I will first begin with a disclaimer, I am not a medical person at all, I am speaking through an historical lens and not a medical one. That being said, you don’t have to be a doctor to read a history book, but it seems the doctors at the CDC haven’t.
There are three main points history teaches about pandemics like Coronavirus, HIV, Spanish flu, and Y Pestis (black plague.) The first is that the disease will ignore, circumvent, and defeat every human intention to combat it. The second is it fundamentally changes society when it occurs. And the third is just because it has a low mortality rate with some groups doesn’t mean it isn’t deadly with others.
Let’s look at the first point first. For about two decades, every time doctors thought they had a preventive vaccine for the HIV virus, it would mutate and get around the vaccine. After twenty or so years, they finally developed a treatment which keeps it in check, but it still is out there, and people continue to contract it. It’s managed, but in the end, those infected by it still succumb to it. The Spanish flu (or 1918 flu), which the coronavirus is often compared to, swept through the entire world population and killed whoever was prone to dying from it. Medical knowledge wasn’t as advanced as current knowledge, but they knew about sanitization and quarantine. All medical personnel could do is stand there and watch people die.
The second point that it fundamentally changes society is already evident with the coronavirus outbreak and the havoc it has wrought on various local economies and foreign trade. One more thing to look at is the psychological fear that comes from watching large numbers of your friends, family, and neighbors die. Right now, there are about 100,000 confirmed cases, and about 3,300 confirmed deaths. That might not sound too horrible, unless some of the people in that statistic are your brother, sister, father, mother, etc. According to the WHO the assumption is that about 3.5 percent of people who get it will die from it which means if that number stays stable, about 280 million people are prone to being dead within the next year. Another way to look at that is almost the entire population of the United States.
The third point throws a bit of a wrench in that system of thought, however. Some people blame Europeans with wiping out the indigenous population within the Americas when they brought disease with them from their homeland. That is because although humans all have the same basic immune response, different groups are either more or less susceptible to different diseases. The natives were killed by diseases that did not kill the people who brought it. It could be argued that the world immune system is more robust as a result of international travel, but in the U.S., there are about 300 cases and about 20 deaths so far. Or an almost 7 per cent mortality rate. In Iran and Italy, the death rate is also higher than in China.
If someone reads this, they may argue that most of the deaths here came from a nursing home, and the people in it were more susceptible, but that actually proves my point. According to pew research, there are about 74 million baby boomers living in the U.S. Baby boomers are more likely to die of Coronavirus than any other group. Also, the U.S. is home to over 100 million people who smoke, vape, or have smoked which early indicators show that to be another increasing risk factor. The chances based on both those data points make a higher than normal mortality rate much higher.
The CDC recommends hand washing as your best method for staying safe, so that would have to mean that none of the 100,000 people who have so far contracted the virus in something like 80 countries worldwide have ever washed their hands. They have found the virus in feces, in lower respiratory tracts, and in spit basically. They think that the main cause of viral transfer is through coughing, but if they manage to stop that method with sanitization, the virus can still enter the body through breathing it in and ingesting it in your food. The evidence there is how they believe it first infected people by eating infected animals at some market in Wuhan. Natural selection will cause a viral transmittal to change primary transmission according to what works best. If the easiest way becomes harder, the virus will find a new easier way.
Also, the CDC is a political arm of the government whose tasked not only with keeping down diseases, but also in stamping out fear-based reactions which typically cause a break down in social functioning. The positive way to look at that is they’re concerned with the mental health of society as well. In short, washing your hands is a placebo.
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