Are you concerned about the Coronavirus COVID-19?

Updated 4/13/20, 3/16/20, 3/15/20, 3/12/20

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Everyone seems to be concerned about the Coronavirus COVID-19 these days. I came across the dashboard shown above earlier today and wanted to share it. This is a ‘real-time’ report of the Coronavirus from the Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) at Johns Hopkins University (JHU). You can find that dashboard here. While I like this dashboard, it is not the only one available.

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This dashboard is available from the World Health Organization (WHO) and can be found here. It too is supposed to be a ‘real-time’ report on the spread of the Coronavirus. Clearly, the numbers don’t match, but they are close.

Screen Shot 2020-03-15 at 11.30.18 AMIf you are mostly interested in the US statistics then The New York Times has a map (above) of where cases have been reported. You can see it in their post “Tracking Every Coronavirus Case in the U.S.: Full Map“. Further, The Times reports [6]:

As of Sunday [3/15/20] morning, at least 2,815 people in 49 states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico have tested positive for coronavirus in the United States, according to a New York Times database, and at least 59 patients with the virus have died.

Screen Shot 2020-03-15 at 11.44.40 AMA different map (above) of the spread is available from the Washington Post on their website in Mapping the spread of the coronavirus in the U.S. and worldwide. The article includes a table showing cases and deaths by state. The article also contains similar maps of the world and China showing the spread of the coronavirus. The Post reports that COVID-19 has been confirmed in nearly every state [7].

I think it is important to keep in mind the numbers from the JHU dashboard. Out of the (as of 3/11) 124,913 confirmed cases worldwide, 66,702 (53%) have recovered and 4589 (less than 4%) have perished. At 12:00 on 3/15 those same statistics are: 156,400 confirmed cases worldwide, 73,986 (47%) have recovered and 5833 (less than 4%) have perished.

To put the Coronavirus in perspective to our normal Flu season:

According to the CDC, flu-related deaths between the years of 1976 and 2007 ranged from 3,000 to 49,000. From 2010 to 2016, the flu-related death rate was between 12,000 and 56,000, with the highest season being 2012 to 2013 and the lowest being 2011 to 2012. [1]

Looking at deaths from Flu Pandemics in the past [1]:

    • 1889 Russian flu pandemic: About 1 million flu deaths
    • 1918 Spanish flu pandemic: Over 40 to 50 million flu deaths, including about 675,000 in the United States. The flu infected over half of the world’s population by the end of this pandemic.
    • 1957 Asian flu pandemic: Over 1 million flu deaths, including about 69,800 in the United States
    • 1968 Hong Kong flu pandemic: About 1 to 3 million flu deaths
    • 2009 H1N1 flu pandemic: Between 8,870 and 18,300 deaths in the United States and up to 203,000 deaths worldwide specifically from H1N1

Based on this data, the current fatality total in the US is somewhere between 0.2% and 0.3% of those who died in the 2009 H1Ni flu outbreak. The Flu this season (which does not include Coronavirus) is expected to be much deadlier.

So far, the CDC has estimated (based on weekly influenza surveillance data) that at least 12,000 people [in the US] have died from influenza between Oct. 1, 2019, through Feb. 1, 2020, and the number of deaths may be as high as 30,000. [2]

How does this year look compared to past Flu seasons?

So far, it looks like the 2019-2020 death toll won’t be as high as it was in the 2017-2018 season, when 61,000 deaths were linked to the virus. However, it could equal or surpass the 2018-2019 season’s 34,200 flu-related deaths. [2]

I found two other graphs [3] that shed light on the threat from Covid-19 as compared to other diseases. Certainly, we should be concerned and take appropriate steps to minimize our exposure and control the spread.

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All of that said, it is pointed out [4] that:

There are many compelling reasons to conclude that SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, is not nearly as deadly as is currently feared. But COVID-19 panic has set in nonetheless.

The main threat of contagion is from those who are showing symptoms. That is the general opinion of the medical community. There is some evidence that those not yet showing symptoms may also be spreading the virus. In particular, those who are 20 or younger often are not showing significant symptoms. They may be contributing to the spread of the virus as carriers. [10]

With regards to the threat to individuals:

  • COVID-19 is a relatively benign disease for most young people, and a potentially devastating one for the old and chronically ill [4]
  • [we should] commit most if not all of our resources toward protecting those truly at risk of developing critical illness and even death: everyone over 70 [4]
  • [Prevention] still largely comes down to hygiene and isolation. But in particular, we need to focus on the right people and the right places. Nursing homes, not schools. Hospitals, not planes. [4]
  • High blood pressure, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease are the “underlying conditions” most associated with severe cases of COVID-19 [5]
  • the underlying condition most connected with COVID-19’s worst outcomes are afflictions of the heart [5]
  • the data collected so far suggest that COVID-19 is rare and less severe in children [5]

One of the best ways to keep from catching COVID-19 is to simply wash your hands. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has a short article “When and How to Wash Your Hands” giving the five steps for properly washing our hands.

  1. Wet your hands (to the wrist) with clean, running water (the temperature doesn’t matter). Turn off the tap, and apply a good amount of soap.
  2. Lather up the soap by rubbing your hands together. Don’t forget to spread that lather to the backs of your hands up to your wrists, between your fingers, and under your nails.
  3. Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. Doctors recommend humming the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning-to-end twice to get the timing right.
  4. Rinse your hands thoroughly under clean, running water.
  5. Dry your hands using a clean paper towel (best bet), hand dryer (OK), or let them air dry (in a pinch).

The other recommendation by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention is “social distancing”. That means the reduction in close contact with others. What does that mean? [8]

  • The CDC recommendations are to keep six to 10 feet away from other people
  • people [should] minimize social contact, and that means limiting all social engagements
  • shop at times of fewest other shoppers or rely on delivery
  • work from home if that is an option
  • if you are under a 14-day quarantine people should not visit you
  • limit, or better avoid, your visitation of the elderly in assisted living or nursing homes

There has been a lot of talk about wearing masks when out. I came across the video above which gives details about the effectiveness of N95 versus just a cover. I was surprised at the results cited.

The CDC is advising to cancel any events planned for the next 8 weeks (3/15 – 5/15) expecting 50 or more people. The CDC listed conferences, festivals, parades, concerts, sporting events, and weddings as examples. Gatherings of any size should be reconsidered. The CDC does include schools, universities, or businesses in this warning. The full CDC guidance is: [9]

Large events and mass gatherings can contribute to the spread of COVID-19 in the United States via travelers who attend these events and introduce the virus to new communities. Examples of large events and mass gatherings include conferences, festivals, parades, concerts, sporting events, weddings, and other types of assemblies. These events can be planned not only by organizations and communities but also by individuals.

Therefore, CDC, in accordance with its guidance for large events and mass gatherings, recommends that for the next 8 weeks, organizers (whether groups or individuals) cancel or postpone in-person events that consist of 50 people or more throughout the United States.

Events of any size should only be continued if they can be carried out with adherence to guidelines for protecting vulnerable populationshand hygiene, and social distancing.  When feasible, organizers could modify events to be virtual.

This recommendation does not apply to the day to day operation of organizations such as schools, institutes of higher learning, or businesses. This recommendation is made in an attempt to reduce introduction of the virus into new communities and to slow the spread of infection in communities already affected by the virus.  This recommendation is not intended to supersede the advice of local public health officials.

References:

  1. Annual Flu Deaths Among Adults and Children
  2. This Is How Many People Die From the Flu Each Year, According to the CDC
  3. How Bad Is the Coronavirus? Let’s Run the Numbers
  4. COVID-19 Isn’t As Deadly As We Think
  5. These underlying conditions make coronavirus more severe, and they’re surprisingly common
  6. Tracking Every Coronavirus Case in the U.S.: Full Map
  7. Mapping the spread of the coronavirus in the U.S. and worldwide
  8. The Dos and Don’ts of ‘Social Distancing’
  9. CDC recommends canceling events with 50 or more people for the next eight weeks throughout US
  10. Infected people without symptoms might be driving the spread of coronavirus more than we realized

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