Letter for Friday, January 30, 2020

Wuhan virus growth rates are mounting; stay prepared

It was reported on Jan. 26 that there were around 2,000 people sick with the Wuhan virus, and 56 people dead. Eight days earlier, the number was 200. This represents a daily growth rate of 38%, doubling around every two days. The next day, the reports were 2,744 sick and 80 dead, continuing this growth rate.

It was reported that the first symptoms of this virus were observed on Dec. 8. If there was only one person on that date, the growth rate until Jan. 26 (to 2,000) would be 17% per day, doubling every four days. Maybe the virus has evolved to grow faster in recent weeks.

A simple mortality ratio of 80/2,744 is 2.9%. However, this number would not be correct since it does not include additional deaths from the 2,744 who are sick. The actual mortality rate may be around 10%, considering recent growth rates.

The SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) virus had a mortality rate of 10%. Fortunately, the SARS virus spread only after the symptoms were evident. This Wuhan virus can spread before symptoms show. This makes it far more difficult to control.

I tend to be a contrarian during times of fear. During one virus outbreak in Asia, we went to Tokyo Disneyland, which we enjoyed greatly since hardly anyone was there.

However, this time, the news really does look scary. The Wuhan virus may be just as dangerous as the Spanish flu, which killed around 50 million people in 1918-1919. However, a modern epidemic should be less deadly due to our defenses such as the internet, face masks, new vaccines, etc.

A positive factor for us is that the Wuhan virus is a type of flu. Flu season is winter. The flu does not spread as well in a warm and humid climate like Hawaii. Still, take every precaution. Get lots of sleep. Stay hydrated. Eat well. Take vitamins. If it comes here, we should consider wearing masks and gloves and avoiding crowds.

Watch the growth rate carefully. Hopefully, precautions around the world will slow the growth rate of this deadly virus.

Mark Beeksma, Koloa

5 Comments
  1. Steven McMacken January 31, 2020 4:53 am Reply

    I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’m feeling pretty fortunate that we have a sage like Mark on the island. Such a wealth of . . . . uh . . . information. But, better safe than sorry — I’m booking my trip to Tokyo Disneyland as soon as I finish writing this comment.


  2. Makani B. Howard January 31, 2020 11:07 am Reply

    C’mon people, don’t freak out. Our regular flu kills/has killed more people. Be aware, but don’t let the media scare you!


  3. Mark Beeksma February 2, 2020 1:59 am Reply

    For those of you who check this, here is a post-script to my article. As you can see from the numbers, I submitted this article last weekend. Now, it is the weekend again.
    Unfortunately, as I feared a week ago, the number of people infected with the Wuhan virus has continued to grow exponentially.
    After a little more study, I believe that the Chinese are probably under-reporting the number of cases. Several different independent studies have confirmed this. As I mentioned, the simple mortality rate of 2.9% does not include those who are currently sick and may die in the future. As I wrote, on this basis, the mortality rate may be much higher.
    However, the error of the Chinese of under-reporting the number of sicknesses means that the mortality rate is lower (the same number of deaths divided by a greater number sick makes a lower mortality rate).
    Interestingly, my current estimation is that these two different errors almost offset each other. My own numbers show that the mortality rate may be around 3.2%, which is not much different than the 2.9% simple ratio.
    Keep in mind, though, that 3.2% or 2.9% mortality is very bad for a disease that can spread before symptoms show. The flu spreads before symptoms show, but the mortality rate for the flu in the U.S. is only around 0.1%. This means that the Wuhan virus might be around 30 times worse than the flu.


  4. Mark Beeksma February 2, 2020 2:04 am Reply

    As many articles are saying, more people currently die from the flu than the Wuhan virus. But, the Wuhan virus could still be 30 times worse at some point in the future. Maybe it just has not had the time yet to spread as much as the flu. Even if the Wuhan virus only equals the number that die from the flu, that is still really bad.


  5. Mark Beeksma February 2, 2020 11:11 pm Reply

    I find it interesting that the WHO is saying that countries should not close their borders to protect against a spreading virus. Their argument is that people will come anyway, illegally, so it makes no sense to make it illegal. This might make a little bit of sense for a bordering country like Mexico and the U.S. However, regarding the U.S. closing its border to China, this WHO logic makes no sense at all. How, in the world, are China residents going to quickly come to the U.S. illegally?? If they have the Hunan virus and pack themselves into some container headed for the U.S., they will all be dead before arrival. Now, the Chinese government is criticizing the U.S. for not following WHO’s advice. What kind of nonsense is this? How does the Chinese government benefit by sending their sick Hunan-virus Chinese citizens to the U.S.? How does the Chinese government benefit by keeping Chinese people from spending tourism money in the U.S.? The answer is that they do not benefit at all. Their only goal is to make the USA as sick as China. This is obvious. I hope the majority of Americans will see the wisdom of the Trump administration’s restrictions on travel from China by Chinese citizens during this Hunan virus epidemic.


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