Monday, January 27, 2020

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Coronavirus Analysis - Is Israel Ready?

by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) is a new disease spreading (or, to be more specific, a new type of coronavirus is spreading) in China.  The disease is considered particularly worrying because:

  • The fatality (death) rate may be has high as 5%.
  • It may incubate (a person may have it) for up to 10 days before symptoms appear, and may be able to spread it during this time.
  • Cases are appearing around the world as its Chinese holiday season, and people are flying home and then returning to overseas studies or work.
Unfortunately we are in a "fog of war" period regarding this potential pandemic.  Information is sparse as China has gone full facist information control on the situation, pulling down posts and videos as well as preventing reporting in the epicentre of the disease, Wuhan city in China.  Here's what information is available:
  • At least several thousand people have been diagnosed with the disease, with a few cases also appearing in the U.S. and Canada via returning Chinese students.  But rumours (via a video released by a nurse in Wuhan) are that up to 100,000 have been infected. (Which would make it the most serious disease outbreak of the century.). Official fatality reports are under 100, which would align with the 5% fatality rate on several thousand cases.  No reports of any of the international cases dying.
  • China has quarantined the whole city of Wuhan as well as some other nearby cities, as well as prohibiting most forms of transportation and any and all events and markets in the city.  How will they supply a city of 11,000,000 people with everyone told to stay home is unknown.
  • Hospitals in Wuhan city are overwhelmed (though this could just be people with the flu freaking out).
  • It appears from the generally available information that this disease is airborne - it can be spread by coughing. 
  • Generally viruses (like the cold and flu) basically have no treatment against the disease, just against the symptoms.  However, a particular anti-Aids drug is being used as a treatment (Kaletra) and has been noted in the past as having some effectiveness against coronaviruses.  Tamiflu is also being used as a treatment, but I didn't see any reports of effectiveness.  Otherwise the treatments are symptom relief and drugs to prevent bacteria from taking advantage of the weakened situation.
  • The disease kills by causing a viral based pneumonia.
  • In an excellent move, the China health professionals uploaded the genome map of the disease to international health databases - so every country is able to test and diagnose this disease.
  • If you read anything about "vaccines" for this disease, laugh.  Because vaccines take months to model, and months to grow/create.  It's probably impossible for a vaccine to exist for this disease in under 3 months.
  • There's another story here about where the disease came from, and how these disease keep popping up in China - about how their cultural habits of live food wildlife markets seem to set up a situation for disease moving between species to humans every few years.  But that's not the urgent story.
Here's one more interesting tidbit related to this situation: normal surgical masks stop airborne droplets, which likely will help reduce disease transmission.  But they don't block virus particles in the air.  For that you need an "N95" particle filter -- and these filters are now pretty much sold out in much of the U.S. and online at Amazon.  (This will actually hurt people in certain businesses that use them daily for work place protection, like people who strip paint.). From brief reading I think N99 or P95 should work as well.  Also noting that N95, N99 and P95 are not designed for people with facial hair (many ultra-orthodox Jews are fully bearded).

Ok, how about Israel?  Israel's healthcare system is composed of 4 semi-private/semi-government HMO's (by American description) that coordinate closely with the Ministry of Health.  In cases like the recent Measles epidemic, and now this disease, alerts of what to look for and required responses and reporting are immediately distributed to all health clinics, doctors, and hospitals.  So Israel is better prepared to identify symptomatic people than the U.S.  

Advice:  No real advice at this time, not enough information available.  Maybe I'd avoid international airports frequented by China travellers, and maybe Chinatown in select U.S. cities - but the international cases are so few that's probably silliness at this stage.

May Hashem keep us all safe.  

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