when they domesticated them – most of those are still with us, but we have vaccines. (Well, those of us who are sane have vaccines.)

            Yes, the economic impact is not going to be good.

        • gothamette says:

          PS And yeah, it is bad for business. Suppose the US manages to keep the virus out of the US population (fingers crossed) and “only” China is affected in any major way. With the global economy so tightly intertwined, any break in the chain would be very bad indeed.

          I don’t use words like catastrophic, but it would be doubleplusungood.

        • Frau Katze says:

          Thanks for your knowledgeable and thoughtful comments.

          It occurs to me that people could even be eating bats directly, with no harm, IF they were thoroughly cooked. Cooking even kills trichinosis in pigs.

          I watched a good series on Youtube yesterday about the 1918 flu. It was called Spanish because Spain was neutral in WW 1 and had no censorship relating to the diseases. All the countries participating in WW 1 (including the US by 1918) were strictly censoring to avoid panic. Only Spain was reporting on it, giving the wrong impression that it started there.

      • J says:

        I saw on the net a WHO (SE Asia) poster warning about having unprotected sex with animals (illustrated by a bat). It must be fake, who knows.

    • akarlin says:

      There are 11M people in Wuhan, 60M in Hubei. About 1% and 5% of the Chinese population, respectively.

      There are wet markets all over China.

      But Wuhan is also the only city in China with a BSL-4 lab, where coronaviruses (amongst other dangerous pathogens) were known to be studied.

      What is the ratio of “bioerror” incidents (e.g. Sverdlovsk 1979) that result in deaths vs. novel epidemics that result in deaths?

  15. akarlin says:

    What this showed is that many people, even otherwise very intelligent ones, don’t quite intuitively “get” exponential growth.

    • The Johns Hopkins dashboard
      shows linear growth in this epidemic rather than exponential growth. That would be great if true, and it means a whole lot of people, including myself, are completely over reacting. 4000 more cases a day in a world of 8 billion people, thats’ a problem, but it isn’t a looming pandemic and whenever a vaccine comes out, we can beat 2019 nCoV.

      But the odds of the Chinese government reporting the true numbers of infected and dead are to say the least remote. They don’t have the test kits required to test everybody, they would not react by shutting down normal everyday living for at last count 60 million people, and besides that the Chinese government doesn’t exactly have credibility in reporting negative news.

    • John Massey says:

      It’s not exponential. Cases of epidemic disease increase according to a geometric progression, where the factor is termed R0. If R0 < 1, the disease gradually peters out. If R0 = 2, then the first case infects 2 other people, who each infect 2 others, making 4, who each infect 2 others, making 8, and so on.

      Numerical modelers at Hong Kong University (not to be sneezed at – globally it is a pretty highly ranked university) have assumed R0 = 2.68. No idea why they have assumed such a precise number when they can’t know, because no one can know, including the omnipotent “Chinese government”, whoever they are; I suspect it is because it looks like R0 could be in the range 2 – 3, and they have chosen a particular value which suits their computations. If they are right, 2019-nCoV is more infectious than seasonal influenza, but not wildly so – at the lower end of the range of R0 concluded by lots of people studying the spread of SARS coronavirus in 2003 (but which infected far fewer people, maybe because it was not infectious when people were asymptomatic, unlike 2019-nCoV).

      But that is not what we are seeing in Mainland China. In Hubei Province, that could well be the consequence of lack of hospital capacity and test kits, so that the daily increase in new cases is dictated by capacity, making the rate of increase look more or less linear. But that lack of capacity doesn’t apply to other provinces in the Mainland, and it doesn’t apply to other countries that so far have the highest numbers of cases: Singapore, Japan and Thailand, and their numbers are not increasing geometrically.

      But on a cruise ship anchored in quarantine in Yokohama, one infected passenger has so far resulted in 64 cases, a scary increase, big R0, and they have still not tested everyone on board.

      So what’s going on?

      One thing that seems to me to be blindingly obvious is that R0 could be highly variable, depending on a range of factors. Cruise ships are notorious for infectious disease outbreaks that affect large numbers of people on board, usually noroviruses. The R0 among a very dense population must surely be a lot higher than a sparsely populated rural community, with far fewer person to person close contacts, but that hardly applies to Singapore, Japan and Thailand, or other Chinese provinces by and large (leaving aside Tibet, which still has only one case, and a few other sparsely populated areas). [With seasonal influenza, a well known vector is school kids, who get herded together in classrooms every day – infection spreads pretty fast among the kids, and they take it home and infect their families; so in a bad epidemic, one very effective measure is to close all of the schools, which is what they did in Hong Kong during SARS.]

      There can often be routes of infection, some quite weird, that are not suspected. The old infected guy on the cruise ship was reported to be a keen user of the swimming pool and jacuzzi. What do humans do in swimming pools and jacuzzis? They piss in them. What carries virus from an infected person? Aerosols, droplets from coughing and sneezing, vomit, feces and urine.

      The only possible explanation seems to be that there are a lot of ‘cryptic’ cases of infection – cases in which people are asymptomatic or have only mild symptoms and who recover quickly, rather than progressing to more severe symptoms requiring hospitalisation. Such cases are unknowable (even by that omnipotent god-like being “the Chinese government”) and therefore uncountable.

      • Gkai says:

        Geometric progression and exponential are synonymous. At least if R is constant and the time for a contamined to pass the flag to his R relays is also constant.
        I heard on the radio last night (Europe time) that the number of detected cases is stabilizing in china… Even if it’s the number of new cases that is stabilizing it’s good news and would means things will not go so wrong after all… But it’s strange if the initial reports are true and R was really 2.68. From 2.68 to 1 or less seems like a big jump. I know nothing about how efficiently you can stop epidemics using confinement/travel bans, but intuitively, appart from specific cases like ships, it seems difficult to prevent not yet sick carriers to move around a lot: i guess people actively try not to get trapped into locked zone… Especially if they were just visitors

        • John Massey says:

          Yes, you are right. My understanding is that a geometric sequence is an exponential function whose domain is the set of positive integers, and the common ratio is the base of the function. The point being that you can’t have a fraction of a person, so it has to be some positive integer.

          So, strictly they should not be assuming a value like 2.68, and they can’t possibly know even that at this point – could be out by miles; they should be calculating for a range of possible integers and giving a range of projections. Even so long after the SARS epidemic in 2003 and so many people studying it as a case history of an epidemic, R0 is estimated as anywhere between 2 and 5. My guess is that it varies a lot, depending on a number of factors. That just seems like common sense. I have some reasons for believing that.

          Weird things happen, which no one can predict. During SARS, there was the infamous case of Amoy Gardens, a high rise residential block in Hong Kong, where SARS infection was traveling vertically upwards in the building. Building services engineers figured out how that happened, but it took them a while. Bear with me, because it’s kind of interesting – disgusting but interesting.

          So, one guy living in Amoy Gardens got infected with SARS, and one of the symptoms was violent diarrhea. So he was going to the toilet, spraying liquid shit around, and then flushing the toilet without closing the lid first, which was sending an aerosol of fine fecal matter full of virus into the air in his bathroom. Meanwhile, the bathroom drainage system had a partial vacuum in it, because people were not regularly flushing water down the drains. So, some of this aerosol got sucked into the drainage outlet in the floor of his bathroom, and into the common drainage pipe, and from there it was sucked upwards in the drainage pipe by the partial vacuum and out through the drains in the bathroom floors of the flats directly above his. And people in those apartments were going into their bathrooms, breathing some of this virus-laden aerosol and getting infected. It traveled that way all the way up the building, but only directly vertically, not to any of the apartments to either side.

          So lesson learned – engineers and architects had to change the standard plumbing detailing for drainage systems in high rise buildings, all designers were legally compelled to comply, and existing buildings had to be retrofitted. But learning stuff incrementally like that is a painful process – people from Amoy Gardens died because of that. People have long memories, divorced from rationality – if you want a cheap apartment, you can still get on there.

          • J says:

            Plumbing Codes all over the world require air venting to avoid low and high pressure differentials in the soil pipe. The pipe has to be open and connected to the atmosphere. Insufficient venting causes strange noises in the pipe system and mysterious bad odors. Hong Kong engineers are quite capable, probably it was a case of obstruction of the vent, some animal or bird got stuck and obstructed the free circulation of air.
            Regarding the growth curve of this newfangled flu-like disease, it is not exponential nor linear, it is a sigmoid curve 1/(1+e^-x)… also called a logistic curve. It exhibits a progression from small beginnings that accelerates and approaches a climax over time. It is not the end of the world. I am not selling my portfolio.

            • John Massey says:

              Prediction of when it might climax?

              • Gkai says:

                Like all exponentiel process, it stops because something number or concentration or time dependent hinder multiplication. Here it would be decrease of potential new host to contaminate…
                i think it’s much too early for a decrease in available non immunized potential hosts, even locally, so it’s time dependent. Either virus mutation (but it should go the other way, increasing the transmissibility R), resistance selection in host (completely out of the current timescale) or change in host behavior (quarantine, less travel and less contact,…). If we can already detect the inflexion of the curve the mesures (china authorities and/or individual change of behavior) have been really effective !

              • J says:

                Some people already see indications that the climax is behind them in Wuhan city. I am so shortsighted that cant see from here what is happening in Wuhan.

          • gothamette says:

            Thanks for the explanation, which I found not disgusting at all, rather fascinating.

            I think it shows one thing. When the Chinese government wants to do something, it does something, and it will steamroll its way to a solution no matter what.

            If this had happened in the US, we would be dithering around for years getting permission from this commission and that commission, and no doubt CNN would have hosted a series of guests proving that taking these measures be racist.

            So let’s give the Chinese credit for seeing a problem and solving it.

        • John Massey says:

          And yes, all quarantines are porous (even on ships), but they can stop most of the people moving in and out, which is the objective.

          • Gkai says:

            I guess china is able to force better town/city quarantine than europe or US…will be interresting to see how modern, connected, more or less democratic states deals with epidemics, how much then can keep control and coordination… But i would prefer not too see how it goes from inside :-/

            • John Massey says:

              Your comment tells me that you have never been to China, certainly not recently. You imply that it is not “modern and connected”, when the reality is that Chinese cities put most cities in the rest of the world to shame when it comes to modernity. I wouldn’t say they are hugely ‘personal’ or particularly likeable, though. As for connected, it has the world’s longest high speed rail network by a very long way, an excellent system of highways and is highly internally connected by air as well.

              People who have never been to China and believe the propaganda that is peddled to them by the Western media, have this picture of it as some kind of giant police state. In reality, the reverse is true. It has a very low (too low according to the UN recommendation) ratio of police per head of population (compared to the USA, which has a very high ratio, and more people incarcerated than any other country, even if you count one million Muslims locked up in Xinjiang), and it is a giant free-for-all. It has some excellent laws, as good or better than modern European countries, but it fails badly on compliance and enforcement, partly due to corruption and partly due to chronic under-policing.

              Plus it has the distinct disadvantage in a situation like this of top down governance, which causes slow initial response. But on the plus side, once the top leadership gets directly involved, you don’t have the political game playing and haggling that you get in democracies when you are trying to get important but unpopular emergency measures put into place. So Xi Jinping has been able to order some things to be done which are no doubt very unpopular with the people. But he needs to be careful – he can’t push people too far or he will risk himself and the Chinese Communist Party losing public faith and legitimacy, and then all hell could break loose. He also needs to try to not damage the economy too much while he is doing all of this stuff, which is a very difficult balancing act.

              But what the Chinese leadership has been able to do is stop all of the public transport systems going into and out of the quarantined cities, and it has closed the major highways. Quarantines always leak, they always do, and these will too, but the point is that they are greatly reducing the flow of (normally) huge numbers of people into and out of them. Still, I believe they will lift the quarantines on those cities as soon as they think it is possible to do so, because it is too damaging to the country to keep them in place for too long, and too hard on the people in those cities – they will tolerate and be good citizens for only so long.

              • Gkai says:

                You misunderstood me, my point was to see how modern, connected states faired on epidemic control, with china at the less “democratic” side and us/europe at the other side… Us and Europe have their on difference, Europe will lack a central coordinating body equivalent to the federal gouvernement in the US, at least for fast action.
                For citizen freedom in china vs Europe (my place), i don’t know…i went there a few times for work, one of my best friend live in hk since before the handover, and one of our employee come from China, worked 10y in Europe then went back in China heading our local office there. He didn’t seems to have trouble westernizing nor feared going back in China: he pushed for the opportunity. So i guess for activist it may be very different here and in China, but for most people it’s basically degree of corruption and commercial networks more linked to political ones. I don’t have much illusions about our political/societal freedoms here in Europe. It’s good compared to shitty places, but not perfect and headed in all the wrong directions… No sense being proud to be the one eyed among the blinds, especially when you had 2 mosrly good eyes not so long ago

              • J says:

                At last someone who has been in China and noticed its reality. Few do.

              • gothamette says:

                “But on the plus side, once the top leadership gets directly involved, you don’t have the political game playing and haggling that you get in democracies when you are trying to get important but unpopular emergency measures put into place. ”

                You anticipated what I said, above. You put it better.

                Already in the US we have public policy “experts” whining that the pandemic can’t be contained. Well of course it can’t – because we listen to credentialed loonies like the people who say it can’t be contained. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. If we enacted strict travel bans and worked with the Chinese while they are trying to contain the epidemic, we can dodge this bullet.

                But I don’t think we will. The travel bans are porous, borders are more so, and the virus will slip the leash.

                I hate the people who run our society, our society meaning the entire liberal capitalist west. They truly are merchants of death.

              • dave chamberlin says:

                Sadly the quarantine in Wuhan is only partially effective. Many people are choosing to hide their sick loved ones at home and not turn them over to the authorities to be quarantined. Why? Because the word is out on the street how horrible the care is at hospitals or quarantine camps. This isn’t true in the rest of China, but it is true in Wuhan. If the care was better, if the patients were able to keep their cell phones so they could talk to their loved ones this would not be happening to the degree it is. We now why cell phones are impounded, they can communicate, “Hey world, look what’s happening.”

  16. dearieme says:

    The old argument was that China was a major source of nasty new viruses because it was where humans, pigs, and chooks lived jumbled closely together.

    • John Massey says:

      That too. It’s a bad combination. That might be how H1N1 happened, but not in China.

      But, as fond as I am of ducks, I have to say that a lot of influenza viruses come from ducks.

      • dearieme says:

        Ducks are amphibious chooks. And humans are long pigs. Ain’t nature wonderful?

        • John Massey says:

          ‘chooks’ – You spent waaay too long in Oz, mate.

        • John Massey says:

          As for long pigs, at one point in my career, I was contemplating taking up a job in Papua New Guinea. My wife seemed to quite like the idea, until I told her that cannibals in PNG particularly favour the flavour of Chinese, who they say taste like pork. That was the end of that. (Good job too – it would have been a serious mistake.)

    • ia says:

      How about the idea they abuse the eco-system in a thousand different ways and Mother Nature is paying them back?

  17. gothamette says:

    “The numbers of new #coronavirus cases out of China remain relatively linear, varying from day to day within a narrow band. Tonight’s update is no different. It suggests that testing capacity may be influencing the reported cases more than epidemiology.

    • John Massey says:

      It was reported by doctors in hospitals in Hubei that they had a severe shortage of test kits, and were having to turn away people with more mild symptoms without testing them. That’s one reason why Chinese scientists know that there must be a lot of cases of infection that are not known about or being counted.

      I don’t know if that is the case in other parts of China. But Hubei, Wuhan in particular, is still dwarfing the rest of China put together in terms of both infections and deaths (and recoveries). So far, anyway.

      • gothamette says:

        I just looked up the population of Hubei: 58 million people! One Chinese province has got the population of France!

        I’m worried about this virus. I don’t think it will be 1918 but if it shuts down China that would be bad enough.

      • John Massey says:

        Don’t worry too much. The daily number of reported new infections in Mainland China has been dropping for the last few days. If it was governed only by the testing capacity, that shouldn’t happen (and the Chinese central government has been moving very aggressively to get more resources to Hubei, including test kits). [At this point, a certain commenter will tell you not to believe any of the numbers coming out of China, like a record with the needle stuck, but just ignore him.]

        It’s too early and optimistic to conclude that the epidemic has peaked, but it is beginning to look that

        One thing to watch for is that, after an extended break for Chinese New Year (termed Spring Festival in the Mainland), they have to get a lot of people back to work, or the country will start to run short of food and other essentials, and will be too badly hit economically. The central government has put a lot of cities under total lockdown to try to control the spread, but outside of that, there are going to be a lot of people moving around the country to return to work, so that could result in a delayed jump in new infections in cities that have not been quarantined.

        The other thing to be aware of is that some clear trends have emerged, not just in Mainland China, but in other countries and regions (like Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan) which have relatively high numbers of cases: most of the people who become severely ill are older people and people with pre-existing health conditions like diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, asthma and COPD; most younger people and healthy people with no prior chronic health conditions experience more mild illness. Whatever the true mortality of 2019-nCoV is, it is nowhere near as high as it was for the SARS coronavirus, which globally was 9.5% and in Hong Kong was 17.5%, for particular reasons. Mortality is higher than seasonal influenza, but not orders of magnitude higher. Maybe it will end up being one order of magnitude higher, but it’s much too early to tell. Things like R0, morbidity and mortality always seem to get figured out after pandemics and epidemics are over, not during.

        For interest, here are some numbers, which you can believe without any room for doubt:

        Hong Kong:
        Reported cases: 1,202
        Ruled out cases: 1,035
        Confirmed cases: 26
        Deaths: 1 (sudden heart failure in a patient with prior heart disease)
        Cases still under investigation: 141
        Discharged: 0
        Proportion of patients requiring supplemental oxygen, let alone ventilation – reported to be less than 1/3. But 0 discharged means that this is a long lived illness, regardless of severity; it lasts a lot longer than a typical dose of seasonal influenza.

        Thailand, which has lately been the most favoured travel destination for Mainland Chinese people and has not closed its borders to Chinese travelers, now has a total of 32 cases, but of those 10 are reported to have already fully recovered (fully recovered means no longer has symptoms + testing negative for the virus). They have been using cocktails of anti-virals (and reporting success) for treatment of patients which other countries won’t use yet on patients because they have not yet been sufficiently trialed to be classified as ‘safe’, so I don’t know if that is a reason for the relatively high proportion of patients already discharged in Thailand, but maybe.

        Japan has 25 cases, of which 3 are asymptomatic, 0 deaths. (Not counting 64 infected patients taken off the cruise ship in quarantine in Yokohama.)

        Singapore has 40 cases, 0 deaths.

        Taiwan has 17 cases. Like Thailand, it has also reported some success with cocktails of anti-virals, as has one hospital in Hangzhou (one of the cities now locked down in the Mainland because Zhejiang Province has a relatively high number of 1048 cases, most of which presumably are in Hangzhou).

        I think if I get infected, I’ll be trying to tell the doctor: “Screw trials – give me what they’re giving patients in Thailand, and I’ll take my chances with any unknown side effects.” But being in Hong Kong, the doctor will of course ignore me, because rules are rules. My daughter wants to get out of Hong Kong because she says everyone here is mentally ill (she’s wrong – only 50% of the population are mentally ill), so I might move to Thailand.

        Things to hope for:

        Successful drug trials. Cocktails of antivirals give some reason to hope. (During SARS, HK doctors treated patients with massive doses of steroids, with the consequence that 30% of people who got SARS and survived are now crippled – can’t walk.)

        Mainland China’s aggressive approach succeeds in controlling the spread. Call me a hopeless optimist but this does seem to be having some effect, but watch for sudden jumps in reported cases of infection in coming weeks.

        If 2019-nCoV behaves like a lot of other viruses and coronaviruses, it should become less easily transmitted as the weather warms up, as it will now do progressively once we are past February, but that won’t make a really big difference until we hit early summer. Wuhan gets cold winters but is bloody hot in summer, so keep your fingers crossed for those folks.

        Vaccines? Forget it – at least a year and probably more before mass vaccination is a realistic prospect. Besides, no one has been able to develop a vaccine for the common cold, which is caused by two different coronaviruses, and no one has yet been able to develop a vaccine for SARS, so why should this be different? Some guy at Harvard has predicted that 2019-nCoV will just become like the other coronaviruses that are continually in circulation in the global community, and we will get used to having it around, once everyone has developed partial immunity. SARS is still around, but currently harmless. MERS is still around and has killed more people than 2019-nCoV has so far, but it’s hard to catch unless you are in the habit of kissing your camel (a practice which seems to be largely confined to Saudi Arabia; but I’d skip the camel’s milk and camel steaks).

        • dearieme says:

          “most of the people who become severely ill are older people and people with pre-existing health conditions”: I do wish people wouldn’t say that in a tone of celebration. Personally I’d rather it winnowed snowflakes.

        • dave chamberlin says:

          Don’t worry too little. :). Hat tip to the Chinese government for instituting a huge strict quarantine, it had to be done. The world wide mass media will most likely blame the Chinese government for this epidemic but I think that is too simple. The timing of this outbreak was terrible, Chinese Lunar New Year when everybody is on the move.
          This podcast with John Barry is great. The interviewer has a bunch of youtube videos out there that are bullshit laden so don’t listen to him, just John Barry. John Barry spent years researching his book on the Spanish Flu titled The Great Influenza so he has some very interesting insights.

          • dave chamberlin says:

            Great discussion on the importance of the incubation period starting at 3:57 in the above podcast. I highly recommend listening to at least that part of this excellent podcast because it illuminates what is key to which way this epidemic goes.

        • gothamette says:

          OK – I hope you’re right.

          “If 2019-nCoV behaves like a lot of other viruses and coronaviruses, it should become less easily transmitted as the weather warms up,”

          A case for the beneficial effects of global warming?

          • John Massey says:

            But what I have not been able to get my head around – SARS finally burned out in HK when the ambient temperature rose above 28 Celsius (82 Fahrenheit) and stayed there (although the number of new cases had been dropping for a while before that). But they also had a SARS epidemic in Singapore, which is always hot – the only thing I could think of was that all of the SARS transmissions there must have happened inside cold centrally air-conditioned buildings. My recollection is that they had a big outbreak of cases inside a large public hospital, which was probably too cold.

            It really ticks me off – all of the large public hospitals in HK are kept freezing cold. A bit like English people delude themselves that it never snows there, so when they get a few mm of snow on the ground the whole country grinds to a halt, HKers delude themselves that HK is tropical; it’s not. Also, I think people here confuse cold air with fresh air, and think cold air must be ‘healthy’, or something. In the office, someone keeps setting all of the air-conditioning thermostats to 15C, which is madness – I have never been able to find out who is doing it. I go around and reset them to 25C.

            Same now – Singapore has more cases of this coronavirus than HK. But it is not clear yet that local transmission has happened there.

        • gcochran9 says:

          The common cold is caused by something like 200 different viruses. Therein lies the difficulty of developing a vaccine.

          • John Massey says:


            I don’t understand colds, because I never get them. I don’t recall ever having had one. I remember having had the ‘flu, before I started having an annual vaccination 20 years ago, but not a common cold; maybe when I was a kid in primary school. My Swedish pals all get a few heavy colds every year and think it’s normal.

            • Frau Katze says:

              Never? When my kids started daycare, they got colds and passed them on. I had a series that went on for several weeks.

              I did notice that I got far fewer after that, and even fewer as I got older. I can’t remember when I last had one now that they’re grown and on their own.

              • John Massey says:

                Never. It’s a very long time since I even had a dose of ‘flu.

                I see a lot of people claiming that the annual ‘flu vaccinations don’t work – well, they have worked like magic for me. They have worked less well for my wife and daughter, although they do something, but they have been having the vaccinations a lot less long than I have. So I have been living with them at times when they were both sick with ‘flu, getting into elevators full of people who are full of ‘flu, and I still don’t get anything.

                So now if I start getting ‘flu-like symptoms, I’ll know immediately what it is – Not the Flu.

                If so, I’ll ask to be put immediately into an isolation ward and tested for the coronavirus, instead of wasting 14 days in quarantine somewhere while I get sicker. If I can persuade them to use a cocktail of anti-virals on me, the sooner they start doing that the better.

                I remember Tamiflu worked like that – if someone took it at the first sign of ‘flu symptoms, it worked really well because it stopped the progression of the infection.

  18. Abelard Lindsey says:

    Well, the power is still on in affected areas. This should give some reassurance as to the severity of this event.

  19. John Massey says:

    Some snippets:

    World Health Organisation says an initial analysis of 17,000 coronavirus infections in mainland China shows that 82 per cent of the cases are classified as mild and 15 per cent as severe, and that 3 per cent of patients have developed critical symptoms, of which 2% or less than 2% have died. Individuals who are at an advanced age are at a higher likelihood of dying, and underlying conditions make people more at risk.

    US health officials said they had “a lot of confidence in the Chinese data”, but added that there may be gaps in information because the statistics did not include infected people who did not seek medical attention because they had mild or no symptoms. [That one’s for you, Dave.]

    The CDC’s director, Robert Redfield, responded to a question about the trustworthiness of Chinese data. Some observers have openly questioned whether Chinese officials were under-reporting the total number of infections.

    But Redfield said the CDC had “a lot of confidence” in the data and that he and Fauci were in constant contact with their Chinese counterparts.

    “I think the challenge is understanding more right now the spectrum of this illness, and it does appear that you can actually have this infection and not have symptoms,” Redfield said.

    “Remember, China is looking at cases that were sick enough to go into a hospital and have to be admitted,” he said. “There’s been very little broader look at the spectrum of this to see how many people are truly infected.”

    My comments: They’re responding to a major emergency, so the last part seems understandable at this stage, but it’s important.
    The first paragraph suggests mortality of around 2% or a bit less, but that doesn’t include an unknown number of people who have not sought medical attention because of mild or no symptoms. Modeling suggests that number could be very large, but I don’t believe anyone has a clue yet just how large.

  20. reiner Tor says:

    Why is it that only Asians are dying? Everyone else seems to be okay, so far. There’s this rumor about the ACE2 receptors, is that true?

    Why would the first American to die of this be a Chinese-American man… who happens to be a geneticist specializing in rare diseases..? (According to the Washington Post.)

    • John Massey says:

      The ACE2 thing is not a rumour, it is true, but not due to genetics. It is because of smoking – smokers and ex-smokers have a lot more ACE2 receptors, which makes them much more vulnerable to pneumonia and ARDS, which is what is killing people. 48% of males in Mainland China smoke, while only 1.6% of women there do.

      “Why is it that only Asians are dying?” Frankly, that’s a stupid question. For the sake of argument, let’s suppose that the mortality is 2%. Look at a map of the world, with the city of Wuhan in the centre of the map. Who would you expect to be dying first? Do the mathematics; it’s not rocket science.

      • gothamette says:

        It is a stupid question.

        Well, according to Derbyshire things are very “hot” in China. Much unrest.

        • John Massey says:

          Yes, people are very angry with the Wuhan government for initially covering it up, and very unhappy that the ophthalmologist died – the one who got hauled up by the Wuhan police for alerting people that there were some atypical pneumonia cases being treated at his hospital. Not unreasonably, they think that the epidemic might have been prevented if the Wuhan government had acted a lot faster, focused on containing it, instead of saying hey, it’s no problem, there’s no evidence of human to human transmission, it’s only so many cases caught directly from some animal. Nothing to be alarmed about.

          First I heard of it, I went to see my doctor and she told me she was very worried because there were 13 cases of atypical pneumonia in Wuhan, which is only 4.5 hours from HK by high speed rail, and that I should be careful and watch out for it. That was in December, before anyone in the press here knew anything about it or anyone was talking about it. I thought she was being a bit of an alarmist at the time, but she was obviously right to be concerned. How did she hear about it that early? No idea – I presume she had contacts in the hospital where the first patients were being treated, or heard from some other doctor in Wuhan who had been tipped off about it.

          A whole family of 9 people here have just tested positive. They had a big family gathering on January 19 (3 weeks ago!!!), and shared a hotpot meal (where they all dip their chopsticks into the same pot of broth – what my father-in-law refers to deprecatingly as “saliva soup”), one of them was infected but didn’t know because he was asymptomatic at that point, and he infected all of the others.

          You could say well that’s not too worrying, just one family and they know how they were infected, but they don’t know how the one who infected the others was infected, and now they have to try to trace all of those people’s close contacts going back all that way and put them all into quarantine for 14 days. The Centre for Health Protection here has just warned the public that it can’t contain this thing because it’s invisible, in the community and infecting people and they can’t trace them all.

          Plus, for every person who tests positive, there are 1,000 suspected cases who turn out to be negative, but they have to find places to quarantine all of those people, and they are running out of places to put them all, and clinics where they can confine and treat people with early symptoms (which are indistinguishable from seasonal influenza, and it’s peak ‘flu season) who are suspected might be infected. They can’t test all of those thousands of people – can’t keep up with it, and can’t trace all of their close contacts. Plus I guess people are hiding, not enthusiastic about the idea of being quarantined because of a “might be” scenario, or being put into isolation in an infectious diseases ward (I’ve been there and done that in 2010/2011 and it’s no fun at all, and although it’s not socially responsible behaviour, I don’t blame them for feeling that way – if you die in there, you can’t have the comfort of having your loved ones with you holding your hand when you die.)

          Because of that, Hong Kong is just about to transition from Greg’s Regime A to Regime B. The list of suspected local transmissions from invisible carriers is growing; there are limited places to put people into isolation in infectious disease wards in the public hospitals. They are having to start quarantining people at home, and then relying on random checks by the Police to make sure they are staying home all the time (like that’s going to work).

          I’m now feeling pessimistic. We could very soon have a full blown epidemic here. And people are in panic mode, clearing the supermarket shelves of basic foods, toilet paper and cleaning stuff like bleach, and queuing up overnight to try to get surgical masks to wear, which are in very short supply all over the world.

          I guess the good thing is that the Chinese medical authorities don’t think it can be spread by aerosols, only by droplets or direct contact, which means you need to stay at least 6 feet away from other people, and everyone and his dog here is wearing a mask to catch droplets. But many parts of HK are very densely populated and if you go out anywhere, you are effectively in close contact with everyone around you.

          During SARS, people controlled the spread themselves by shunning crowded places and staying away from getting near to strangers in the street – heading out into the country parks, which are big wilderness areas, to go hiking with their kids for recreation and to get them out of home for a while to stop them all getting cabin fever. They are already doing that – restaurants and shopping malls are getting deserted.

          I guess we have to rely on avoidance behaviour like that to control it, which did work with SARS to a large extent once everyone realised how serious it was. But there are still work and family contacts. They closed all of the schools for 6 weeks, which I think did help a lot, but then the kids needed to get out somewhere to let off steam on weekends. The country parks became a very valuable community resource.

          It makes a big hit on the local economy. The good thing with SARS was that, although it hit the economy hard and deep, as soon as it was over they got people like the Rolling Stones and others to come and perform here to convince everyone it was safe to come back here, and the economic recovery was very quick. But SARS here lasted only 6 months. Who knows how long this will run? And the Rolling Stones are already geriatrics – how much longer can they keep coming back? [joke]

          News this morning is that confirmed new infected cases in Wuhan are down for the 5th day in a row, and new cases in all of the rest of Mainland China are also down, and experts in America and other countries are already calling the peak, but I think it’s a false dawn – today everyone went back to work in most of the Mainland because they couldn’t afford to keep them on Spring Festival holiday forever, so we should see a big jump in new cases over the next 2 – 3 weeks.

          I hope I am wrong about that, and the border is now effectively sealed – everyone coming into HK from the Mainland, including returning HK residents, now has to go into 14 days quarantine, except for the cross-border truck drivers who are getting health checks at the border. That plus if everyone here gets the message about avoidance behaviour could still mean that it could still be controlled, but it’s going to be harder to do that than it was with SARS because there are many more people infected with it, and many of those are ‘cryptic’ cases and don’t even realise themselves that they are sick in the early stages of infection.

          So it’s dicey – the next two weeks could be very good and hopeful, or dreadful, and I have no way of knowing which.

      • dearieme says:

        The not-genetics-but-smoking point: if you got that from the paper by Guoshuai Cai
        then it’s worth noting his reservations.

        “This study has several limitations. First, the data analysed in this study were from the normal lung tissue of patients with lung adenocarcinoma, which may be different with the lung tissue of healthy people. … Second, our analysis was based on the average expression from bulk tissue. This may lead to a power loss in detecting the expression from particular cell types such as the AT2 cells in which ACE2 are specifically highly expressed.”

        • John Massey says:

          OTOH, are you willing to believe findings from a study of a sample of 8 people?

          • dearieme says:

            Nope. Just another case of evidence being thin and as yet unconvincing.

            • John Massey says:

              No man is an Island, intire of it selfe; every man is a peece of the Continent, a part of the maine; if a Clod bee washed away by the Sea, Europe is the lesse, as well as if a Promontorie were, as well as if a Mannor of thy friends or of thine owne were; any mans death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankinde; And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee.

      • reiner Tor says:

        Hundreds of whites have contracted the virus already. Statistically speaking, you would expect at least one of them to die, if mortality rate is anywhere near (let alone above…) 1%.

        There are apparently several reasons for that. One is the lower rate of smoking among whites (worldwide – though is it true of Chinese-Americans vs. American whites?), another is that it’s a very slow killer. Incubation period is up to 14 (now some say up to 21…) days. And then, after the onset of symptoms, it takes another week to make the victim seriously ill, and at least another week or two (sometimes more) to kill him. So probably not enough time yet to kill a single white, because of the hundreds of whites infected, probably only a very few of them have been infected that long ago.

        And of course Greg’s Regime A vs. Regime B is another explanation: whites who are diagnosed with the virus are kept under top notch medical supervision 24/7 and probably receive the best care available (I would actually call that Regime 0, even better than Regime A), while in China that might not be possible even outside Hubei.

        • John Massey says:

          How much do you know about China? Ever been to any part of the country? If not, where do you get your assumptions from? Aside from your ideological beliefs, I mean.

        • John Massey says:

          No, statistically I would not expect any of them to have died yet.

        • gothamette says:

          “Hundreds of whites have contracted the virus already. Statistically speaking, you would expect at least one of them to die, if mortality rate is anywhere near (let alone above…) 1%.”

          Statistically we don’t know much yet.

          But I would guess that the overwhelming majority, if not all, of the whites in Asia are young, adventurous, and have none of the comorbidities that characterize those who’ve died so far.

          How many Chinese kids have died of the virus? Don’t they have their parents’ genes?

          • reinertor says:

            Very good point. Yes, another reason for the fact that not yet any white died.

          • John Massey says:

            This gentleman is either a bare faced liar or a fool. It is not true that ‘hundreds of whites’ (whoever ‘whites’ are) have contracted the virus already. You can get the numbers from this link, provided you make unsafe assumptions about phenotypes in the various listed countries:

            Click to access statistics_of_the_cases_novel_coronavirus_infection_en.pdf

            I can’t get the numbers to add up to any more than 80, maximum, and that is assuming the maximum possible number of people on that list are of solely European ancestry, which is a big assumption for at least some of the concerned countries (and including the 2 asymptomatic cases for Germany).

          • John Massey says:

            Correction – I am going to assume that the 24 “foreigners” that the Chinese authorities advise are infected and being treated in hospital in Wuhan are all of European ancestry (despite knowing that at least one is Japanese, and who knows what the others are), which gives a maximum possible of 104. For the avoidance of doubt, a maximum possible 104 does not equate to “hundreds”.

    • John Massey says:

      In response to your second question, the first American to die of this was a 60 year old Chinese American woman with a pre-existing health condition who was an American consular official in Wuhan.

      If you mean Americans in America, I don’t know anything about the guy you are referring to, but I would check his age and whether he had any prior chronic health conditions, like diabetes, hypertension, heart disease or asthma. And also what he might have been playing around with in the lab, but that seems like a bit of a long shot. Among the fatalities so far, older people and people with prior chronic health conditions are disproportionately represented. And males.

      It may not be widely known, but now 10% of all adults in Mainland China have Type 2 Diabetes. That’s a scary number. It’s not as scary as the number for India, but it’s still pretty scary.

      • gothamette says:

        OT: The best expert on Type 2 Diabetes is Dr. Roy Taylor of Newcastle University. He says that T2 diabetes occurs when the liver and pancreas get plugged with fat. It’s not fat on your ass or under your arms that does it. So you can be visually thin but internally fat.

  21. anonymous says:

    Has anyone looked at the possibility that the anti-viral food additive, BHT, might work against the coronavirus? It works against most lipid coated viruses (herpes, cmv, newcastle in chickens, etc) so maybe coronavirus (and flu, too, for that matter).

  22. R. says:

    Anybody got an idea why Wuhan outskirts are now showing SO2 levels similar to Norilsk, cca 20x over similar areas in other parts of China?


    • Frau Katze says:

      There’s also an article on a Taiwan site: “Rise in sulfur dioxide could be sign of mass cremations in Wuhan”
      “Windy map shows spike in SO2 emissions from Wuhan, possibly signaling increased cremations”

      But there aren’t there aren’t enough coronavirus deaths for this are there?

      • John Massey says:

        No, that’s classic Taiwanese opportunistic spreading of false rumours about the Mainland. Happens all the time. You’re right, nowhere near enough deaths just from coronavirus to account for that.

        Could just be a spell of particularly cold weather, so people are burning more fuel. A lot of people in China still burn coal for heating. The country is trying to transition away from that to burning cleaner fuels, but there are 1.4 billion people, so it’s going to take a while.

        We’re expecting a spell of particularly cold weather starting next Sunday (well below the long term climatic mean, whereas January was the warmest on record), so there’s undoubtedly a cold front moving gradually south over China, and Wuhan is probably getting that. We’re on the south coast. Wuhan is north, and inland, so very much colder than HK in winter.

        • gothamette says:

          “No, that’s classic Taiwanese opportunistic spreading of false rumours about the Mainland.”

          Yep – and I don’t trust hysterical tweeters that purport to show people being dragged off to quarantine.

          I saw one that showed a woman dropping to the ground, writhing, and it could have been hysteria. Or anything.

      • BB753 says:

        There’s a Chinese businessman who reckons there have been 50,000 deaths in Wuhan alone, and that cremation chambers are working around the clock, which sounds like total BS.
        According to Dr. Adam Kucharski of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, if current trends of infection continue, we could be facing half a million infected people in China at the end of this month. No speculation on the death toll. Now, that’s more reasonable.
        What do you make of this article, admittedly from a German business website?

        • John Massey says:

          Trust me, if that number of people had died in Wuhan, the news would have been leaked by someone by now. By lots of people, in fact. People in Hong Kong are talking to people in Wuhan by phone all the time, including doctors working in the hospitals. No one can censor someone for saying something before he says it.

          I’m not interested in any speculations or results from numerical modeling, because they are all just making wild guesses and getting their 15 minutes in the headlines – never miss an opportunity to try to profit from a good crisis/tragedy. It has been my observation that there are always any number of people who are very happy to do that.

          Also not willing to spend the time to translate some article from some German business website. I can, but I won’t. Sorry. I have coronavirus overload – I’m living in the middle of it all the time, and I need to cut off from reading every single thing about it everywhere. Otherwise it does your head in.

          • BB753 says:

            Well, I summarized the gist of the article. A Chinese businessman gives unrealistic numbers of deaths, probably because he wants to make money in the stock market. While a Dr. Adam Kucharski of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine estimates that by the end of February, there will be as many as half a million Chinamen infected, which doesn’t seem far-fetched.
            You’re welcome.

  23. Bert says:

    The paper below seems to explain much of the demographic trend in deaths by age and sex. It indicates that non-Han probably have no inherent advantage in infectibility. Google for pdf link.

    Tobacco-use disparity in gene expression of ACE2, the receptor of
    Guoshuai Cai
    Department of Environmental Health Sciences, Arnold School of Public Health, University of
    South Carolina, Columbia, SC 29208

  24. J says:

    According to Wuhan climate data:
    Average low temperature in January: 0.4°C
    Average low temperature in February: 2.4°C
    Average low temperature in March: 6.6°C
    Average low temperature in April: 12.9°C
    Average low temperature in May: 18.2°C
    Average low temperature in June: 22.3°C
    It appears that Wuhan has a long winter and the new not-flu will be around till end of March. Hong Kong has a tropical climate, it may avoid the epidemy. Just a little patience.

  25. another fred says:

    I’ve noticed something odd in the statistics. There are a very disproportionate number of “recovered” people compared to deaths in Chinese cities other than Wuhan. Either these other cities are having much more success in fighting the virus or the numbers of deaths is wrong.

    • John Massey says:

      Well spotted.

      The hospitals in Wuhan were completely overwhelmed, and were only testing and admitting for treatment people who were severely sick, and turning away people with less severe symptoms. That was also true of hospitals in other cities in Hubei Province. (I think this is now no longer true, or at least the situation in Wuhan is now not as bad as it was.) It was not true of hospitals in other regions in China, which have had much smaller numbers of infected people to deal with, so people with less severe symptoms have also been tested and treated. That would explain the apparent anomalies.

  26. John Massey says:

    “At least 65 new infections of the coronavirus have been confirmed on board the Diamond Princess cruise ship berthed in Yokohama, Japan. The Japanese health ministry said on February 10, 2020, that the total number of infections is now 136, and that the new infections include 45 Japanese nationals, 11 Americans, four Australians, three people from the Philippines and one each from Canada and Ukraine.” Presumed to have all been started by one infected passenger who disembarked in Hong Kong when the ship berthed there for one day.

    So far the infection rate is almost 4%, and rapidly climbing. This will go down in infamy. If the Japanese health authorities do not have the resources to test everyone on board, release those who test negative and send the rest to hospital, the very least they should do is let the passengers and crew disembark and put them into quarantine on land. As it is, with each new batch of infections, the quarantine period for people on the ship gets reset to Day 0, all locked inside cabins smaller than motel rooms, all sharing the same centrally air-conditioned air, being served barely adequate meals by crew who could well be infected themselves.

    You could write a book – the last passenger left confined on a ghost ship, locked in his cabin and living on cookies, unaware that there is no one else left on the ship, like one of those Japanese soldiers discovered hiding in the jungle in the Philippines, unaware that WWII had ended decades before.

    • gothamette says:

      Someone will write a book…

      This is a true nightmare. That cruise ship company should look into filing for bankruptcy, NOW. Because the lawsuits will be coming thick and fast.

      So, the Japanese aren’t a bunch of supermen who think of everything and handle all situations with lighting efficiency? Oh HBD, where are you! You mean to tell me that high mean IQ doesn’t automatically equate to common sense and simple humanity?

  27. John Massey says:

    Never ceases to amaze me how ‘experts’ can get things so wrong and be so dumb. So, let me try to get a few things firmly established.

    “According to leading virologist Ian Mackay, from the University of Queensland, the fact China has been “swamped” with cases means there are still many unknowns about the disease.”

    Wrong. China has not been swamped with cases. Wuhan, and to some lesser extent other cities in Hubei Province have been swamped, for sure. The rest of this vast country with its vast population has clearly not been swamped, as should be readily apparent from the numbers – most provinces and cities which have sizeable numbers of cases have very few deaths, or no deaths at all. The numbers in Wuhan alone dwarf all of the numbers combined for the whole of the rest of the country. It appears that shutting down travel to and from Wuhan and other cities in Hubei has been effective in greatly slowing the spread of the coronavirus, and preventing other areas from being overwhelmed.

    “[At the moment] the Chinese authorities can’t even rely on the numbers being calculated in China,” Dr Mackay said. “Their hospitals have been inundated.”

    Pure horse manure. He doesn’t seem to realize how huge China is. No hospitals outside of Hubei Province have been “inundated”. That is not the reason calculating the numbers is difficult and unreliable – no one knows how many ‘cryptic’ cases there are, of infected people with mild or no symptoms but who are still infectious.

    “SARS spread through faecal matter. We don’t know if coronavirus can spread this way as well.”

    Yes we do. It can. This is an absolute no-brainer.

    “In Australia, patients would be isolated in a single room and with their own toilet, which would not be the case in China where hospitals and medical professionals had been swamped.”

    Same problem – they are generalizing the conditions in Wuhan to the whole of China, completely inappropriately,

    “He said although there were still many unknowns, the novel coronavirus appeared to be more infectious than SARS — in just nine weeks, coronavirus has eclipsed the number of SARS cases that took eight months to develop.”

    That looks like a fair comment, but remember the vast majority of cases have been in Hubei Province. I have been watching the numbers, and it has not been spreading that fast outside of Hubei; in fact quite slowly. The other thing he doesn’t have any clue about, because no one does, is how many people there are in Hubei who have only mild symptoms or are even asymptomatic, and unlike SARS this coronavirus has been confirmed to be infectious during the incubation period, which is now known can be as long as 18 days, so trying to work out what a reasonable number for R0 might be is a nightmare. It might actually be less infectious than SARS, except for the occasional super spreader (which SARS also had), and that seems to be the case. A few people who seem to know what they are talking about think the R0 is around 2 to 3, whereas for SARS it was determined after the event to be around 2 to 5.

    “The virus is understood to be more contagious than SARS, with about 20-25 per cent of cases considered “severe”. ”

    The estimate (which could be wildly wrong) that 20-25% of cases are “severe” might only be applicable to Wuhan, although it seems to be holding for the much fewer cases in Hong Kong. But there are different gradations of “severe”. I suggest you watch the video below, because this American guy in California is sharp and knows what he is talking about. He goes through a lot of detail, but bear with him – it’s not that long and he gets through things at a good clip:

    Finally: “My prediction is it will stay in China, and continue to seed the world until probably it becomes a standard virus like one of the many ones we see today.”

    That seems reasonable, and accords with what someone at Harvard said. We will probably have a vaccine before next winter, with any luck, and some community immunity, and in a few years no one will be talking about this. That is unless this rapidly becomes a global pandemic this year on a scale that brings down the global economy – that’s a possibility but definitely not a certainty at this point. The next few weeks and months will be critical.

    • Frau Katze says:

      From NYT, cruise ships not wanted

      February 11/2020 Cruise ship denied entry to at least five countries, despite no signs of illness.

      A Holland America cruise ship with more than 2,200 people aboard was denied entry to Thailand on Tuesday over fears that passengers may be carrying the dangerous coronavirus, bringing the total number of ports from which it has been turned away to at least five.

      The ship, the Westerdam, which departed from Hong Kong on Feb. 1, has already been turned away at ports in at least five countries, including the United States territory of Guam, the Philippines and Japan.

      Thailand, which has reported more than 30 cases of the virus, had earlier agreed to let the ship dock in Bangkok on Thursday.

    • Frau Katze says:

      From NYT

      Two infections on different floors in one Hong Kong building raise fears of spread.

      Hong Kong officials evacuated and quarantined dozens of residents of an apartment building after two people living on different floors were found to be infected with the coronavirus, the authorities said on Tuesday.

      The two cases appeared to suggest that the virus had spread through the building, perhaps through a pipe, raising new fears about the virus’s ability to spread.

      Officials from the city’s Center for Health Protection said the decision to partially evacuate the building was made after the discovery of a unsealed bathroom pipe in the apartment of a newly confirmed patient, a 62-year-old woman. She lives 10 floors below a resident who was earlier found to be infected.


      The local outbreak prompted comparisons to an incident in 2003 when 329 residents of a housing estate in Hong Kong became infected with SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome. The virus was later found to have spread through defective piping. Forty-two of the infected residents died…

      • John Massey says:

        Selective reporting by NYT. (What a surprise!) The manner of spread was a theory, and the evacuation and quarantine were a precaution. Health officials said it was unlikely, and much more likely that infections occurred by the usual, well known means of transmission. It was triggered by an illegally altered bathroom drainage pipe, but…..yeah, probably not.

        I’m getting worn out trying to counter the amount of horse manure swirling around. It’s not my problem and not my job. Maybe I’ll just give up, and people can believe whatever they want.

        One opinionator, an American ‘expert’ in international health law, seemed to be a bit confused. First he accused China of abusing people’s human rights by enacting strict quarantines on cities. But in the next breath he accused China of being slow to act and said that if they had imposed a strict quarantine on Wuhan much earlier they could have prevented the scale of the epidemic. Well, which is it? He’s a dick and trying to put in a hit on China any way he can, and it shouldn’t be my problem to have to point that out to people.

        • dearieme says:

          “human rights” is a bogus notion. We get no rights merely by being human. Man is a social animal; his rights derive from the society of which he is part. So do his duties.

          A society that has no ability to apply quarantine lacks the means to preserve itself.

      • John Massey says:

        Frau Katze – That little rant was not directed at you, by the way. You can only know what you read. But the mainstream media are going to try to milk this thing as much as they can, and social media – basically worthless or worse, I think.

        • gothamette says:

          Exactly, John – the social media commentators are damning the Chinese government if they do, and damning it if they don’t. These people are shit.

        • Frau Katze says:

          I’m not surprised about the MSM, and I don’t trust them. Any obvious problems: please continue them out. Thank you!

          • John Massey says:

            Ladies, please – all of this shameless flattery won’t go to my head at all (and if you believe that, you’ll believe anything) 🙂

        • Frau Katze says:

          I’d say that apartments are not as safe as houses. I downsized to a condo when I retired a few years ago. The plumbing works by having “stacks”. I share a common pipe with two other units in the kitchen with another stack in the bathroom.

          The Christmas before the most recent brought an unpleasant indicator. My kitchen sink backed up and I caught it just before it overflowed. The unit right above me was empty that day. The top unit had just done a big Xmas dinner and were now running their dishwasher. They turned it off while I got an emergency plumber. The blockage was below my unit. I hadn’t even thought of such a scenario, having lived in houses up until then.

          The building is not air conditioned (mild climate in Victoria, BC) and uses electric baseboard heating. I don’t know if there is a common air vent.

          • J says:

            Frau: Apartment are much safer than standalone houses. You have neighbors next door. No one ever died of a pipe blockage. You can relax.

    • Frau Katze says:

      From WSJ

      China’s Businesses Struggle to Resume Work

      Business was slow to restart in China, even after some local governments stopped calling for people to stay away from the workplace during a coronavirus outbreak that has killed more than 1,000 people in the country and dented economic growth.

      Workers remained stranded on Monday, unable to reach their factories. Office towers stayed dark as companies asked employees to work from home. In the few open stores in deserted malls, bored clerks played smartphone games.

      “None of the workers are able to come back for work,” said Luo Xiaoying, who owns a motorcycle-muffler factory in southern China’s Guangdong province. “Our production has been suspended for almost a month now, and we don’t know how long this will last.”


      Accounting for nearly 30% of China’s gross domestic product is the manufacturing sector. Many factories closed for the Lunar New Year holiday in late January and were set to reopen Monday, only to find a lack of workers and disrupted supply chains.

      Ms. Luo’s muffler plant is in a Guangdong district where local authorities require manufacturers to meet stringent safety requirements to resume work. To reopen, factories must guarantee that workers are coronavirus-free, which potentially means quarantining them for 14 days, and must provide them with protective gear such as masks, goggles and gloves that are hard to buy amid a nationwide shortage. Other areas in China have similar restrictions.

      Even when her employees return, Ms. Luo is uncertain whether they can build or sell anything. Her suppliers and clients are also shut. “The whole supply chain is paralyzed,” she said. She estimates she could reopen in April and resume full operations in May. “That means no income for almost half a year,” she said….

      • John Massey says:

        I’m kind of entertained that the WSJ had to find a lady with a motorcycle muffler factory to get the story they wanted. Couldn’t they at least have found the manager of a decent sized steel mill or something?

        The Chinese central government has already told off provincial and municipal officials for applying “crude and unnecessary” safety requirements in relation to people getting back to work. Factories having to put their workers into 14 day quarantine is ridiculous and a clear case of that, as are the masks, goggles and gloves, when they are virtually impossible for a lot of people to obtain. The masks and goggles are probably totally unnecessary (and worse than nothing the way that people use them anyway), the gloves certainly are. Frequent proper hand washing is the single most important thing – every health expert I have read is agreed on that. Gloves are worse than useless. You collect virus on the gloves – then what?

        • Frau Katze says:

          I don’t like the attitude of the woman writing at NYT


          blockquote> As we determine research priorities at the World Health Organization headquarters in Geneva this week, the hope is that the science being urgently coordinated will also fight the crisis on other fronts. It could help battle the emerging “infodemic,” the cacophony of real news, fake news and pseudoscience that feeds uncertainty and breeds panic.

          And it could help roll back some measures seemingly fueled by populism and nativism. The travel advisories, outright travel bans, immigration controls and xenophobic treatment of people from different places are doing significant harm.

          The goal is to stay at least a couple of steps ahead of the epidemic curve. Scientists must prepare health authorities to catch any subsequent waves of infections and prepare for the possibility that this particular virus could reappear seasonally — and maybe one day it could be only as bad as the common cold.

          I’ve seen record-breaking outbreaks before and witnessed the world rally. If we all play our roles and remain on guard, then chances are we will defeat the new coronavirus, too. This is the best way to honor Dr. Li Wenliang, one of the first doctors in Wuhan to warn the world about the disease — the very one that killed him last week, at age 34.



          Why is she busy accusing people, with no evidence, of populism and xenophobia? I’ve seen a reverse racist argument doing the rounds: Chinese are more susceptible! I think that’s because of the rate of smoking, definitely higher in Chinese men.

        • Gkai says:

          On the other hand, i cancelled my last aliexpress order, art the request of the seller who told me the same (in addition, he told me many countries no longer accept parcel from china).
          i tried again from another supplier (it’s a very small order, i can take chances), i will see what happen.
          if chinese suppliers can not ship oversea anymore, it will be big economic trouble soon

  28. John Massey says:

    The new thread just got invaded by Nazis, so I’m abandoning it and coming back here.

    Worrying noises coming from Singapore (which has more confirmed cases than Hong Kong – check the geography if it is not stored in your head) – they are talking about giving up on trying to contain the disease and focus on treatment of less severe infectees in out-patient clinics instead. Sounds like madness to me, or else they just don’t have the capability to adopt the containment policy that has been adopted in Hong Kong.

    Other not good news – 500 healthcare workers infected in Wuhan, but reading suggests they were infected during the early stages of the epidemic when they didn’t realise how infectious it is. Plus hospitals were overwhelmed, lacked specially equipped wards to isolate infected people in, and were short of the necessary protective equipment. Plus obviously front line healthcare workers are going to be at heightened risk because they are in close contact with infected patients all the time, and exhausted so their immune systems are weakened – that came from an American infectious disease expert and sounds right. Plus epidemiologists are now saying it’s clear that it can be spread by aerosol transmission as well as droplets, so ‘close contact’ just got a lot further away, and masks just got even less effective as a barrier to transmission.

    And 39 more passengers confirmed to be infected on the Diamond Princess (passengers on board confirmed to include 200 Australians, but that’s not an important point – just clarifying). Japanese health officials are now said to be considering testing everyone on board and releasing those who test negative – what a novel idea. Why didn’t anyone else think of that?

    HK CHP is now saying they have the disease contained – a surprisingly confident call at this point. I’d love to believe them, but don’t.

    People in the Mainland are predicting it will peak mid- to late-February, but with caveats. It looks like it has already peaked, but…..yeah, caveats. Lots of caveats.

    • Frau Katze says:

      Where did that guy come from? He might be a Nazi but he didn’t say anything specifically Nazi at this point, or Greg would ban him.

      • John Massey says:

        The guy he referenced is a Nazi. So maybe he is the Nazi referencing himself sufficiently vaguely to avoid Greg banning him, while sowing the seed of the ideology in people’s minds. Or maybe he is just an unbelievably naïve nincompoop who thought he was adding something useful, using racial terminology that was current with anthropologists in the 19th Century. (Hint: a lot of Tamils are ‘black’, but they are also Asians, so…do they die from 19-Covid or not? And why should people from the Caucasus mountains get special genetic protection? Seems a bit unfair.)

        • Frau Katze says:

          I find the race references to be rather odd. This is a nasty version of something like flu or a cold. Never in my life have I ever heard that these bugs treat some people differently. That’s ridiculous.

          My concern with who was on the Diamond Princess was this: I thought that if there was a lot of Japanese citizens on it they might be willing to do more.

          But even that’s not likely true.

        • gothamette says:

          I didn’t realize Welton is a Nazi. I just called him a dope.

          The idea that this virus can’t kill Europeans is “not even wrong.” (Pauli)

          It comes from an exceedingly stupid article (yes, I read it) which defends racism by pointing out that so far no non-Asians have been killed by COVID19. Well, duh…. by that line of reasoning we shouldn’t quarantine or institute travel bans because, well, that nice virus will spare Europeans because of their superior genes.

          Just shoot me. My father was a survivor of the 1918 flu epidemic.

        • gothamette says:

          There are a lot of unbelievably naive nincompoops saying a lot of unbelievably stupid things about this virus. One of which is that Europeans have some sort of immunity to it.

          Now, I’m not opposed to the idea that different populations have different susceptibilities. Of course they do. The Big One (1918 flu) attacked certain populations with more ferocity than others. I believe that so-called indigenous pop’ns got slaughtered. Huge percentages wiped out.

          But basically, we’re all in this together.

    • Frau Katze says:

      The Diamond Princess is having bad luck. Viruses spread like wildfire on those cruise ships.

      They already have a reputation with norovirus.

  29. Clas Pihlström says:

    The Coronavirus is said to attache to ACE2 receptors and that East Asians may have higher frequency of these receptors and would therefore be more susceptible to the Coronavirus. This paper shows distributions of ACE2 genes/receptors in different populations/ countries (p.262).
    The geographic distribution of the ACE II genotype: a novel finding…_novel_finding
    Is this of any significance?
    (Africans are not shown in this study, but according to what I understand the frequency of ACE2 is very low among them which may explain that we see no Corona infections in Africa.)

    • John Massey says:

      There are no infections reported in Central and South America either. What does that tell you?

    • John Massey says:

      I can’t access that paper because you stupidly did not give the full link.

      But if it is the paper I am thinking of, they looked at a sample of 8 people. What does that tell you, a sample of 8 people? It’s idiotic – they can’t tell anything from that. It explains nothing.

      If East Asians are more susceptible to Covid-19, it would be the first coronavirus or virus I have ever heard of that did that. It certainly was not true of SARS, which is a very similar coronavirus to Covid-19.

      Greg Cochran would know more because he has systematically studied disease a lot more than me, but from what he is saying about possible total global deaths from this, it does not sound like he thinks there is anything in this.

      • John Massey says:

        The key statement is this: “No significant disparities in ACE2 gene expression were found between racial groups (Asian vs Caucasian), age groups (>60 vs <60) or gender groups (male vs female).”

        Goodbye Nazis.

        • reiner Tor says:

          It’s strange how anyone who thinks there are or there could be racial differences between major racial groups in susceptibility to a certain disease are now considered “Nazis.” This is an HBD blog.

          However, the information is useful. Chinese smoke a lot, so that could be the explanation. Thanks!

          • John Massey says:

            I know better than you about significant differences between racial groups. Don’t make assumptions.

          • John Massey says:

            And, by the way, check the guy Lance Welton I was referring to as a Nazi – he very clearly is one, or at least he’ll do until we get one.

            That does not mean I am unaware of genetic differences between major population clusters. I am fully aware. I have strong personal reasons for being interested in that very subject, and have been following the subject since 2002.

        • gothamette says:

          I’ve read that hardly any kiddos have died. (Thankfully.)

          Don’t they have ACE2 receptors?

        • gothamette says:

          So far, 2/3 of the deaths have been male, 1/3 female. John: are 2/3 of the elderly population in Hubei male? I doubt that. I think it’s because they smoke more.

          • Frau Katze says:

            I read that nearly half of Chinese men smoke but very few women do.

            • gothamette says:

              Welp… in the book A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, which takes place pre-WW1, they called cigs “coffin pegs.” Everybody’s always known smoking is bad.

          • John Massey says:

            I don’t know, but if I had to guess, I would say there are likely to be fewer elderly males than females in Hubei.

            Why is male mortality higher? My guesses: smoking; also men are more likely than women to have worked outdoors in very dusty environments and seriously bad air quality. Hubei also has a fair bit of mining, and miners in China are almost exclusively male (because the Mountain Goddess will be enraged and will cause disasters if females go underground in mines and tunnels under construction – Japan had the same superstition until really very recently, and female engineers and technicians were not allowed to work in tunnels under construction). What happens to miners, especially in old fashioned, poorly managed mines? They get lung disease, and if they smoke as well, the lung damage is not just additive, it is synergystic. Same with living in high densities of radon – if you smoke as well, the adverse effects are synergystic.

            One of my achievements in support of female engineers and technicians – I broke the superstition against female engineers and technicians working in tunneling in Hong Kong. I did that, with the assistance of one particularly feisty female explosives safety inspector. Together we smashed it – and the Mountain Goddess didn’t mind. No sacrifices of roast pigs and incense burning required.

            Lesson – never imagine you know what the Mountain Goddess wants. You don’t. Especially when you are just making it up to keep women out and reserve jobs for the boys.

            • gothamette says:

              I dunno John. Maybe the Mountain Goddess has decided to take her revenge.

            • Frau Katze says:

              Good points, it’s not just smoking.

              • John Massey says:

                Yeah. Smoking is no doubt a part of it, but there are other factors. People have been exposed to bad air quality in very many Chinese cities, and that’s not just confined to China (New Delhi is awful). Older people’s immune systems are weaker because their bodies produce less growth hormone, and a lot of people have ‘comorbidities’ (pre-existing chronic illnesses), things which are not rare, like Type 2 Diabetes, high blood pressure, asthma, etc. If people have had tuberculosis and recovered, they have scar tissue in their lungs and reduced lung capacity. Lots of things.

                The thing that has surprised me is that it doesn’t seem to be killing babies, who have immature immune systems. Otherwise older kids and young people are going to be better off because they have strong immune systems (provided they get enough sleep and are not chronically sleep deprived) and they have fewer of the other factors.

      • John Massey says:

        I like the last sentence of the paper.

      • Clas Pihlström says:

        Yes, thanks I saw this manuscript too. Smoking could be another significant factor. Around 50% of Chinese men smoke.

  30. Frau Katze says:

    From NYT, about the lack of testing for the passengers on the cruise ship…apparently it’s not very simple or straightforward


    blockquote> The tests themselves pose their own obstacles.

    They are not simple throat swabs, but instead require mucus from hard-to-reach parts of the respiratory tract.

    The simplest test, a nasopharyngeal swab, “is not surgery, but it comes close,” said Dr. William Schaffner, a professor of preventive medicine and infectious diseases at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville. “It’s an aggressive medical procedure.”

    The alternative requires pumping saline mist deep into the lungs.

    “You could not do it on healthy people by the thousands, or just go from cabin to cabin doing it,” Dr. Schaffner said.

    Both procedures are risky for the medical personnel doing them, because they can send the patient into a retching or coughing fit, spewing out virus.

    And even then, he said, concerns would remain.

    “I’m sure a lot of people on board think, ‘If I’m negative, I’m cleared,’” Dr. Schaffner said. “It’s not that — you could be positive tomorrow.”



    • John Massey says:

      Whoever Dr Schaffner is – evidently someone who obliged the NYT by saying what they wanted him to say. It’s what journalists do – they decide on basically what they want to write, and then ask around until the find someone who sounds suitably qualified who will say what they want him/her to say.

      Doctors in Hong Kong had no problem testing all 1,000 crew members on the cruise ship that was docked here, 3 tests for each person to ensure no false negatives, and then releasing them. After you test each person, you quarantine that person until you get the results, you don’t send him back onto the boat, so “negative today but positive tomorrow” can’t happen.

      A nasophyryngeal swab is not that difficult; I’ve had them. To describe it as something close to surgery is frankly ridiculous. Hell, every six months I have a nasophyryngeal probe, a tube with a miniature CCTV camera on the end, stuck down my nose and into my mouth and round about all the way down to have a good look, and that doesn’t qualify as surgery either, and it’s not hugely invasive. It’s a couple of minutes that doesn’t even qualify as minor discomfort (unless they don’t put any lubricant on the probe – then it smarts like hell, but even then I have never wretched or coughed, not even close).

      So, difficult and risky for the Japanese doctors? I very much doubt it. They just didn’t want to do it. Japanese are hugely xenophobic (they have their reasons for that – that’s why they are frantically developing robots to avoid importing immigrant labour), and I suspect they just didn’t want all of the passengers to land because they didn’t want to have to deal with the foreign passengers on their home soil, but they couldn’t be seen to be giving Japanese passengers special treatment and getting called racist for it. But they are.

      I could be doing them a disservice, but that’s what I’m thinking.

      • J says:

        We have here in Israel a group arrived from a non-flu focus. They are so VIP that we did not dare to send them back. They are being tested several times a day. Till now no virus. Thanks to the climate warming up, the winter – and the non-flu – soon will be over. I am optimist and buying shares hit by the panic.

      • Frau Katze says:

        They don’t seem to care about having healthy foreigners around (at least briefly) or they wouldn’t permit cruise ships to visit at all.

        I’m pretty sure that passengers testing negative would want to go home ASAP.

        If the govt doesn’t want sick foreigners, they shouldn’t leave them waiting on the ship, increasing the chances of them getting sick.

      • dearieme says:

        What? You reckon the Nips are Nazis?

        • John Massey says:

          I said they have their reasons. Don’t put words into my mouth.

          • dearieme says:

            OK. But your words include the description of the Japanese as “hugely xenophobic” and “racist”.

            • John Massey says:

              They are, but they have their reasons, and they are not Nazis, except for maybe the currently resurgent right wing militants, but they are still in a minority (but they need watching, which I suspect their current ‘allies’ are not doing, which is very silly of them).

              I’m not going to give you a lecture on Japanese xenophobia. You can look it up – a lot of it derives from a strong desire to preserve their own culture from foreign influences, which I think is absolutely understandable and fair enough. I don’t need to tell you about Japanese right wing militarism, unless you know absolutely nothing about WWII and all of the historical developments starting in the 19th Century that led to them invading China in 1937 and attacking the USA and Hong Kong (same day, if you allow for the international date line) in December 1941, which I presume is not the case.

              The Chinese are also xenophobic. In terms of how many non-Chinese who have ever been granted Chinese citizenship, they are actually more xenophobic than the Japanese, but they are not Nazis either, or at least most of them aren’t.

  31. Frau Katze says:

    Let’s see if I can create a block quote this time (!). Also NYT

    …Andrew Easton, a professor at the University of Warwick who specializes in the molecular biology of viruses, said it was virtually inevitable that the new coronavirus would spread rapidly within communities, even with heightened vigilance by both health officials and everyday people.

    “Any situation that brings a group of individuals together in close proximity or frequently for extended periods of time will provide enhanced opportunities” for the virus to spread, he said in an email. He added: “Of course the virus can be transmitted before symptoms appear in an infected individual, so it is not possible to always avoid such situations.”

    The case of the French chalet makes clear just how rapidly the virus can leap from person to person, even after global awareness of the outbreak has spread

    The infections there are believed to have roots in a conference in Singapore last month, which a British man, Steve Walsh, attended before flying to Geneva, according to the French authorities and to Mr. Walsh, who publicly identified himself on Tuesday. While there, Mr. Walsh is believed to have been exposed to the coronavirus, though he did not immediately show symptoms.

    From Singapore, Mr. Walsh traveled to the chalet in the French Alpine village of Les Contamines-Montjoie, where he stayed with a group of other Britons. Then he went home to southern England.

    Soon after his return, he was diagnosed with the virus. Then, five of the other Britons at the ski resort, who are still in France, tested positive for the virus, according to the French authorities.

    And on Monday, the British authorities announced that four more people in Britain — including two health care workers — had been diagnosed with the virus, doubling the number of cases in the country. All the new cases were linked to the chalet cluster, officials said.

    On Tuesday, Mr. Walsh, who identified himself in a statement issued from the hospital where he is in isolation, sent his sympathies to others who have been exposed.

    “Whilst I have fully recovered, my thoughts are with others who have contracted coronavirus,” he said.

    This is really spreading.

    • John Massey says:

      Oh jeez. The theory about the disconnected sewerage vent pipe in Hong Kong has been debunked – there was one, and it was an illegal modification, and whoever did it will be in trouble for breaking the law, but no, it was not implicated in any infections. The infected British guy shared a cabin with four other people at the French ski resort, so close contact – no surprise there. No idea about whatever ‘store’ it was.

      Calm down. It’s not the apocalypse. Walsh was a super spreader. They happen. The NYT is doing its best to create a climate of fear, to sell more newspapers.

      • Frau Katze says:

        I’m not really panicking, just trying to understand what’s going on. I used to co-blog on news. I would spend the whole day reading news. I burnt out after a couple of years.

      • Anonymous says:

        My basic strategy is to sample news from as many different free online news sites as I can, from all parts of the political spectrum and multiple different countries. I know RT peddles a lot of Russian propaganda, but I still check their headlines every day because they also have some good, objective and fact based pieces. I scan the China Daily, even though I know it is simply a mouth piece of the Chinese Communist Party, because they give the party line from the top Chinese leaders, and I want to know what that is – and besides, the CCP have always treated me just fine, at times when I have had direct dealings with them – amazingly, they’re not monsters, just people. The BBC. Al Jazeera. And so on, like that, so that I make sure I am not just getting everything filtered through a couple of channels who have their own particular agendas.

        I have no time for ideologies, politics or politicians of any stripe – they are all a-holes, the whole lot of them. I want to know facts, the truth and good unbiased science, and I’m not interested in anything else.

        It becomes very easy – no burn-out. And you learn to identify horse manure from a mile away.

      • gothamette says:

        “Walsh was a super spreader.”

        Why are some people super spreaders? That’s such a weird concept. Do they talk more? Sneeze more? Wave their hands more?

        • John Massey says:

          I have heard that they shed more virus, for whatever reason.

        • John Massey says:

          In the case of Walsh, he was reported to be asymptomatic when in France, so I assume he already had lower lung infection but didn’t know it and was breathing out high viral loads.

  32. Frau Katze says:

    Questions about how accurate the tests are, this testing business is far from simple.

    At Outbreak’s Center, Wuhan Residents Question Accuracy of Virus Tests

    WUHAN, China—Coughing badly, Zhu Chunxia sat on a sidewalk in the rain on Monday, awaiting transport to a facility where her apartment complex’s residential committee said she could be treated for the new coronavirus sweeping through this central Chinese city.

    The ride never came. Though her doctor was almost certain she was infected with the virus, a throat-swab test she had taken came back negative, which meant the facility wouldn’t take her.

    “They said we didn’t qualify,” said the 36-year-old mother of two girls. “They wanted positive results.”

    In Wuhan, the epicenter of a viral outbreak that has sickened more than 44,000 people and killed more than 1,100, doubts are proliferating among residents over the accuracy of the testing kits that Chinese health authorities are using to diagnose cases.

    Medical experts around the globe have expressed fears that the scale of the outbreak could be much larger than Chinese data suggests—in large part because of concerns about potential flaws in testing. Independent experts say many tens of thousands of Wuhan residents are likely infected by the coronavirus, while the city’s government puts the tally at less than 20,000.

    Only one in 19 infected people in Wuhan was being tested and confirmed, according to an estimate by Imperial College London as of Jan. 31.

    The possibility of large numbers of undiagnosed, and thus untreated, coronavirus cases has inspired calls from doctors and epidemiologists for Chinese hospitals to use chest scans in diagnosing the new virus, instead of relying on swab tests, which medical professionals believe are finicky and unlikely to pick up on infections in the lower part of the lung.

    Wuhan’s top Communist Party official, Ma Guoqiang, cast doubt on the swab test at a press briefing on Monday, urging those with negative results to try again to be sure.

    “One needs to wait one day later, to get another negative, in order to rule out [the virus],” he said.

    China’s National Health Commission said last week that chest scans could be used to diagnose cases in Wuhan’s surrounding province of Hubei. Authorities, however, still only consider a patient a confirmed case if he or she tests positive for the virus—and that by and large requires taking a nucleic-acid test. With hospital beds limited, authorities have given preference to patients testing positive for coronavirus, and doctors continue to order such tests.

    The nucleic-acid test—using nasal or throat mucus collected with cotton swabs—is being widely employed in China to diagnose coronavirus cases because it is fast and can be performed by regular hospital staff, including nurses. Still, improper technique can lead to negative tests, say doctors.

    “The sampling staff is seriously inadequate,” said one doctor at a large hospital in Wuhan who declined to be named. “Not all the people are professionals.”

    Subpar testing is an urgent concern for those researchers studying how to fight the virus, as well as for ordinary people trying to gauge their risk of exposure. For now, both groups are dependent on the official figures provided by Chinese authorities….

    • John Massey says:

      No, it’s not difficult. But doctors in Hong Kong are testing people three times and making sure they get consistent findings before they will declare someone positive or negative.

      Quoting what they were doing in Wuhan last month when they were hopelessly overrun is really not helpful to anyone.

      Seems like that is all Ma Guoqiang was saying – don’t rely on just one negative, get tested again. He’s just a party cadre, not a medical guy, but what he was saying is sensible.

      I’m now done with trying to counter endless stories from the NYT and WSJ – they have their agendas and I’m pretty sure I know what they are. I won’t be reading any more of them, no matter how many more you reproduce here that fit with whatever your own agenda is.

  33. John Massey says:

    See if I can inject some balance with some block quoting of my own:

    Zhong Nanshan, one of China’s top respiratory disease experts, predicted that the outbreak could peak this month, according to state broadcaster CCTV.

    “We can now see a trend that the number of new cases is gradually reducing,” said Zhong. “Through mathematical modelling, [we can say that] new infections will peak in mid or end of February in southern China.”

    Zhong added, however, that “it is not possible to predict when exactly the plateau will happen, and that would largely depend on how effective our prevention and control measures are as more people make the journey to return to work” after the Lunar New Year holiday.

    Meanwhile, Xu Yahua, a transport ministry official, told a daily briefing in Beijing that 160 million people were expected to return to the cities where they work over the coming week. This mass movement of the workforce has sparked fears that infected people – some of whom may show few symptoms – would spread the disease further.

    Suggestions that the outbreak may peak later this month were supported by statistics published by the National Health Commission on Monday that showed a consistent drop in the number of new confirmed cases.

    According to the commission, there were 381 new cases in mainland China outside Hubei on Monday, compared with 890 on February 3 – a decrease of 57 per cent.

    In Hubei, excluding Wuhan city, the daily number of new infections fell for six consecutive days from 1,121 cases on Wednesday last week to 545 on Monday – a drop of 55 per cent.

    One open-access data model published on Monday by scientists at Xian Jiaotong-Liverpool University in eastern Jiangsu province also predicted a sharp decline in new confirmed infections next week before falling close to zero by February 23. However, the researchers warned there were many factors that could influence the model.

    “While this appears to be a relatively rapid near-end to new, confirmed cases, we must keep in mind that other factors could change the trend or that the data on current cases could be under-reported, which would also change the prediction,” said Yi Zhou, a lecturer at the university.

    “If nothing else occurs that would change the trend, this model does suggest the worst is over for new infections.”

    A team from the WHO, led by Canadian epidemiologist Bruce Aylward, arrived in China on Monday to help study the outbreak.

    Its priorities were expected to include an investigation into the effectiveness of China’s preventive measures, which includes controls on public transport, temperature checks on passengers at transport hubs and self-quarantine arrangements for people returning to cities.

  34. John Massey says:

    Click to access statistics_of_the_cases_novel_coronavirus_infection_en.pdf

    Look at the numbers.

    Hubei Province – total known infected 33,366 – deaths 1,068 – calculated mortality 3.2% [This has stayed about the same for a while now.]
    The rest of Mainland China put together – total known infected 11,287 – deaths 45 – calculated mortality 0.4% [This is creeping up gradually as the more serious cases progress but it is still not (yet) one order of magnitude higher than the mean mortality of seasonal influenza – so it’s worse than the ‘flu, but it’s not (yet) greatly worse in most of China.]
    The rest of the world put together – total known infected 343 – deaths 0 – calculated mortality 0% [Note – this does not include passengers and crew on board the Diamond Princess.]
    Diamond Princess – total known infected 174 – deaths not known.

    There have been half as many infected people taken off the Diamond Princess among about 3,700 originally on board as there have been in the whole of the rest of the world put together, excluding Mainland China (which excludes Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan – they are counted in with the rest of the world).

    Then, if your spirits could do with a lift, scroll down to the bar graph at the bottom.

    • reiner Tor says:

      Mortality is not calculated by looking at the number of known cases and the number of deaths, at least not at this early stage. Some of those who are ill and alive will probably die soon. (On the other hand, we don’t know how many people have the illness who aren’t even diagnosed. Of course, those who aren’t diagnosed, yet still go on to die, are not going to get counted as such, there are many stories about such cases.)

      A better metric might be the ratio of those dying to the sum of those dying or recovering, but it’d also be a skewed statistic (recovery might take longer than dying, or vice versa), so it’s not so trivial. You need to follow up case histories for several weeks to get some plausible numbers.

      Of course, I’d also think mortality is probably around 1% or higher in Regime B and probably well below 0.5% in Regime A, based on the numbers I saw, but it’s really just a guess.

  35. John Massey says:

    At least, Hong Kong hospitals have started releasing people who have recovered from Covid-19. Not taking any chances on them still being infectious, evidently.

    I bet they’ll be discriminated against by other members of the public, though. Apparently that has happened to Americans who were evacuated from Wuhan after they were released from quarantine at Clark Air Base. And they hadn’t even been infected. Humans are so dishearteningly predictable.

    • John Massey says:

      I meant at last, not at least; i.e. finally. Bloody spellcheck.

    • reiner Tor says:

      What’s wrong with it? Everyone can survive a few months being a bit shunned (at least in person – I guess people are happy to talk to them on the phone), it’s really not the most horrible thing in the world, and absolutely understandable. Scientists themselves don’t fully understand this virus, maybe it can still occasionally infect people later on. Given the asymmetric payout, I’d rather be safe than sorry.

      • HenryScrope says:

        Agreed, precautionary principle, we need more of that.

        • another fred says:

          The only precaution I am taking at this time is to be sure to get some sun on my body to boost natural vitamin D (I live in the south and have a south facing porch that is warm). I’m 73 years old – won’t hurt.

          I have a relative that is immune compromised and am helping to be sure she gets sunshine too.

          If this thing does develop into a pandemic, it will be interesting to compare Africans in Africa with Africans in Europe/North America.

    • John Massey says:

      It’s a wonder you have the courage to get out of bed in the morning.

    • John Massey says:

      And not just being shunned, they were denied accommodation.

      People are so irrationally risk averse that they are pathetic. They’ll happily text while driving, but be terrified of someone who has never even been infected.

      I pity you – you are truly pathetic.

      • dearieme says:

        “They’ll happily text while driving, but be terrified of someone who has never even been infected.” How do you know that these are the same people?

        • John Massey says:

          I just made that example up, but I know a lot about risk and human attitudes to risk. Some moron mentioned the Precautionary Principle – if he applied that to everything in his life he would never get out of bed in the morning, which is actually riskier than not getting out of bed.

          • Bert says:

            You are a master of strawman creation.

            • John Massey says:

              I know a lot about risks (to human life) and a lot about the human psychology of risk, which is very irrational, but it is futile to try to change it. The example I gave is hypothetical, but it’s pretty typical of the way people perceive different risks. So it’s not a straw man.

              Typically, people are much more averse to risks from hazards that are unkown or unfamiliar (like the new coronavirus), are ‘dread’ hazards (so things that they perceive as dreadful – the usual example used is shark attack, but being infected with an unknown disease which makes 16% of people severely ill and kills quite a few of them qualifies for ‘dread’) and hazards that they perceive as being outside of their control (obvious in this case – they can take some sensible precautions to protect themselves, but it is largely outside of their control). Conversely they are much less averse to hazards that are familiar (like driving or crossing the road), are not perceived as ‘dreadful’ because they are so common (traffic accidents are dreadful, but people are so accustomed to hearing about them and seeing them that they lack the dread factor that they should have) and over which they perceive that they have control (like people kid themselves that they have total personal control over whether they have a traffic accident, when very often they have no control over it at all – like when another vehicle runs into them and they can’t avoid it).

              So, you could regard this as another straw man if you like, but it’s one that happens in real life, so it’s not – smokers will happily keep on smoking (or people will keep driving in traffic), but refrain from swimming because they are afraid of shark attack, when the risk to their lives from smoking (or being involved in a serious car accident) is very much higher than the risk of being attacked by a shark, which is several orders of magnitude lower.

              Got it?

  36. John Massey says:

    In general I have no time for people in other countries who think they are safe making up coronavirus jokes, but this Hong Kong girl nails it:

  37. J says:

    WHO’s current official position: “We’re in the dark in terms of knowing what to expect next.” Deep Socratic Insight. Very Deep.

  38. J says:

    In the Southern Hemisphere it is Summer. And there are no local cases of coronavirus in South America, Africa and Australia. There have been 15 cases of Covid-19 in Australia, with no deaths, and five patients already cured. All cases linked to Wuhan. As against WHO, I think I know that the disease in China will disappear in the Spring.

    The more carbon in the atmosphere, the better.

    • John Massey says:

      Give me time, J – I’m breathing out and farting as fast as I can go.

      • J says:

        If you are thinking of Australia, it may not take you in. Take a vacation in one of those South Sea tropical islands.

        • J says:

          You will be safe on Mamanuca.

        • John Massey says:

          I am an Australian citizen – they have no choice but to take me in, they will just quarantine me on the outskirts of Darwin (in rather nice looking accommodation) for 14 days before letting me outside.

          The problem at the moment is rather finding a flight that will take me there. The airlines have stopped a lot of the flights to Hong Kong, and return. Appealing to the Australian Consulate for assistance would clearly be a waste of time – they are totally useless, and always have been.

          Perhaps I could catch a cruise ship instead to get there…..oh no, forget that.

          Hainan is tropical, has only 157 confirmed cases and is only a 45 minute flight from Hong Kong – if I want to escape to somewhere warm, it would be easiest by far to go there – I don’t even need to leave China.

          • J says:

            Good idea, you don’t even need a visa.

            • John Massey says:

              Yeah, I do, but that is a simple formality and costs very little. I don’t bother in advance, I just pay the fee and get it when I present my passport to Chinese immigration when I land, which takes no more than a few minutes.

  39. John Massey says:

    Chinese researchers say antibodies in the blood of recovered patients can kill the virus.

    So people who have recovered will now go from being shunned to being chased by people wanting their blood.

    This could make a good movie.

  40. anonymous says:

    ARTHUR: Consult the Book of Armaments!
    MAYNARD: Armaments, Chapter Two, Verses Nine to Twenty-One.
    BROTHER: “And Saint Atila raised the hand grenade up on high, saying, ‘Oh, Lord, bless this thy hand grenade that with it thou mayest blow thy enemies to tiny bits, in thy mercy.’ And the Lord did grin, and people did feast upon the lambs, and sloths, and carp, and anchovies, and orangutans, and breakfast cereals, and fruit bats….”

  41. Pingback: Good Predictors – Galambo

  42. Pingback: Looking forward to a Hanson-Cochran debate on coronavirus | Entitled to an Opinion

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