>> January 27, 2020
>> Blog Post #18
Joking about something serious is rarely a good
idea. But I would like to keep things relatively light on the virus front as
this is not the main element for me here.
You’ve probably heard about the outbreak of a
new bout of something called a coronavirus in mainland china these past few
weeks. Not a day goes by that I don’t hear about it in the newspaper or the
Coronavirus is a family of virus, the most well-known
of which is the SARS, Severe acute respiratory syndrome, that broke out at the
end of 2002 and caused a reported
774 deaths in 17 countries.
The particular outbreak we are talking about
right now is noteworthy for a few reasons.
First, this is a new coronavirus, one that has
never been encountered before. You can probably tell it’s new because no one
has come out with a catchy name for it yet. It is just referred to as 2019-nCoV.
I guess someone is going to have to come up with a better name if they want it
to stick in the public’s opinion and make it newsworthy.
Another interesting aspect of this is how China
will react to it. A few years ago, China was accused of having held information
about the SARS outbreak from the world and from its own people for several
weeks, aggravating the epidemic. This aspect to me is extremely interesting as
I am particularly mistrustful of how governments tend to react to these types
of news. I’m not talking specifically about China, but any government. It seems
to be that they have a natural incentive to protect themselves first, which they
translate into something like “if the people don’t know about it, they won’t be
able to blame us”, rather than informing people of potential threats. In this
particular case, various articles seem to indicate that the Chinese authorities
have been prompt to react and collaborate with organizations such as the World Health
Organization which is a good sign. Obviously doing it before the virus has been
dubbed the caliente cerveza virus shows just how fast they’ve been and
how much better the world’s odds of dealing with the virus are.
Which brings me to a third interesting point
about fears of a terrible pandemic that could wipe out entire civilizations. We
suck at properly understanding both their chances of occurring AND the amount
of damage they can cause. If, one day, we are faced with a major pandemic I am
willing to believe that the most alarming scenarios and estimations might pale
in comparison with reality. We have a natural tendency to believe that only
something that has happened once can happen again. This is a very dangerous underestimation
that could be extremely harmful to so many people. However, I also believe that
we grossly overestimate the chances of that happening at all. Something that is
a hundred times worse than the total number of deaths from the flu over the
past hundred years but that doesn’t happen, doesn’t happen. It’s that simple.
Anyways, I fell upon this article
today that I thought was refreshing in its way of talking about el virus de la
muerte. Ebola sure doesn’t get as much love on the radio waves with respect to
the deaths it has already caused.
Now that you have read it and see that there isn’t much to worry about regarding this specific virus, maybe you should sit back, relax and enjoy a “cold” one.