Because I have an auto-immune disease (MS) and I also have elderly people in my life who I love dearly, I’ve been shouting from the social media rooftops about considering who you may infect if you choose to travel. I’ve told no one that they shouldn’t travel. I have simply expressed my concerns based on the reading I have done and the conclusions I have drawn. Yet, I and other who have similar positions are being bashed and told we are feeding into the media hype and we are “hysterical.”
It comes as no surprise that it’s mostly men telling women they are hysterical. But they are not alone. The others slinging the word “hysterical” around are people who are in the business of keeping cabins, rooms, and airline seats full. Some are from the travel blogging community too because if you aren’t traveling you aren’t showing up to their site and buying whatever they are telling you to buy.
I’ve already written about my disappointment in the travel community and their messaging. I think most are cherry picking the fact that suit their case and treating any opposing views as hysteria. You can read what I wrote about that here.
I assure you there is no hysteria here and most people who share my views have expressed them in calm thoughtful ways. And interestingly, those who have been calling us hysterical for days or weeks are now paying attention. It only took the POTUS saying it was real instead of calling it a “hoax” for people to pay attention. But I digress. I don’t want to make this political.
My original thought behind this post was I would bang out an opinion piece because I am not an expert on either COVID-19 or “Hysteria.” I intended no heavy statistic or new research. Just my thoughts based on what I have already consumed. This has evolved because I think any solid opinion should have some facts behind it.
I have literally spent days researching this in addition to my normal reading and news consumption. That doesn’t mean I have read everything but I have gathered information from the CDC, WHO, Johns Hopkins University and Michigan University’s School of Public Health. I’ve read material from Harvard and Yale. I’ve also read information from CBS, ABC and NBC. (Remember them? They still do some good reporting)
And after all I have read, I still stand firm on my positions.
Please consider who you may infect when you get to your destination or return home from your trip.
But now countries are imposing more stringent travel restrictions, perhaps I no longer need to say this. Well, actually, I probably do because once this levels out people will begin traveling but the virus will not be gone. And at that point all this will bear repeating because it’s human nature for us to become complacent.
I don’t need to tell you to take precautions: wash your hands and cover your sneeze and cough. But at the end of this piece I will provide some resources that will hopefully make you travel safer if or when you choose to do so. It will also give you a clearer picture of the research I’ve done in forming my opinions. And I wont lie, at some point I’m going to be travelling again and I’m sure coronavirus will not be eradicated at that point. I will need to follow my own advice.
But for now, I will be staying put. However, on behalf of the elderly and people with compromised immune systems I ask if you are planning to travel (while the world health professionals get this under control) that you do your best not to bring COVID-19 home to us. Not that I think you would intentionally but let’s face it travel is how this thing is hopscotching across the globe.
Coronavirus is not the Flu
One of the sentiments I have seen over and over again on social media is that COVID-19 is just the flu. Yes, it shares similarities with the flu. Like influenza symptoms include fever, cough, aches and shortness of breath. Unlike the flu most do not experience GI distress but some do. Here are some of the key differences that have had me sounding the alarm about this virus.
The incubation period for the flu is about 24-hours to 4 days with the average being 2-days. COVID-19 has an incubation period of 2 – 27-days. Moreover, the flu is contagious for only 24-hours to 10-days whereas COVID-19 is contagious for up to 37 days. Why does this matter? You can be contagious for significantly longer with the coronavirus thus infecting a whole lot more people. And on top of that you may not show symptom but can be contagious up to 14-days. This is what makes COVID-19 a big deal.
Somewhere around 97% or more of the people who come in contact with COVID-19 will not die. Most won’t even get terribly ill. But this doesn’t mean you can’t infect others who may not be so lucky. According to the Chinese CDC 13.8% of people who contracted the coronavirus became severely ill, and 4.7% were critically ill. Currently, worldwide the fatality rate seems to be between 2 and 3.4-percent. And those who become seriously ill or die are disproportionately elderly or have underlying health conditions.
These are reasons I have been urging people who are traveling (and staying home) to think about whether it’s a good idea to give grandma a hug or whether you should be palling around with your sister who has a chronic illness. Should you self-quarantine when you return home? These are things for you to decide.
Another difference between this and the flu that I think deserves consideration is we have years and years of data collected about the seasonal flu. Yes, there are different strains from year to year but we have pretty good idea what to expect. COVID -19 is believed to have made its first appearance December 1, 2019 (possibly as early as mid-November 2019) in Wuhan China. This means we have roughly 3.5 to 4-months history with this illness. There is an awful lot that the scientist still don’t know about it including the long term health effects of the virus.
Today is the first day that I have read anything about this (there’s plenty out there about the long-term effects on the economy though) and they aren’t pretty. The article I read talks about months of physical therapy and lung scarring that will have lifelong effects. And this isn’t just for the chronically ill and elderly.
This will all be over as soon as it warms up. Or will it??
Something else I have seen circulate in defense of going about our business and doing whatever we want is that this is all going to be over as soon as warmer tempertures arrive. We know that the seasonal flu subsides in warmer months and there was reason to believe this would too based on the fact that we were seeing fewer cases in warmer climates. But that no longer seems to be the case as we see the instances increase likely due more testing. This would suggest, there is no reason to believe that once the warmer temperature arrive that COVID-19 will all go away and be a thing of the past.
Incidents of many strains of the flu, decline over the summer months but then start to go up again when fall arrives and the next flu season beginnings. This may or may not be the case with COVID-19. We just wont know until it happens. This will also depend on whether we have developed a vaccine.
So, despite all these scary numbers and all the unknowns surrounding this new coronavirus, I am still not terribly afraid of dying. Now I will admit I may be suffering from a false sense of security because I have never had the flu. Nevertheless, I do have concerns about becoming miserably sick. Because who wants that? (Can you see how hysterical I am about this?? *Snark intended*)
And I am still very concerned for others, including the elderly and immuno-compromised.
Coronaviruses are not new
In an attempt to shrug this off as nothing, I have repeated seen people argue that coronaviruses are nothing new. They are absolutely correct. They will say the common cold is a coronovirus. Also, correct. But so is Ebola, H1N1, MERS and SAR to name a few.
With all these illnesses that we were told would kill us, I understand why folks might think the media and even the government agencies are the “Boy that cried wolf.” But take a look at this chart. It’s a bit terrifying. It compares the trajectory of these past illnesses versus what we are seeing now. I do realize that because we are ramping up testing these numbers are on a sharp incline. And because, the numbers of cases haven’t stabilized yet this chart looks much scarier than perhaps it will when we look back on it at another time. The red line is a snapshot of where we are now, whereas, the lines for MERS and SARS are in the past and show containment.
The more testing we do the more prevalent this will surely become. But at some point it will level off like all the others.
Look to China and Now Italy
Many more people died in China than are currently because they needed time to ramp up their ability to address the healthcare burden. Italy is now experiencing this same thing. I have been communicating with people in Italy and they are all telling me how bad things are there. Hospitals are filled to capacity and there are not enough ventilation units to go around. Medical professionals are making choices about who gets treated and who doesn’t. I realize that is there job everyday but they are doing it on a far greater scale.
I think what many people have failed to considering when doing their personal appraisals of the potential severity of this situation is that this pandemic is putting an added burden on an already taxed healthcare system. Keep in mind that simultaneously countries are experiencing their normal level of ill people plus those who have the flu and now the folks who have COVID-19. And since the rate of spread and the mortality rate of the flu and COVID-19 are similar medical facilities are seeing double the normal volume seen during the annual flu season. I’ve seen reports that people are being flown from hospitals that can’t handle the capacity or don’t have enough equipment to hospitals that are seeing fewer cases.
If you want to read more about what is happening in Italy from someone on the ground there, click here.
As I begin wrapping this up, I feel my hysteria kicking back in (again, *snark*) because I’m going to suggest that maybe we should consider taking a break from travel until this stabilizes. The chart above shows how precautionary measure will alter the trajectory of this thing and help restore balance. It also show that by containing this we reduce the stress on the healthcare industry. A reduction of strain on medical facilities will be the difference between people dying or not.
Don't Take My Word For It. Here's What I've Been Reading
From the Experts
CDC Website – https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-nCoV/summary.html
Johns Hopkins – https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/coronavirus/
From Harvard Health – https://bit.ly/2PKxR0v
From Yale Medicine – https://bit.ly/2vs0V6l
What is a pandemic? – https://bit.ly/2W6ElLa
Incubation Period for COVID-19 – https://bit.ly/2IHxznl
Who’s at risk for serious illness – https://bit.ly/2TZQH5g
In the News
How the Coronavirus Spreads – https://nyti.ms/3aoP9rV
Busting the Coronavirus Myths – https://bit.ly/2Tk52dH
US ramps up Coronavirus response – https://cbsn.ws/2PRHta1
Symptoms: Who’s at Risk – https://on.wsj.com/2IpeIx3
Are Coronaviruses equally infectious? – https://nbcnews.to/2Q8xFbC
Coronavirus: What it does to the body – https://bbc.in/2TJkUqj
People could remain contagious for weeks – https://bloom.bg/2w0hzde
Live Updates from NBC – https://nbcnews.to/3cSKa4Q
Cool Charts, Maps and Interesting Info
A Cool Real Time Maps from Johns Hopkins – https://bit.ly/38fMVcV
9 Must-see charts about the Coronavirus – https://bit.ly/38RpPdf
A quick look at Coronavirus by the numbers – https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/
Comparison of Coronaviruses – https://bit.ly/2IKdpcu
The Deadliest Viruses – https://bit.ly/2vStRVi