By now you’ve seen the prediction that the US death toll from COVID-19 could rise above 100,000 people. We could see 2,214 deaths a day at the nation’s peak in two weeks.
One of the most difficult dimensions of this disease is the degree to which it can be transmitted by people who show no symptoms.
The director of the CDC was asked this week if his agency has learned anything new about the virus in recent weeks. He stated that “a significant number of individuals that are infected remain asymptomatic. That may be as many as 25 percent. That’s important, because now you have individuals that may not have any symptoms that can contribute to transmission, and we have learned that in fact they do contribute to transmission.”
He added that those who develop symptoms are “shedding significant virus . . . probably up to forty-eight hours before [they] show symptoms.”
In other words, every person we meet could infect us with a deadly virus, whether they know it or not. And we could have the virus while being asymptomatic and infect others.
I am not aware of an analogous medical condition to this. More Americans die from heart disease and cancer than any other causes. However, neither can be “caught” from someone who doesn’t know they have the condition.
To find an historical parallel, we need to go back more than a century.
“Fear moved ahead of the virus”
According to the CDC, “The 1918 influenza pandemic was the most severe pandemic in recent history.” It is estimated that around 500 million people—one-third of the world’s population—became infected with the virus. The number of deaths is estimated to be at least 50 million worldwide, with about 675,000 in the US.
In The Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History, John Barry describes the 1918 outbreak as a pandemic that “would kill more people than any other outbreak of disease in human history.” He notes that the influenza’s victims “died with extraordinary ferocity and speed.”
According to Barry, “In 1918 fear moved ahead of the virus like the bow wave before a ship. Fear drove the people, and the government and the press could not control it.” He notes, “Terror rises in the dark of the mind, in the unknown beast tracking us in the jungle. The fear of the dark is an almost physical manifestation of that. Horror movies build up the fear of the unknown, the uncertain threat that we cannot see and do not know and can find no safe haven from.”
However, as he adds, “In every horror movie, once the monster appears, terror condenses into the concrete and diminishes. Fear remains. But the edge of panic created by the unknown dissipates.”
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SOURCE: Christian Post, Jim Denison