Some Perspective on the Wuhan Coronavirus

The Wuhan coronavirus outbreak is a pretty scary thing when you think about past global pandemics like the Black Death and the Spanish Flu

My major is college was Biology (pre-med) with an emphasis in genetics and evolution. These kinds of epidemics are fascinating to me because our individual genes largely determine how susceptible or resistant to any disease we will be.  That genetic variation in natural resistance is the foundation of evolution.

It seems very clear to me that the Wuhan coronavirus could potentially become a massive global pandemic causing millions of people to become sick and/or die.  It appears that people can be contagious even when they have no symptoms.  It's too early to get an accurate idea of the mortality rate.  Personally I suspect that China's numbers are not very accurate and some major news outlets agree.

But right now, with only four cases reported, people in the US have little risk from the coronavirus and much more to fear from the common flu.  According to the CDC, as of 1/28/2020, there have been 15-21 million flu cases and 8,200-20,000 deaths from flu this season.  Even in China the official death toll is only 80, very few fatalities compared to the flu.

At this time we should be much more concerned about getting the regular seasonal flu than the Wuhan coronavirus.  Another thing to remember, however, is that many millions of people have gotten the flu vaccine this year and there are still millions of cases of flu and thousands of deaths.  How many people would have had the flu and died from it if there had been no vaccine?

There is no vaccine for the coronavirus.  If it starts to take hold in the population, the only defense people will have is their own natural immunity.  That could ultimately lead to far more deaths than we see from any annual flu strain which always has a vaccine.   Coronavirus definitely has the potential to become a global pandemic of epic proportions.

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