Moshe-Mordechai van Zuiden
Psychology, Medicine, Science, Politics, Oppression, Integrity, Philosophy, Jews

How dangerous may we expect such a new virus to be?

Getting all the information may save your life. However, to panic may kill you. So, the first rule is to stay calm. No virus set out to kill you or your loved ones. They are not malicious. They are merely dysfunctional relics of our evolutionary past, just as everything that could get us killed. In time, medical scientists will overcome all death threats. But for now, watch when you cross the street and get information on all other health hazards.

You do not need to let fear get to you to inform and protect yourself.

One should also not fall victim to the opposite, an overly optimistic stance. “I’m safe ’cause this will (mostly) kill the weak, old, and sick.” Just like with AIDS, tuberculosis, and the regular flue: the weak may die faster but these viruses do kill the young, strong, and healthy (depending on the number of microbes inhaled). So, don’t leave it to fate or statistics; protect yourself!

The body has many ways to fight infections. Immunity is one but to get it takes about nine days. Some viruses are so aggressive that you’d have a good chance of dying while trying to get your immune system up-to-date. Therefore, immunization from the outside (vaccination) can be smart. There was a time (not so long ago, before antibiotics) when every pneumonia was a gamble. Some made it and some didn’t.

Another way we are protected against infection is when a good part of the people around us are immune. So, there is a greater reason to vaccinate when you’re surrounded by irrational people who shun vaccination.

Therefore, a newer virus is more dangerous. When no one is immune yet, a virus or bacteria may spread faster than wildfire. Then it is important for prevention and your protection to learn how the microbe may transfer.

Trust frequently washing hands and keeping your distance from people more than wearing a face mask. Disinfect (wash with soap) your hands before rubbing your nose or eyes or touching your mouth or food you eat. Become aware of where you hands go. Children transmit microbes easier and quicker between them than anyone else. And then they infect their caregivers by sneezing in their faces when they bend over. Be prepared. And when the epidemic starts in your area, keep your kids home, period.

Another danger of a new virus or bacteria is that it hasn’t learned to behave itself — so to speak. If a new microbe is too destructive, it will kill all hosts in no time, damaging its ability to spread. So, over time, new microbes become less aggressive, keeping more people sick longer.

Antibiotics work on bacteria. Bacteria invade the body and try to feel at home and multiply. Viruses are smaller and less self-sufficient. They try to highjack processes in the host’s cells they don’t have to reproduce. That means that antibiotics don’t work against them. (They would, but they would kill off the patient even faster. Lately, there are chemicals that stop some viruses but prevention is to be preferred.) So, with viral infections, the first line of defense is prevention and vaccination. Once infected, survival attempts address the medical problems that the virus infection is causing. If it’s pneumonia, help the longs. If it’s bleeding, supply blood, etc.

It takes time to create a vaccine and even more time to make it in huge quantities. Further delay is caused by physicians wanting to first test them on animals to see if they don’t cause more problems than they intend to cure. Such risks are easier taken when a virus kills almost all those infected (AIDS). But if the virus ‘only’ kills a few percents, risk-taking is out.

Greatly mistrust any ‘medical news’ from lands that lack democracy and a free press. Any ‘success’ or denial of a problem could be just propaganda. And countries that praise non-democracies could just try to avoid tensions. Also, be wary of ‘alternative’ sources peddling unconfirmed ‘revelations.’

The statistics that we get from China, where the new coronavirus outbreak occurred, are giving false hope and maybe false despair. On the one hand, if 10,000 are infected and 300 people died, it does not mean that it kills 300 out of 10,000 people (3%). When these 300 were infected, there were maybe 1000 people infected, in which case it would kill 3 out of 10 (30%) of those infected. On the other hand, maybe the number of infected is much higher than the people who report sick and who are tested. Maybe there are really already 50,000 people infected. That would make those who succumb come out about 6%. Only more research (time) will tell.

Of its very deadly sister, Ebola, in Guinea in 2014, the numbers were: 28,652 infected, 11,325 dead, which is a fatality rate of almost 40%. Yet, Ebola seems more deadly by making patients bleed to death.

NB: If you’re outside of China, don’t be a racist fearing every Asian person you meet and also don’t be stupid to not protect yourself more when you are at places that specifically attract more visitors from China.

Newest data suggest that patients during incubation time, ‘asymptomatic patients,’ are spreading this virus. (An incubation time is a period that those infected don’t feel sick yet.) Also people who were sick but feel better now could still be spreading the virus. If asymptomatic patients transmit this virus, isolating and avoiding those infected is much harder.

Countries with an advanced healthcare system and democracy have the least to fear as any outbreak will be quickly cornered off and the treatment plan for the infected will be state of the art. Yet, people in poorer areas or where the regime cares little about the population are at much greater risk. This includes people living under the junta in Gaza and under the PA. Again we see, it’s not ‘them against us’ but that we’re all in the same boat.

If you’d know that crossing a certain street would give you a 3% chance to get killed, you wouldn’t. So, if in your community a new virus is spread that kills 3%, you’d avoid public transportation and other crowded gatherings (work, church, stadium, demonstration, doctor’s waiting room, hospital!), even for weeks. Even more dangerous may be to meet with individuals not avoiding crowds! It’s better to be poor and lonely than die, IMHO. This way, you not only protect yourself and your loved ones but also society at large. When people stop meeting, even a pandemic cannot spread. We might even prefer to skip or postpone having the Japan Olympics.

If you fear to be infected, stay home, keep everyone at a distance, call your GP or health fund, and specify your suspicion to get you tested. Results should be in quickly. There is no need for panic or despair as that will not improve your health but rather may stop you from being realistic and safe.

The author has a BA in Medicine from the University of Amsterdam.

About the Author
MM is a prolific and creative writer and thinker, a daily blog contributor to the TOI. He is a fetal survivor of the pharmaceutical industry (, born in 1953 to two Dutch survivors who met in the largest concentration camp in the Netherlands, Westerbork, and holds a BA in medicine (University of Amsterdam). He taught Re-evaluation Co-counseling, became a social activist, became religious, made Aliyah, and raised three wonderful kids. He wrote an unpublished tome about Jewish Free Will. He's a strict vegan since 2008. He's an Orthodox Jew but not a rabbi. * His most influential teachers (chronologically) are: his parents, Nico (natan) van Zuiden and Betty (beisye) Nieweg, Wim Kan, Mozart, Harvey Jackins, Marshal Rosenberg, Reb Shlomo Carlebach and lehavdiel bein chayim lechayim: Rabbi Dr. Natan Lopes Cardozo, Rav Zev Leff and Rav Meir Lubin. * Previously, for decades, he was known to the Jerusalem Post readers as a frequent letter writer. For a couple of years he wrote hasbara for the Dutch public. His fields of attention now are varied: Psychology (including Sexuality and Abuse), Medicine (including physical immortality), Science (statistics), Politics (Israel, the US and the Netherlands, Activism - more than leftwing or rightwing, he hopes to highlight Truth), Oppression and Liberation (intersectionally, for young people, the elderly, non-Whites, women, workers, Jews, GLBTQAI, foreigners and anyone else who's dehumanized or exploited), Integrity, Philosophy, Jews (Judaism, Zionism, Holocaust and Jewish Liberation), Ecology and Veganism. Sometimes he's misunderstood because he has such a wide vision that never fits any specialist's box. But that's exactly what many love about him. Many of his posts relate to affairs from the news or the Torah Portion of the Week or are new insights that suddenly befell him. * He hopes that his words will inspire and inform, reassure the doubters but make the self-assured doubt more. He strives to bring a fresh perspective rather than bore you with the obvious. He doesn't expect his readers to agree. Rather, original minds must be disputed. In short, his main political positions are: anti-Trumpism, for Zionism, Intersectionality, non-violence, democracy, anti the fake peace process, for original-Orthodoxy, Science, Free Will, anti blaming-the-victim and for down-to-earth optimism. Read his blog how he attempts to bridge any discrepancies. He admits sometimes exaggerating to make a point, which could have him come across as nasty, while in actuality, he's quit a lovely person to interact with. He holds - how Dutch - that a strong opinion doesn't imply intolerance of other views. * His writing has been made possible by an allowance for second generation Holocaust survivors from the Netherlands. It has been his dream since he was 38 to try to make a difference by teaching through writing. He had three times 9-out-of-10 for Dutch at his high school finals but is spending his days communicating in English and Hebrew - how ironic. G-d must have a fine sense of humor. In case you wonder - yes, he is a bit dyslectic. November 13, 2018, he published his 500st blog post with the ToI. If you're a native English speaker and wonder why you should read from people whose English is only their second language, consider the advantage of having a peek outside of your cultural bubble. * NEW: To see other blog posts by him, his overspill blog you can reach by clicking on the Website icon next to his picture at the head of every post. There you may find precursors to later TOI blog posts, addition or corrections of published TOI blog posts, blog posts the TOI will not carry and some thoughts that are too short to be a TOI blog post. Also, the TOI only allows for one blog post per blogger per 24 hours. Sometimes, he has more to say than that. * To send any personal reaction to him, scroll to the top of the blog post and click Contact Me.
Related Topics
Related Posts