Are we prepared to stop virus?

Students in protective facemasks arrive outside their school in Bangkok on Feb. 3. Thailand so far has detected 19 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus believed to have originated in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, which is under lockdown. Lillian Suwanrumpha/AFP via Getty Images/Tribune News Service

The following editorial appeared in the Adirondack Daily Enterprise on Feb. 20:

SARANAC LAKE — China’s experience with the deadly new coronavirus labeled COVID-19 has “bought the world time” to plan our own strategies against the disease, the head of the World Health Organization commented a few days ago.

Well, yes. WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus is correct about COVID-19.

Chinese officials’ actions have erected something of a firewall against the disease, but it has been only partially successful.

COVID-19 has spread to nearly 30 other countries, including the United States.

Only the action of Chinese officials in virtually walling off many cities from the outside world prevented a more widespread outbreak.

By Monday, just five deaths outside China had been blamed on COVID-19.

Only 15 cases had been reported in the United States.

But in China, the tragedy has been much, much worse.

There, by Monday, about 69,000 cases of COVID-19 had been reported.

It had killed 1,665 people.

Only the kind of severe, widespread action possible in a totalitarian country such as China has prevented a much wider, much more deadly epidemic.

Tens of millions of Chinese have been quarantined, with travel into and out of their regions nearly banned by the government.

We know from news media reports that some people suspected of having been exposed to the virus were taken forcibly from their homes.

Could such action be taken in, say, the United States?

It is doubtful.

So the Chinese experience is more than buying time for the rest of the world to cope with COVID-19.

It also is a wakeup call regarding emerging diseases — and there are many of them.

What if the very first serious outbreak of COVID-19 had been in another country?

The United States? Germany? Japan? Brazil?

Stop and think about that.

Emerging diseases may well be the greatest threat to humankind.

Are our government and others doing enough about that?

© 2020 Adirondack Daily Enterprise.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1


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(7) comments


The market would contain the virus naturally. It's magical, the way the ground always breaks your fall no matter how high you fall from.

Holmes -- the real one

LOL. Thanks, now I've spilled my coffee all over the table.

Holmes -- the real one

Could America handle Covid-19 as well as China has?

Simple answer: no.

Would simple isolation measures be interpreted as part of a sinister plot?

Would conspiracy theorists blame the Democrats and /or the scientists?

Would some powerful so-called "religious " leaders tell their flocks that they were taken up to heaven and told that the virus would only affect those who opposed Trump?

Well, that stuff is already happening here.

A couple of North Country locals just this morning told me that, "It's just like AIDS. That was a punishment from God for "those people -- they know who they are, I won't even say the name." Mark my words, Coronavirus is another one of those end-time plagues -- but it won't affect the righteous."

Then they added, "But we have stockpiled enough vitamins, food, and weapons to make it through the coming Armageddon."


Thank you Dr Holmes for your diagnosis..

Holmes -- the real one

The word, 'diagnosis' derives from the Greek.

It is a word originating both from "dia" -- which means 'apart' and from "diagignōskein" which has the meaning, 'distinguish, discern, recognize.'


Well real one, I think you are correct in predicting the lunatic fringe response, but I give our politicians and citizens more credit than most. During past epidemics, governments enacted laws that made sense and abated disease. One of my favorites is the "no Spitting" laws enacted by New Yorkers. Doctors contemporaneously winced seeing blood tinged spit as a sure sign of tuberculosis infection. The law made sense and caught on, as did the quarantine signs on homes for every thing like reubelia and other fevers. Given the great flu epidemic had a mortality of 2%, and covid 19 appears to be around that, I'd expect things to buckle down if transmission becomes common. Spring, sunshine and armistice worked before.

Holmes -- the real one

Excellent points, MD.

Action was taken on spitting with good reason. People, especially in cities, contracted TB just being in such close quarters.

TB is mainly transmitted via aerosolized respiratory droplets (such as are found when someone coughs -- and persons who have TB do cough frequently). Although we now know that there is significantly less concern from larger pools of respiratory droppings (spit), the no spitting law was an important health measure at the time because it awakened the public as to potential pathways for the spread of infection.

Back before I was a youngster the treatment for TB was lengthy and the medication regimen was costly. -- (a nice source for those interested). Even though there were effective antibiotics, lots of people still adhered to home remedies and conspiracy theories. (Remember, around then there was a lot of fear of immigrants – mostly the Irish and Italians at that time. People were easily stirred up to buy bread that was, “not touched by human hands.”)

Rational public health measures and education eventually won over most Americans.

Back then people were in iron lungs for polio and kids regularly died from measles. On the whole, people welcomed immunizations. In the time of testing the polio vaccine, I was sent for both the OPV and the shot.

The Great Flu Epidemic was frighteningly deadly and there is evidence that babies who were in utero at the time (even if the mother was not known to be infected) were later found to have a higher incidence of schizophrenia. And you are absolutely right that spring, sunshine, and armistice were on our side with that one.

This would be a great time for clear, informative, public health announcements. Educational information about general and practical hygiene measures would go a long way.

We shouldn’t cut the budget of the CDC

We should have a functioning NSC

That no one in the White House is coordinating a multi-agency response to coronavirus is worrisome.

In 2018, the Trump administration fired the government’s entire pandemic response chain of command, including the White House management infrastructure.

Now is also not the time to have your political buddies peddle colloidal silver solution as a “cure.”

You’re right, zeitgeist, what I noted is reflective of the lunatic fringe response. Hopefully science and rational thought will prevail.

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