Coronavirus: Don’t Panic


I’ve been pinged severally about the coronavirus in the last week or so, and I’m mostly going to point you at expert articles here, but first: there is no need for panic. This is certainly not the outbreak of 1918 flu, and while the projections do show a likely global spread, it’s not going to be the end of the world. 

That being said. Masks will do little, unless you are worried about infecting others, in which case, please do wear one. Wearing one when you are uninfected is unlikely to help much at all, contrary to popular myth. What will help is keeping a distance – what I’ve seen referred to as the American space bubble. Americans as a rule have one of the largest ‘personal space’ requirements in the world. The Chinese are much more comfortable with very close human contacts, which aids in droplet transmission of the virus. Wash your hands – not with the antibacterial alcohol squirts, but actual handwashing using water and much friction to shed off any hitchhikers on your skin. Try not to touch your nose, eyes, or mouth with unwashed hands. Avoid crowds. Politely decline to shake hands with everyone you meet. Definitely don’t hug them. 

The virus causes a viral pneumonia, and unfortunately there is not going to be a vaccine, or a treatment, in time for this season. There might, and I emphasize might, in time for the next. Because experts are predicting that this epidemic is unlikely to go away again. 

“The more we learn about it, the greater the possibility is that transmission will not be able to be controlled with public health measures,” said Dr. Allison McGeer, a Toronto-based infectious disease specialist who contracted SARS in 2003 and who helped Saudi Arabia control several hospital-based outbreaks of MERS.

If that’s the case, she said, “we’re living with a new human virus, and we’re going to find out if it will spread around the globe.” McGeer cautioned that because the true severity of the outbreak isn’t yet known, it’s impossible to predict what the impact of that spread would be, though she noted it would likely pose significant challenges to health care facilities. (Read more)

A lot of what I’ve been tagged in on have been weird sources – random twitter threads, ‘news’ sites of dubious parentage, so I highly suggest that if you see a source that looks panicky, you keep looking. We aren’t looking at something that is more fatal than the current flu strain here in the US. Which, by the way, is highly underreported, as it kills thousands or even tens of thousands a year, but still we give the antivaxxers airtime to argue against the flu shot (which doesn’t always work, no, but it doesn’t hurt and if you can cut the death toll? Why wouldn’t you? Ok, that answer is a whole ‘nother blog post). I’ll let Derek Lowe put it best: 

The signal/noise on this whole story has been suboptimal, as well it would be, so it’s important to have good sources.  Vast amounts of junk information have already been circulating. For one thing, no, this particular virus was not patented in 2015, and it is not some engineered bioweapon. There are no “natural” cures or preventatives that you can buy from friendly merchants trying to sell you some. I have been forwarded clips of what are purportedly Chinese workers spraying some sort of white stuff around to supposedly block the spread of the virus, but this is also spurious – there are no virus “disinfectants” to spray around, and we’re not even sure how this virus is most likely to be spread. (read more)

This is a normal, natural, evolving virus that has just jumped from animal vector to human. That sucks, yes. It can make you very sick, and people are going to die. But it’s not going to lay waste to civilization. Take ordinary precautions and chances are you will never have to do more than worry about it. 


33 responses to “Coronavirus: Don’t Panic”

  1. Flu vaccine does hurt a significant number of folks, though.

    I come down with what appears to be the flu, a rather bad one, every single time. When I was in the Navy, I assumed I caught something nasty at medical when I went in for my shot. After it kept happening as a civilian I finally figured out my body was just over-reacting to the flu vaccine.

    For added fun, the last time I was pregnant– and was barely able to crawl to the toilet

    1. I do this. Every time. I don’t get the flu shot because it always makes me sicker than the actual flu.

  2. *kicks wordpress* Seriously? I go up to add a first paragraph that it’s nice to see someone NOT freakign out, and you post it, stupid machine?

    And I didn’t even finish how nasty sick I got from the combo of that vaccine reaction… was a freaking month before I didn’t catch one thing after another.

    1. (could tell when it was a secondary infection because the kids caught it, too)

    2. You can’t get sick from the flu vaccine, or pass it on to others – it’s a killed vaccine, not a live vaccine. But yes, your body can overreact to it, and some people do feel sick after the shot. You’re probably going to have to rely on herd immunity. This does not mean everyone should avoid it, though, or you won’t get the protective herd effect.

      1. Exactly why I always assumed I just caught something at Medical. “Everyone knows” you can’t get sick from the flu — problem is, it’s “you do not get a contagious flu from the flu shot” does not mean “your body does not respond as if you had a very bad case of the flu.” But even many medical folks ‘hear’ that, and will insist that you can’t possibly have the reaction. Which means there is zero reason to avoid the flu shot. Which results in screams of “anti-vaxxer” when you politely decline to get violently sick for the off-chance of avoiding something you’re already low-risk for, and strongly encourage basic health precautions. (A major advantage of homeschooling? We don’t catch all the stuff that gets spread because school is daycare. Only hits us when it hits the local library, and we don’t go to the library when *we* are sick!)

        What scares me is the folks who think that if you’ve got a vaccination, you don’t have to take any basic precautions– like you point out, wash your **** hands like you’re a cook! Cover your cough! Heck, wipe down the grocery cart handle!

        It’s not a cure-all, but we hauled in the alcohol squirt-pumps to our local parish and put them next to the kleenex. A lot of people use it before the kiss of peace.
        (handshake with everyone near you) I notice folks grabbing a tissue, putting a pump of the stuff in it and using that to open the door, too.

        *Many* vectors of attack!

        1. I’ve never had a bad reaction to the flu vaccine, but I know many who have. A previous employer would offer free vaccinations – always on a Friday. You can guess why easily.

          I do recall the story of back when the smallpox vaccine was in common use that one fellow had a reaction that looked very much like he was coming down with the wretched disease itself. Thus he went back to the administering physician who looked him over for a moment and proclaimed, “Good take.”

      2. I don’t quite agree, but I think it’s a difference of semantics: between being sick and simply feeling sick.

        If I am not at optimal then I am sick. I don’t “feel sick”, I am sick.

        The last two times I got the flu shot, I ran a low grade fever for about 36 hours and had queasy stomach. Also tripped off my vertigo. I was less than optimal as a direct result of the flu vaccine: I got sick as a result of the shot.

        Now, if we say that the vaccine does not give a person the flu, then I will, conditionally, agree. (I have known people who have gotten the flu a few days after the shot, however, it is possible that they were already incubating and just had not manifested symptoms. The worst was my ex when he got the flu and pneumonia combo shot. Dude was sick for a week.)

        1. Again, you CANNOT get the flu from the flu shot. There is no possibility of this, it’s the nature of the vaccine. Also, if you’re only sick for a week, it’s not the flu. Yes, you can react to the shot, and people do. However, in the vast majority of cases the reaction to the shot is far milder than actual influenza, and in the tiny minority it’s like Holly, and that’s most likely an allergy.

          There are a couple of issues here. One, by popping up with anecdotal ‘oh, it gave me the flu’ when that is not the case, others decide not to have the shot. Two, most people will say ‘oh, I had the flu’ when they did not, having suffered instead from a cold or such. Actual influenza infection has very specific symptoms and it doesn’t just go away in a few days. So then when they ‘get the flu’ after they have the shot, they decide it hasn’t worked, and say so on social media… it’s a vicious cycle.

          The reality is that we will never eliminate the flu via vaccination as we have done with smallpox and could do with some other diseases. Influenza viruses mutate too quickly – that’s why this year we are seeing a lot of Influenza B in the US, as it wasn’t included in the broad flu vaccine but it cropped up anyway. However, through widespread vaccination, we can reduce the severity of outbreaks, and can protect the very young, the old, and the immune compromised – as well as getting a chance of avoiding two weeks of our own misery.

          1. I’m not arguing. I just disagreed with the phrasing.

            1. Yes, which is why I clarified. Thank you.

      3. I’ve had two adverse reactions to vaccines. Flu in 1969 (might have been my first; was in high school) where I got a 101 fever and lost a day at school. Didn’t use the vaccine for a couple decades, with no problems once I restarted.

        I got the new pneumonia vaccine (broad spectrum) in March 2018, got it on a Tuesday, and by Friday, what I thought was a cold morphed to a 102F fever. Was in Medford for a pre-op visit with my retina doctor, and by that evening I needed to find the nearby urgent care center. They thought it was flu at first (yet another bad season then), but the lab results said nope, and the chest X-ray looked dicey, so I got a course of antibiotics. Things settled before I had to get the procedure, but that was a hell of a shot.

        OTOH, I’m prone to pneumatic illnesses, so I’m not going to complain. Too much.

  3. Doing the math (which is hard to do accurately from Chinese-reported statistics), this looks to have a very low fatality rate. Which, considering how poorly nourished by US standards a lot of Chinese are, is likely to be even lower over here. Contagion rates are also likely to be lower, considering the personal bubble, as you pointed out. Yes, it’s nasty, and yes, people will be miserable, but it’s really unlikely that they’ll die from it.

  4. No one gets more sick from the flu virus than from the actual flu. I am a hospice nurse and we’ve had several patients who were in their homes and opted out of the vaccine die from influenza. No one in a facility who had the flu vaccine has died of it. Both sets of patients are equally immunocompromised and facilities are *way* worse about infection control. Usually the home patients get infected from kids or other family members whose parents decided against the vaccine.

    Most of the time, what people have is a viral cold and they call that having the flu. True influenza is about two weeks worth of feeling like death. It is not uncommon for even healthy people to be hospitalized with respiratory distress and dehydration. Secondary infection of pneumonia is also not uncommon. I have had true influenza, and believe me when I say that I got my flu shot the first day it was available.

    It’s not unusual to feel sick for up to 72 hours after being vaccinated, as the body has an immune response. That is, in fact, the entire point of the vaccine and it’s rather mild compared to true influenza. The vaccine is made from dead pieces of the flu virus strains that it protects against, not live virus. It can not be transmitted to others.

    1. **No one gets more sick from the flu vaccine than the actual flu. Holy hell I need coffee.

    2. I have had the actual flu. I have had the nasty immune response from the vaccine. For me, the only difference is that I’m not contagious from the vaccine, and I’m actually sicker from the vaccine than I get from the actual flu. Yes, two weeks of feeling like death, but with the vaccine, there’s feeling like death plus nausea from how bad my ears clog up, plus being unable to get out of bed to do anything at all between vertigo and weakness.

      My overactive immune response is beyond horrible. I’d rather just have the flu.

      1. You need to be checked out for allergy to an ingredient. That’s not a reaction to the vaccine that is normally seen *or* a common sign of a hyperactive immune response. Seriously, get checked out for allergy because that would also be a factor in determining the appropriateness of *other* vaccines.

        1. Seriously, it’s not “normally seen” because when it’s reported, the reporter is informed you can’t get sick from the flu vaccine and lectured about how you can’t infect people with the flu because it’s a killed vaccine.
          Even when they *said nothing* about “I am giving others the flu,” and in fact said merely “when I get the shot my body acts like I have he flu.” Frequently even if they have specifically stated that they’re aware that it’s not an infectious flu, and in fact that is how they figured out it was a reaction to the vaccine.

          If stuff is ruled out, out of hand, it is of course not reported. Like the doctors who insist that the patient cheated on a diet, rather than considering that the diet might not work as theorized.

          1. Listen, you can believe whatever the fuck you want, but she seriously needs to be tested for allergy. That reaction is pretty fucking symptomatic for a mild allergic reaction which can become severe.

            I just bought an epipen and inhaler because I ignored a mild allergic reaction to a cleaning chemical until it did start to become severe, and I’d much rather people avoid anaphylaxis. Thanks.

            Your issue probably has to do with an overstressed immune system in general, and you should probably see a doctor as well. You do you though. It’s no skin off my teeth if you get yourself dead from some random infection.

            1. You are doing a bang-up job of making sure that neither of us will listen to a blessed thing you say, because you show zero inclination to hear a blessed thing that isn’t what you expect.

              You assume that I am frequently sick when I don’t spend days puking with “you can’t get sick from the flu vaccine,” you assume both of us aren’t already vaccinated out the nose for things that don’t make us sick, you assume we haven’t already taken all the obvious steps to make sure that it’s not just our immune systems responding strongly to the flu vaccine…..

              When both of us. Repeatedly. Made it clear we’re informed. You even “corrected” things that weren’t said.

              Your kind of behavior is why I have to work like a dog to get a bunch of my sister’s friends, and various cousins, to vaccinate at all. They KNOW when they’re lied to, and when people act irrationally, and they then do not trust those people.
              They know that when someone’s response to information they do not wish to hear is to attack or mock the person who offers it that the person is not going to have good information, because they threw out anything that didn’t fit their conclusion.

            2. I am not mocking anyone. I am legitimately concerned for her. Allergies to ingredients in some vaccines are actually pretty common and frequently go undiagnosed specifically *because* so many providers are asshats. If you feel mocked, well I can’t control how you feel. I also don’t actually care if either of you actually get the flu vaccine any more than I do if anyone else does, which is approximately zero if that person isn’t a teacher, healthcare provider, or working in food service.

              I just don’t want an allergy to go undiagnosed, because that shit kills people.

            3. Clearly, you’re too spun up to read what I wrote.

              Peace out.

            4. I am not allergic to any listed ingredient of flu vaccines…by themselves. I may however be allergic to the way they interact with each other, and how do you get tested for that?

            5. You would need to see a specialist (immunologist). Your primary should be able to give you a reasonable referral. However, based on your reaction to the flu shot you should *definitely* avoid it. My primary concern is that you get the appropriate testing to ensure that you know if pneumonia, shingles, and similar vaccines will present an issue for you in the future. When people have that significant of an inflammatory response, it’s definitely something to look into.

      2. Same here, except as the years have gone on I don’t “feel sick” from the shot. Back on ship, I’d usually only puke a few times, during the last few years. Figured it was just “what I got at medical” made worse because of stress/lack of sleep, isn’t it odd how nobody catches it from me.

        Now I become very physically ill, which is what left me weak enough to catch everything and incubate it until it was strong enough to infect the rest of the family. The last time the only reason I didn’t go to the hospital was because I had nobody to watch the kids, and “call mom to ask her to drive five hours to watch the kids while I go to the hospital” was horrible enough that I did a probably very stupid thing and waited it out, although I made sure my husband (deployed) was checking on me every 6 hours or so and WOULD call her if I didn’t respond. As soon as I could manage to make it to the car, I drove to my folks’ (yes, that was also stupid) and was ‘just feel terrible’ sick for another week. THEN the secondary infections (technically, primary infections because the first infection was fake/vaccine) set in.

        So, great, the kids don’t get sick when I’m worshiping at the porcelain throne for several days from the vaccine. They get sick in a week or two when I pick something up at the grocery store, or maybe off of my husband’s clothes, or going to the library.

        1. Dang. Overactive immune responses suck. My husband gets auto-immune arthritis with flu shots but nothing like that.

          Have you been tested for latex allergies? The flu shot often sets those off, and if you’re reacting that strongly, I’d make sure that all based are covered. And yes, allergies can react like food poisoning—my husband has sulfite allergies that, when combined with alcohol (as in most American wine), can lead to food poisoning symptoms, though his sister has the more typical anaphylaxis reaction.

          1. Absolutely zero allergies. (And use latex gloves fairly often, at that.)

            I’m disgustingly healthy, other than my eyes not working right.

            It’s not as bad as the friend who developed scoliosis in the Navy (it’s solidly documented; she has to get X-rays every time they move, anyways, because no doctor believes it…and that isn’t even that rare) but it does get very tiring to have the argument every time we move, visit a drugstore, or wipe down a cart handle.

            (“Oh, I don’t worry about that, I got my flu vaccination.” Like the only disease on a cart is the flu! Aaargh!)

            1. Just reply, “There are lots of things we don’t have vaccines for,” and move on, I guess.

            2. I honestly spent a lot of time giving polite smiles.
              When I’ve got enough brain to respond, I try to delicately allude to the number of dirty diaper clad behinds that have been in that cart. Which tends to make folks become VERY enthusiastic about cleaning them!

  5. Don’t panic, we can be sure that the Chinese government’s reports of 106 dead and 1000 people infected are completely accurate!

    1. Almost certainly not accurate. Still don’t panic. Calmly planning and watching good, solid sources, though, will leave you far better prepared in the case of a true emergency than panicky overreaction will.

      1. The few details about the victims I’ve heard is that, for starters, the average age is in the 70s.

        Which makes the “Spanish Flu” comparisons kinda silly, unless they get really stupid and insist on putting everybody who has the flu through the general population.

    2. Aimee Morgan Avatar
      Aimee Morgan

      Oh, I think 106 dead and 1000 infected is completely accurate. I just don’t think it’s completely *complete*. I mean, if I say I have 5 cases of girl scout cookies in my house, am I lying, or just not mentioning the other 70?