China Virus — Fear of the Unknown

Look at the social media and you would think the end of the world is near. The “deadly” China virus is bringing out the worst paranoia in Americans. So, what’s the real story with this pneumonia bug that’s in the family of “coronavirus”? Is this the next SARS-like pandemic?

First, let’s realize that the biggest fear factor about this virus is it’s NEW. If it were just a regular pneumonia, cold or flu virus, nobody would give a hoot. In the last two flu seasons combined, millions of Americans got sick and 95,000 Americans died from the influenza virus. But nobody panicked. Why? It’s a known virus and it comes every year!

flu stats

A lot of people say, “the Wuhan virus from China can turn out to be like SARS”!! Yes, theoretically anything is possible. However, here’s a question: How many people in the US and Europe died from SARS? Answer: ZERO!!

Here are the stats for the “deadly” new China virus: As of Jan 25, only 41 people have died. And they are all in China. Actually, 39 of them are in just Hubei province.

Also, what’s not discussed in the media is that the China-Wuhan coronavirus seems to be a weak virus — so far. It could mutate into a more dangerous strain, but so far it hasn’t killed any young people. More than 80% of the victims are senior citizens, above the age of 65. These are people with a lot of other complications and weak immune systems. Here’s a chart that shows coronavirus deaths by age groups:

Coronavirus deaths by age groups

(Sources: Bloomberg article , Hubei gov website )

The Chinese government is taking extraordinary precautions by putting several cities under quarantine. Here’s a photo of a highway in Wuhan:

Wuhan under quarantine

And here’s a counter-intuitive fact about germs: when viruses (or bacteria) mutate, only the relatively harmless bugs survive and spread fast! Why? Germs that are super aggressive will quickly kill their hosts … and in that process kill themselves. Even a non-lethal but aggressive virus will force the patients to stay at home or in the hospital. On the other hand, a person who’s infected with milder viruses will carry on with their life and spread the virus to more people. Interesting, right? Thus, in the evolution race, the milder viruses are the winners.

China’s response has been very swift. Within ten days after identifying the virus, they published the full genomic sequence for the world. They have already started vaccine development; and they have found some existing anti-viral drugs that are effective against the coronavirus.


We live in a very urbanized and inter-connected world. So, a few sick people in highly populated cities can quickly spread germs to many others — think of a person coughing in a packed subway train. And with millions of people traveling around the world, diseases spread very fast.

More people should wear masks if they are sick. Also, people should use cough syrups, drink warm/hot drinks to reduce coughing. Eating healthy food that boost immune systems is also a must.

In conclusion:

  1. My guess is that the hysteria about this Wuhan virus will dissipate within two weeks.
  2. Also, the Chinese government will start banning or strictly restricting consumption of wild life — and that will be a good thing. (Some scientists think the virus might have come from people eating exotic animals).
  3. Finally, China’s GDP is going to take a big hit in Q1. Usually, this is the busiest time in China, as hundreds of millions of people travel to be with their families to celebrate the beginning of the Chinese New Year. On the flip side, the Q2 GDP will see a huge spike and make up for most of the losses in Q1.

Good luck to China and Happy New Year (of the Rat)!

Year of Rat 2020