“Hic incipit pestis.” *

*”Here begins the plague” is written in the register next to the entry for Oliver Gunne’s burial on June 11, 1564 one of the first victims of the plague that ravaged Europe back when the “treatment” for such illnesses was praying or trying to exorcise demons. We seem to be reverting to such fear based reactions to a natural, if troubling, evolutionary process of viral mutation.

As one of our greatest Presidents once said, “We have nothing to fear but fear itself” (Franklin D. Roosevelt)

Before we hunt and burn witches once someone suggests they bear responsibility for this Corona Virus Panic, it may be time for a deep breath. (And dispense with the paper masks, one they get wet from your breath all they stop is bad breath, and not very well.)  

It is this panicked fear of a naturally reoccurring phenomenon which grips this country and the world that is the genuine danger and risk.  While any death from what will soon be (although not in 2 or 3 months as someone suggested) a treatable and preventable viral infection is tragic, yet it’s the way the world works.

We (meaning the world) have faced the Black Death, Spanish Flu, a host of childhood diseases, AIDS, MRSA, Ebola et. al., once almost always fatal, and have found treatments or preventative measures to mitigate them. We did it through scientifically valid research and development.

We have child-guard caps on medication because someone died. We have seals on bottles because some put poison in a pain killer and someone died. We have seat belts in cars because someone died.  We learn from experience and use science and reasoning to deal with these issues.  Panic accomplishes nothing but a proliferation of ignorance.

It is the fundamental lack of basic science which troubles me the most. The anti-vaxxers with their pseudo-science already proven not just wrong but dangerous making claims without the slightest bit of evidence.

And people listen.

It is people not having a fundamental understanding of how viral pathogens are transmitted running around stockpiling disinfectant hoping to stave off which for most will amount to two sick days.

Yet people panic.

Now this is not to minimize the risk to those with compromised immunity or breathing difficulties. But these same risk factors apply to the flu which mutates every year (responding to the vaccines and evolving as life always has) and returning in a new variation.

As reported by the CDC in their 2019-2020 Flu Season overview, 280,000 to 500,000 flu hospitalizations and 16,000 to 41,000 flu deaths this year to date.

The flu, which in most cases is preventable by well-established vaccines, is still expected to kill between 260,000 and 350,000 people worldwide with 36,000 deaths in the US.

And this happens EVERY YEAR.

Now in case there is any doubt in anyone’s mind, I am not a fan of the President.  But in his news conference he did say something that is accurate, we should leave politics out of this. Whether Mr. Trump and others will– Democrats bear responsibility here also–is doubtful, but it is necessary if for no other reason than to mitigate the panic all out of proportion to the risk.

The actual culprit here is the media. Driven by the simple-minded attention-deficit tweet-addicted society we live in, the media resorts to stark headlines and “Breaking” News teasers to capture the infrequent moments of lucidity among many of our fellow citizens.

It forces them to compete with such major news as what Bachelorette picked which idiotic contestant or which Naked and Alone competitor had the most ant bites on their ass. And don’t even get me started on “My 600-pound life.”

The media are the modern equivalent of the boy who cried wolf or Chicken Little and the sky is falling. Their credibility, damaged by the constant need for shock and awe, discounted when they try to report actual news requiring some thought and consideration so the public, enamored of the hype and nonsense, doesn’t miss it.

Sadly, most of the time they do.

Mr. Trump and his administration, when faced with a genuine opportunity to show calm and deliberate leadership, booted it. Their intentional closure of the office designated to plan and prepare for this exact situation, further evidence of their disdain for science and expert advice, is a stain on an already tarnished Presidency. And their inaction followed by irrational overreaction will cause irreparable economic harm all out of proportion to the risk.

And people will still get the virus.

The media is as guilty as the President.  In its usual fervor for ratings, they further exasperated the situation with their hyperbole and drowned out the few voices of reasons—the doctors and scientists of the CDC and WHO — as they cautioned a reasonable reaction to a predictable situation.

Just for a bit of enlightenment in an age of darkness, here as some interesting statistics on the ways to die.

Oportet memento mori (Remember you must die)

Latin saying
Lifetime odds of death for selected causes, United States, 2017
Cause of DeathOdds of Dying
Heart Disease1 in 6
Cancer1 in 7
Chronic Lower Respiratory Disease1 in 27
Suicide1 in 88
Opioid overdose1 in 96
Motor Vehicle Crash1 in 103
Fall1 in 114
Gun Assault1 in 285
Pedestrian Incident1 in 556
Motorcyclist1 in 858
Drowning1 in 1,117
Fire or Smoke1 in 1,474
Choking on Food1 in 2,696
Bicyclist1 in 4,047
Accidental Gun Discharge1 in 8,527
Sunstroke1 in 8,912
Electrocution, Radiation, Extreme Temperatures and Pressure1 in 15,638
Sharp objects1 in 28,000
Cataclysmic Storm1 in 31,394
Hot surfaces and substances1 in 46,045
Hornet, wasp and bee stings1 in 46,562
Dog attack1 in 115,111
Passenger on an airplane1 in 188,364
Lightning1 in 218,106
Railway passenger1 in 243,765

“Remember man that thou art dust…”

Author unknown

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