Between 1918 and 1920, the world was assaulted by an Influenza strain (H1N1) which infected an estimated 500 million people (almost a third of the worlds population). It’s reckoned there were probably in excess of 25 million deaths due to it. That’s a guesstimated 0.05% mortality rate. The parallels continue in the virus causing a cytokine storm (though Covid-19 is assaulting more than one type of T-cell so the storm is worse). But it’s thought that worldwide conditions of malnourishment, overcrowding of medical facilities and general poor hygiene resulted in bacterial superinfection (where the weakened immune system enabled a secondary infection from a bacteria to thrive in the victim). In comparison a second outbreak (know as Swine Flu in 2009) killed probably 250,000 people.
SARS-CoV-1 killed 8000 people in the early 2000s (with a 9.5% chance of death on a wider infection). This latest version SARS-CoV-2, the virus causing COVID-19, has killed 20 times as many. In January 2020, five different genomes of SARS-CoV-2 had been sequenced but it’s possible there’s more than 1000 different genomes at the time of this writing.
The thing is. We are lucky.
This new virus takes an average of 11 days to present symptoms after infection. The mortality rate is relatively low. Probably less than 2%.
Somewhere out there is a zoonotic virus which has a 14-30 day infectious period (where you’re running around spreading the infection without knowing you have it, and then it has a 50% mortality rate. (The Nipha virus from Malaysia had a 14 day onset with a 50-75% death rate. Ebola can take up to three weeks to show symptoms and has a 50-90% mortality rate.
We are lucky.
But we have to learn from this. This current pandemic is a warning shot. It’s telling us that our current liberties (travel everywhere) is potentially not sustainable. We worried about nuclear annihilation or pollution or a meteor killing us all, but this is something that we knew could happen. I mean, it’s essentially the plot device of “War of the Worlds” and it’s been well documented in Hollywood movies.
We have to prepare.
What can we expect in the new normality?
I love travel, but travel will be harder. And more expensive. Queues will be long and you can be expected to be turned away from a flight if you present with illness.
I had tickets to a gig in June. 50,000 people in a crowded stadium. They’ve just emailed to say the gig is postponed to June 2021. Do I really want to be in a crowded stadium with the great unwashed?
I think the last two months have certainly indicated that some jobs can be done remotely. And while many have mixed reactions to videoconferencing, I’m finding focus to be increased without daily distractions.
I’m thinking not just about what will go back to normal, but the things that I want to go back to normal and the things that I want to change.
Because the next great pandemic might not take 100 years to appear.