Wuhan Coronavirus Looks Increasingly Like a Pandemic, Experts Say

Wuhan Coronavirus Looks Increasingly Like a Pandemic, Experts Say. By Donald McNeil.

A pandemic [is] an ongoing epidemic on two or more continents …

Scientists do not yet know how lethal the new coronavirus is, however, so there is uncertainty about how much damage a pandemic might cause. …

The Wuhan coronavirus is spreading more like influenza, which is highly transmissible, than like its slow-moving viral cousins, SARS and MERS, scientists have found. …

There are now 17,000 confirmed cases in 23 countries. Many more unconfirmed, because the symptoms haven’t broken out yet.

When SARS was vanquished in July 2003 after spreading for nine months, only 8,098 cases had been confirmed. MERS has been circulating since 2012, but there have been only about 2,500 known cases.

The biggest uncertainty now, experts said, is how many people around the world will die. SARS killed about 10 percent of those who got it, and MERS now kills about one of three.

The 1918 “Spanish flu” killed only about 2.5 percent of its victims — but because it infected so many people and medical care was much cruder then, 20 million to 50 million died.

By contrast, the highly transmissible H1N1 “swine flu” pandemic of 2009 killed about 285,000, fewer than seasonal flu normally does, and had a relatively low fatality rate, estimated at .02 percent.

The mortality rate for known cases of the Wuhan coronavirus has been running about 2 percent, although that is likely to drop as more tests are done and more mild cases are found. …

An accurate estimate of the virus’s lethality will not be possible until certain kinds of studies can be done: blood tests to see how many people have antibodies, household studies to learn how often it infects family members, and genetic sequencing to determine whether some strains are more dangerous than others.

The World Pays for China’s Dictatorship, by Nicholas Kristof.

The first known coronavirus infection in the city of Wuhan presented symptoms beginning on Dec. 1, and by late December there was alarm in Wuhan’s medical circles. That would have been the moment for the authorities to act decisively.

And act decisively they did — not against the virus, but against whistle-blowers who were trying to call attention to the public health threat. A doctor who told a WeChat group about the virus was disciplined by the Communist Party and forced to admit wrongdoing. The police reported giving “education” and “criticism” to eight front-line doctors for “rumormongering” about the epidemic; instead of punishing these doctors, Xi should have listened to them.

China informed the World Health Organization of the virus on Dec. 31 but kept its own citizens in the dark; as other countries reported infections even as China pretended that it had confined the outbreak to Wuhan, Chinese joked grimly about a “patriotic” virus that only struck foreigners.

Wuhan’s mayor said he wasn’t authorized to discuss the virus until late this month. In that time, people traveled to and from Wuhan and didn’t take precautions.

The government finally ordered a lockdown on Jan. 23 that effectively quarantined people in Wuhan. But by then, according to the mayor, five million people had already fled the city.

Chinese political culture partly to blame:

One reason for the early cover-up is that Xi’s China has systematically gutted institutions like journalism, social media, nongovernmental organizations, the legal profession and others that might provide accountability. These institutions were never very robust in China, but on and off they were tolerated until Xi came along. …

Dictators often make poor decisions because they don’t get accurate information: When you squelch independent voices you end up getting just flattery and optimism from those around you. Senior Chinese officials have told me that they are routinely lied to on trips to meet local officials and must dispatch their drivers and secretaries to assess the truth and gauge the real mood.

China’s Birthrate, Already at a Record Low, Was ‘Seriously Overestimated’, by Frances Martel. Not virus related, but a spectacular example of the corruption the Chinese system breeds.

Yi Fuxian, a scientist and researcher at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, wrote in the South China Morning Post this week that … “My estimates show that China’s actual population size should be 1.279 billion at the end of 2019, or 121 million fewer than the officially stated 1.4 billion. The actual number of births in China last year should be about 10 million instead of 14.65 million, as reported by the National Bureau of Statistics.” …

Yi blamed not only government attempts to hide the real data for the discrepancies in numbers, but widespread corruption at the local level. Parents reportedly purchase birth certificates from hospitals for babies that do not exist to receive more public benefits; local governments do not mind the purchases if a perceived growth in population also means Beijing will send them more funding.

Wuhan seafood market may not be source of virus, by Jon Cohen.

The paper [in the Lancet], written by a large group of Chinese researchers from several institutions, offers details about the first 41 hospitalized patients who had confirmed infections with what has been dubbed 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV).

In the earliest case, the patient became ill on 1 December 2019 and had no reported link to the seafood market, the authors report. “No epidemiological link was found between the first patient and later cases,” they state. Their data also show that, in total, 13 of the 41 cases had no link to the marketplace. “That’s a big number, 13, with no link,” says Daniel Lucey, an infectious disease specialist at Georgetown University.

Creator Of US BioWeapons Act Says Coronavirus Is Biological Warfare Weapon, by GreatGameIndia.

In an explosive interview Dr. Francis Boyle, who drafted the Biological Weapons Act has given a detailed statement admitting that the 2019 Wuhan Coronavirus is an offensive Biological Warfare Weapon and that the World Health Organization (WHO) already knows about it. …

He believes the virus is potentially lethal and an offensive biological warfare weapon or dual-use biowarfare weapons agent genetically modified with gain-of-function properties, which is why the Chinese government originally tried to cover it up and is now taking drastic measures to contain it. The Wuhan BSL-4 lab is also a specially designated World Health Organization (WHO) research lab and Dr. Boyle contends that the WHO knows full well what is occurring.

Maybe. He’s a lawyer, not a man of science.

Wuhan: Streets deserted except for medical workers with semi-automatic rifles. A student at the University of Pennsylvaina is trapped in Wuhan, and says the coronavirus outbreak is ‘like a zombie apocalypse’.