Monday, March 16, 2020

What Does Pandemic Actually Mean? Not What You Think!

The term "Pandemic" refers to how a disease spreads, not to its fatality rate.  See you Thursday!

There is a lot of damning and shaming going on with regard to this Corona Virus, and while no one is suggesting to trivialize it, we do need to keep it in perspective, as over-stating the case is as dangerous, if not moreso, than understating.   When people don't die in droves in the next coming weeks, many people will start to think the whole thing is overblown and stop taking precautions.

The World Health Organization has declared the Corona Virus a "Pandemic" which has a lot of people panicking.  But what is a "Pandemic" exactly?  According to Wikipedia, the definition, as defined by WHO is as follows:

A pandemic is an epidemic occurring on a scale that crosses international boundaries, usually affecting a large number of people.[3] Pandemics can also occur in important agricultural organisms (livestock, crop plants, fish, tree species) or in other organisms.[citation needed] A disease or condition is not a pandemic merely because it is widespread or kills many people; it must also be infectious. For instance, cancer is responsible for many deaths but is not considered a pandemic because the disease is not infectious or contagious.[4] 
The World Health Organization (WHO) previously applied a six-stage classification that describes the process by which a novel influenza virus moves from the first few infections in humans through to a pandemic. This starts with the virus mostly infecting animals, with a few cases where animals infect people, then moves through the stage where the virus begins to spread directly between people, and ends with a pandemic when infections from the new virus have spread worldwide. In February 2020, WHO clarified that, "there is no official category (for a pandemic)... For the sake of clarification, WHO does not use the old system of 6 phases — that ranged from phase 1 (no reports of animal influenza causing human infections) to phase 6 (a pandemic) — that some people may be familiar with from H1N1 in 2009."[5] 
In a virtual press conference in May 2009 on the influenza pandemic, Dr Keiji Fukuda, Assistant Director-General ad interim for Health Security and Environment, WHO said "An easy way to think about pandemic … is to say: a pandemic is a global outbreak. Then you might ask yourself: 'What is a global outbreak'? Global outbreak means that we see both spread of the agent … and then we see disease activities in addition to the spread of the virus."[6]

As you can see, even WHO doesn't have a hard-and-fast definition for "Pandemic" but the term refers not to the mortality of a disease, but how rapidly its spreads over large areas worldwide.  In other words, you could have a pandemic of a new strain of herpes virus that spreads like wildfire, but the only real consequence is that people get a canker on their lip for three days.

Some pandemics are indeed severe.   The plague, the Spanish Flu (H1N1 they call it nowadays) wiped out millions of people, as these diseases had far higher fatality rates.  In addition, medical care back then was, well, not what it is today.   Basic antibiotics were not even available.

Again, this is not to trivialize the virus.   People are dying, mostly older and infirm people, and that should be who we try to protect first.   Buying toilet paper and bottled water isn't doing anything.   And for some reason, people are now buying meat and hoarding it, why I do not know.

Mark's Mother was a nurse, and she stressed the importance of washing your hands.  Hand sanitizer is nice and all, but can give one a false sense of security.   All of the recommendations the CDC has issued regarding this virus are things we've done every day for the last 30 years and still do today.  It is a shame that more do not.   I have been horrified, on more than one occasion, in a public restroom, to hear someone in a stall take a large stinking turd, and then wipe themselves and leave without washing their hands.   I mean, it's one thing to do that after peeing, but pooping?   No one has hard of e coli? A lot of people have bad habits, it seems.

Sadly, there will be more infected and more deaths.  Two doctors are in critical condition with lung infections.  One is 70, the other 40, which is concerning - although we don't know his past health history.

We are going back to the beach today - it is still open, according to the website, although the party anchor spot, which was mobbed last weekend, is now closed.  No word on the restaurant.  Supposedly, beaches in Miami are closed, but I have no confirmation on that.

No one wants to get sick, even if the symptoms are only flu-like.   No one with any kind of history of health problems wants to get this virus.   And if you are elderly, this is particularly so.

On the other hand, panicking isn't solving anything.   Buying massive amounts of toilet paper in a crowded, jostling grocery store (as we saw on Friday) isn't going to do anything, other than to possibly expose you to the virus.

People, sadly, are like sheep, and when the term "pandemic" is thrown around, people panic.   And sadly, some of our government officials and, of course, the media, are using this to their own advantage - to make themselves look good, or just to get ratings.

I wonder if, months from now, we will have learned anything from this?

P.S. - Went to Trader Joe's and the shelves were bare, other than in the wine and cracker departments, which is why we were there - their new "organic" Charles Shaw is a big improvement over the standard "two-buck Chuck".     Their limited meat department was stripped bare, but the cheese section was overflowing.    What's the deal with meat?   Is this a cure for the virus?  If so, a lot of vegans are in trouble.....