One of the most interesting things about thinking through the COVID-19 epidemic is understanding the statistics, and what is the deep meaning they are attempting to tell us. Information comes, of course, in the form of data — testing (which doesn’t tell us much for most countries,) fatalities, which sadly tell us more. Hospital overwhelm, of course, tells us something profound about our medical facilities capacity for this epidemic, but is largely inconclusive as well.
Still statistics don’t sit alone. The world works in a coherent fashion, regardless if it’s in our favor or not. There is a larger coherence present in understanding how eating a bat in Wuhan may generate chaos across the globe, when coupled with a highly efficient air transport system and a 5 day incubation period.
So it is VERY interesting to realize that some of the estimates of asymptomatic COVID-19 are around 18%. These people can be then responsible for close to 50% of infections. There’s also no good numbers on mild infections. This piece says 66%. When you add those two super-rough guesses together, you get around 85% of folks whose immune systems are more than up to the task of handling this bug.
What this says, though, is that 15% of the population’s immune systems are NOT up to handling the bug. And the laundry list of folks with the problems are diabetics, the elderly and whatnot.
Why does this matter? A disease like Ebola ranges from 25%-90% mortality. That means there is far less ability for our immune system to handle the disease. You get it, you die, though there is much to mine in the overall wellbeing of the African countries where Ebola has appeared. Contrast that with the 1% COVID-19 estimated fatality rate.
What this tells me is that this is a killer disease of the immunosuppressed. And a good hunk of that is driven by a combo of diet and aging. That ought to be something that we study in the future. Are we compromising our long-term health with our crummy diet? I surely think so. There will always be overlap in distributions, but when we have an obesity/overweight ratio hovering around 66%, we need to start asking ourselves what the concentrated effects of sugar and refined carbs is doing to wrecking our health. And preparing us for the next pandemic.
PS (3/21/2020) This article popped up on Buzzfeed re: Iceland. Iceland is (not surprisingly) testing 50% asymptomatic cases, and they have a whole island to run a fascinating experiment on. Which means more evidence that people who are immunocompromised, from air pollution, or diet, or illness, are really the ones we need to worry about. This will be a crazy Big Data study for the coming years.
PPS (3/23/2020) This article popped up about advocacy from the American Diabetes Association advocating special consideration from the federal government for diabetes sufferers.
What’s great about this is that a group like this can serve as a future demographic sensor when figuring out in the medium term what groups were truly affected by the virus. Diabetes is well-known as a metabolic and immunosuppressive source. I’ll be watching.
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