Beware the Pandemic Panic

Coronavirus is scary. How we respond to it may be worse.

Comments: 154

  1. If there is any lesson to be learned, it is that the world needs better health controls for food. There were reports of companies hiring criminals to spread swine fever in China before this. And there have been a huge number of pig deaths this year. Also, the number of people who die from salmonella poisoning is about 400 a year in the US. Ebola spread from bushmeat and there are varying reports about exotic animals causing the outbreak in China. That must be something we can learn from and prevent. Panic is never the solution and it doesn't help in any way. But an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and a ton of unnecessary suffering.

  2. @David while I agree the world needs better health controls on food and how it is distributed, many people turn to wild animals for a source of protein because they cannot afford to purchase chicken or beef, for example, at a supermarket. If these controls are implemented, then at the minimum there should be assistance to those who rely on wild game as a food source. In the United States, White Tail Deer were almost driven to extinction during the Great Depression because many people could not afford to buy farm raised animal meat and had to turn to wild game hunting to feed their families. Would we blame this environmental catastrophe on the hunters, or the society that failed to provide a safety net in times of need?

  3. @ThinkTank Hindus manage to live very healthful lives while maintaining a vegan diet (which I adopted after living there).

  4. @ThinkTank For the most part, the reason many of the exotic animals are eaten is for status reasons. They are quite expensive, and the more endangered the animal the better. Men don’t eat tiger penis soup because of the protein. They think it will make them better in bed.

  5. Please note that face masks fill two important functions: 1. They generally reduce the number of virus particles one inhales, not by 100%, but by a meaningful amount. 2. Masks also reduce the number of virus particles expelled by infected persons when they cough or sneeze, not by 100% but by a meaningful amount. This is why you see pictures of infected patients wearing masks even in isolation wards, to reduce the chances they will infect others. Thought for the day: If you are on a plane or train and your seatmate starts sneezing or coughing, put on your own mask and offer your seatmate one, too. Due to the coronavirus outbreak I have started carrying several masks with me when I travel in order to deal with just such eventualities. Oh, and don't forget the personal-size hand sanitizer bottles or packets in case it is not possible to wash your hands frequently.

  6. @Mon Ray Masks are a safe protocol if you are going to be in an enclosed space (like an aircraft) for an extended period of time. That said.. the mask will NOT protect you from contact foamites left on any physical object by a infected person. So.. the real issue here in my view is over-confidence in masks as the sole protection. High hand hygiene in keeping hands washed with soap and water often is much more important over all.. with the exception of forced confinement in confined spaces. The most important protocols.. as demonstrated by the containment of SARS is: 1) hand hygiene. 2) keeping minmum distance between humans (generally 10 feet or more). 3) masks on infected persons, and masks worn by non-infected persons in confined spaces.. like public transportation, stores, medical facilities.

  7. @Chuck Keeping 10 feet away from people is impossible in all but rural situations. Pretty well all indoor areas: work, shared transportation of any kind, stores, churches, etc. are "confined spaces."

  8. @Chuck I quite agree about hand hygiene, but one does not always have access to soap and water, which is why I carry hand sanitizer packets.

  9. Disease carries stigma. Make no doubt. Mortality is never a face you want to see in the mirror. However, I don't think we need to worry about panic just yet. By the time mass-panic ensues, most civic institutions will fail at adequate intervention anyway. The so called "zombie apocalypse." I remember my emergency health coordinator telling me, "Millions could die. Many will die. You need to accept that upfront. What we need from you is to stay healthy or even more will die. Here is how you do that." That was required public training. If you haven't read the book, "Station Eleven" is a very odd sort of work manual circulating the emergency management department. In a weird yet positive way, Emily St. John Mandel is asking people to problem-solve fears surrounding disease and societal collapse. She's the Andy Weir of infectious disease. At the end of the day, you or someone you love might be a casuality. However, the chances of another Spanish influenza are currently remote. As Doug Adams used to say, "Don't Panic!" What he didn't say is your face mask probably doesn't matter much. Wash your hands and don't touch your face.

  10. Thank you, Mr. Manjoo, for the very timely article. The panic is as bad, if not worse, as the virus or any pathogens. The panic is mostly spread by loads of misinformation from Chinese social media, which spilled over worldwide. While reading CDC weekly update, I came across that there have been 8,200 death from flu in US from September 2019 to last week. No panic whatsoever. Flu is known virus even the virus often changes. 2019-nCoV is unknown to us all.

  11. @wlcn I don't think we can blame Chinese social media for how Americans are reacting. We have the 24-hour cable news cycle to thank for that, along with supposedly respectable newspapers like this one whose coverage is nonetheless all too similar.

  12. @wlcn : There is no panic over the flu because: a) the mortality rate is low (only 1 in roughly 1800 people die from the flu in the U.S.) versus what is looking like a much higher mortality rate from coronavirus (sample size is still small, about 5300 reported cases in China with 349 deaths, for a mortality rate of 1 in 15) b) most of the people who die of the flu in the U.S. are elderly, immunocompromised and/or other otherwise less than healthy c) there is a flu vaccine but no vaccine against the coronavirus.

  13. Number of deaths from coronavirus: a few hundred Number of deaths from the flu this season: several thousand. Can we all put this in perspective? Please?

  14. @unreceivedogma No.. we cannot.. not until this virus is contained. Right now.. data says it is NOT contained.. though progress is now being made to do so. If this virus breaks away from containment.... it may make the flu look like nothing. Why? because it already demonstrates a fatality rate at least one order of magnitude higher than the worst recent flu season death rates. The only reason the actual death count is so low right now is that it has not yet found it's settling point in terms of total infections. If it is as infectious as the flu is... and with it's current mortality rate.. we could see several million deaths if it breaks out of containment efforts.

  15. @unreceivedogma But it's possible to get a flu vaccine, which protects against some strands of virus and lessens the virulence of others. As far as I've read, there is no such protection against coronavirus.

  16. @unreceivedogma will you say the same thing if this virus spreads to every part of the globe, like flu? It is irrational to mock a strong response when mortality rates, and rate of infections are still not clear. What’s worse, if this iis a re-run of the Spanish flu, you’ll be the first to criticize the ‘slow’ response and general apathy.

  17. Actually, public health experts have been warning for years that wet markets carry an enormous risk of zoonotic diseases. They are entirely unregulated in China and it is not remotely surprising that this occurred. Coronavirus may not turn into a deadly pandemic, but if animals are imported and processed without regulation, something else eventually will.

  18. It's now 100 years sice the Spanish Flu took millions. Even in USA many, many thousands perished. And it took mainly young people between 20 to 30. If one doesn't learn the history, one will not have the future. said Seneca.

  19. @GE George Santayana.

  20. This article makes me sad. As usual, there is nothing mentioned about all of the non-human animals who will suffer because of this, and continue to pay a price because of humans. In a country that forces pigs to bungee jump and then eats them—true story—I’m guessing that none of the already suffering animals in those markets were sent to sanctuaries to live out tolerable lives. Bats were already hated by people, God help them now. Sure, there is a temporary ban of wildlife markets (unclear to me about other animals?), but we can guess how long that will last. Hate and suffering of various human groups is not the only kind of hate and suffering that matter. Even extremely caring people seem to have a psychological blind spot when it comes to this, and the sheer magnitude of injustice breaks my heart.

  21. @BL Absolutely true comment on how reprehensible human behavior can be with regard to animals. It was only last year that I became aware that the male baby chicks were culled in crushing/shredding machines. Who knew such a thing could be happening? How can decent human beings keep up with all the cruelties/evil in the food industry because we can't even imagine that any business or anyone would see this as acceptable, let alone have permission from governments to do it. Just yesterday, I read that France has banned the killing of baby chicks in these machines. I guess the rest of the world is out to lunch. I'm not dismissing all the good people in the world but there are times when I think a pandemic, wiping us all out, would be the best thing.

  22. @BL I am in complete agreement with you. Non-human animals are the ones who receive the least concern and attention in a world where humans consider themselves superior. When we look at the mess the world is in today, surely we have to question the "moral " superiority of homo sapiens.

  23. The system counts on building walls between the grotesque violence animals endure because of us and the "goods" they provide us with, things we often don't even need. The system banks on "good people" not knowing (?not wanting to know) what happens behind closed doors to squeeze out every penny possible from innocents. From what I understand animal agriculture has gone to great lengths to keep cameras out so we cannot see what happens to the beings that end up on our plates (and garbage cans). Then there are masses of people that just don't give a damn. We kill millions of pigs who lived terribly and died for nothing in horrific, infection-incubating conditions to prevent any risk to a human. We do it without any regret or gratitude. Now we incriminate bats, snakes, and other animals possibly involved in this outbreak, even though they are victims that are captured, treated terribly, and eaten (sometimes while still alive). I worked in public hospital and saw horrors that humans inflict (rape, beating children with a hammer, burning mice, etc.), but we still think we are the most evolved species, and able to do whatever we want to whoever we want. The most generous behaviors I have personally seen were between animals (birds protecting their young and starving dogs sharing food). We love koalas and dogs, but if it tastes good with ketchup or improves male virility, who cares? In a panicked times, I expect we will care even less than we already do.

  24. The difficult question is that, given that social media and the internet is horribly efficient at spreading misinformation and panic, how much control should the government exert in these situations to prevent this? China is both an example and a warning. It's been good at quickly responding to rumors or misinformation and debunking them. However, anything critical of the government's response has also been censored. Also keep in mind to rapidly monitor and react to what people are saying on the internet requires an extensive government surveillance system and minimal privacy rights. Not sure it's wise to give the Trump Administration these powers, even in a pandemic.

  25. @Scott Simply put.. people need to use world health organizations as their source for fact from fiction.. not social media. The movie Contagion did an outstanding job of showing what damage social media can do in the face of a possible pandemic. Now.. will humans trust health authorities over social media? Some will, some will not. Some insist that all authorities are the devil and social media is the only protection. Some of these people will die unnecessarily as a result in either this outbreak or another

  26. Thank you for this information and perspective. What remains a relative constant in all flu strains is that the vast majority originate in eastern and southeastern Asia. The consensus of scientific opinion is that most of the viruses originate in birds and are passed on to humans that live with them in close contact given overcrowding of far too many humans with far too many birds and animals. It would seem logical that some of the problem could be mitigated by eliminating all of the "live animal" markets in Asia and regulating the safety of meat and poultry more closely and strictly. I realize that this is a difficult economic and cultural problem to take on. The other issue is the one that we humans keep dancing around the table on that of over human population. The human populations are densest in southeast Asia. We need to face the reality of the need for population control.

  27. @Steve This is NOT a flu virus. It is a novel coronavirus. It's lethality and rate and mechanisms of transmission are still being determined. That said.. it is currently (by the available numbers) an order of magnitude higher fatality rate compared to known flu virus'.

  28. @Chuck Dude, all new viruses not seen before are "novel". All existing flu viruses were "novel" at one time.

  29. They originate in bats. Not birds.

  30. We need to be able to trust our government and it's agencies to provide us with appropriate and timely information. Let me decide how I will respond to potential dangers. Do not withhold information because there is fear I will panic.

  31. @Nancy D I agree completely! This fear of knowledge and instinct to restrict the information flow is kinda scary.

  32. " . . . emotional contagion, digitally enabled, could erode trust in vaccines so much as to render them moot." And maybe it would be a valuable lesson when people see that those who were vaccinated were the ones who didn't die.

  33. Chiang's record of reporting "less than favorable" events in China, is very poor. I might be way out of line here, but here it is, 1 1/2 weeks in, and China is reporting 130 deaths and 6000 infected, and said last week that, the first person reported to have the virus, infected 14 doctors at the hospital. When I extrapolate that first guy out, I get a much, much higher number than 6000 infected, plus given the fact that China has locked down 18 million (? did I read that correctly?) of its people in the three cities, I feel safe in saying that I would assume that the real number of infected is exponentially higher than they are saying. I hope I'm wrong.......

  34. @BorisRoberts The case in Germany, where one visiting worker infected by now four colleagues also argues for a high reproductive number for coronavirus (at about the size of flu). Say the mortality rate is 2% that's about 20 times worse than flu. So far the confirmed cases curve even as officially released shows little sign of bending. That's all serious and not just panic mongering.

  35. @BorisRoberts You are wrong of course.. and speculating in place of facts. Here is what maters in the next 10 days... China has allowed international healthcare specialists in virus detection and management into China to see, validate, and assist in tying down the specifics of this virus in terms of mortality rates, transmission rates, and transmission pathways. THAT is different with respect to China than in past outbreaks. Keep in mind.. Chinese medical specialists are stating this this virus can and has moved from human to human while the infected host was asymptomatic. The CDC and the WHO are skeptical and have said they need to see proof of this... which frankly I agree they do.. but for them to be dismissive of what China is saying about this.. I find extremely troubling. CDC and WHO are caught up in the politics of managing public perception and avoiding panic.. but if they err on the wrong side of this.. people will die that need not have died.

  36. @Paul Bern I agree that this virus could be much more deadly than currently believed. It also could end up being more like the flu in terms of fatality rates. We just do not now yet..and key health organizations are slow walking their raising of health alert status until they see all the data. That is both good (from a public panic management perspective) and bad (if they get it wrong and it turns out to be a killer on the range of SARS, AND it breaks out of containment efforts.

  37. To quote from this article - ", according to the CDC, about 15 million Americans have been sickened by the seasonal flu so far in the 2019-2020 flu season, and 8,200 have died from it. (The flu kills between 300,000 and 650,000 people around the world annually.)" Just amazing the number of people who refuse to get vaccinated for flu. If you don't want to do it for yourself, do it for your grandmother, or small child, or cancer patient you might infect, who are very susceptible , may not be able to be vaccinated, and who could possibly die from flu. Something else to think about, as there are more cases of Coronavirus reported in this country. If you become ill with flu symptoms, how will you feel, not knowing if it's flu as a result of passing on the vaccine, or Coronavirus? If you do develop the flu and are then exposed to Coronavirus, it's likely your immune system will have a difficult time dealing with both. No excuses - anyone without a medical reason not to - should be vaccinated against flu immediately

  38. Sure, sure. But also beware the opposite....underplaying a public health emergency. Not one or the other. Room for a realistic take on a growing - and real - danger.

  39. The Great Influenza, by Dr. John Barry, should be on everyone’s reading lists right now. While dealing with the deadly 1918 Influenza Pandemic rather than coronavirus, the book is a valuable education on how viruses in general function, and what was ineffective and ineffective in the government and public health response to the 1918 pandemic. He also explores the efforts of the governments and media of that time to prevent panic by repeatedly offering false assurances that the epidemic was under control or had peaked or was over, in spite of the fact that it came in multiple waves with the highest mortality rate coming in the second wave. Trust was lost and people died because of it. The chapters on the reasons for uncertainty of how a virus will adapt when it makes the jump between species are also very pertinent to the current epidemic. At this point, the only sure thing one can do is prepare sensibly for the worst while hoping for the best because we just have to wait and see how this virus will develop.

  40. @Sheilah McAdams Certainly, the situation in 1918 was very different from what it is today. Millions had died and many more millions had suffered during WWI. Food scarcity, overwork, the massive repatriation of weakened soldiers, helped the propagation of the disease. Medical knowledge was extremely limited and what little medical infrastructure existed was stretched thin because of the war (and wards were the norm). And Western Governments were dealing with the war and its aftermath.

  41. There is panic because it's all a mystery soup. The "unknowns" end up being what prompts the hysteria, but it is the "knowns" that could have prevented it. It's SARS deja vu all over again. Bats are obviously not an animal to sell at wet markets, and if panic makes China stay focused and keep focused (no lifting of bans for specific hosts) then maybe we can prevent the REALLY big one.

  42. @duvcu : There is a panic because the death rate based on the current numbers appears really high -- about 1 in every 16 reported cases. The latest WHO data that the NYT was reporting is about 350 deaths out of 5300 confirmed infections. That's a couple of orders of magnitude higher than the flu -- and there's no vaccine in sight.

  43. Thank you! You are absolutely right: very few cases compared to flu and not as deadly.

  44. @MK : I agree that there are currently very few cases compared to the flu. But where did you get less deadly? The stat on the flu cited in this article is 8200 deaths out of 15,000,000 cases. That's one death per roughly 1800 people infected. The latest stats I've seen on coronavirus, from WHO as reported by the New York Times is 349 deaths out of 5327 infected. That's 1 out of every 16 people infected! Here's the NYT article that cited the WHO data (since it's updated regularly, exact numbers may change): https://www.nytimes.com/2020/01/29/world/asia/coronavirus-china.html It's also worth noting that, unlike the flu, there is currently no vaccine for coronavirus.

  45. @Rose Okay 349 deaths out of 5327 infected, those are good odds but I haven't seen any numbers on how many have recovered, have you?

  46. @Patrick : I have no idea what you mean when you say these are "good" odds. That's a DEATH rate of over 5%. That's really high for a disease that's as communicable as the flu and for which there is no vaccine. Another way of looking at it is this: -- The coronavirus has killed 1 out of every 16 infected people (based on available data) -- The flu has killed 1 out of every 1800 people infected (based on current data for the 2019-2020 flu season). I know which one I'd rather get.

  47. I was caught up in the AIDS epidemic 35 years ago, so I don't have to ask how my fellow americans will behave. I know. They will behave badly. They will ignore science. They will gossip and ostracize. They will lie to themselves and others about having done all that and in so doing they will aid and abet the expansion of the epidemic by: Shaming people underground. Refusing them medical care. Price gouging for medical care. Trafficking in stereotypes. Showing little mercy. Feeling justified every step of the way. Again, all the while denying vehemently that they have let any of the above take place at all. There will of course be celebrity parties for charity so we can look forward to that, if you get tickets to that sort of thing. For the rest of us, fasten your seat belts because I've been on this train before and let me tell you — it'll be a bumpy ride.

  48. This comment makes me so sad because I suspect you are 100 right. Cruel shaming of anyone in trouble, poor, sick —- all wrapped up in a cloak of righteous indignation. The American way.

  49. IF we do not get our act together soon and vote in governments (around the world) firmly rooted in science, AND that are willing to tackle the major problems that we face NOW, then it will quickly spiral into who knows who and how much money they got. Look around and BILLIONS of people are becoming displaced by climate change, as well as continuous strife and one wonders how long ANY border is going to last. We see movie upon movie about apocalypses, whether they be of the zombie

  50. or virus type, or war type and they ALL end up the same. The government tries to corral the people and they eventually break through the barriers. Then the government is left with the decision to destroy its own citizens or not, It plays out again and again. We are ALREADY being limited in our freedoms to not only move around from country to country, but within them. We are not even allowed to be (loiter) in many cases when you think about it. Climate change is still the number one priority, and frankly people should be completely alarmed. What they usually see is only a few degrees difference here or there, or more water or less water here or there. We have had the HOTTEST decade (year after) in the history of mankind. A few thousand people perishing is tragic. Anyone having their life lost is. However the numbers are astronomical in comparison to what is going on in far away places. Those people affected have nowhere to go. We are all in this together. It is not us versus them.

  51. Social media has brought the worst in people, and it has reached to an uncontrollable state. We have already seen rumors and fake news popping up most prominently on chat groups and social here in Hong Kong, such as Telegram, LIHKG and Whatsapp. Its impacts run deep in the community. I’ve experience both SARS epidemic and now this. Despite the fact that SARS was literally “closer to home” and proven (thus far) deadlier, we have seen people spiraling deeper and much quicker this time. Some might argue that the Hong Kong people must have been scarred by SARS. That might not be wrong, but we also seen the most prominent voices are often those radical ones who probably had no idea what happened 17 years ago. Ironically, while we all thought that we are more connected and informed through social, our judgment has become more severely clouded by the chatters. It is really sad to see as I remember how united we all were in 2003. Looking boarder, haven’t we learnt enough from how damaging the individual forums like 8chan can be? I realized that it is a sensitive subject, but we cannot just simply hide behind the reason of “freedom of speech” and do nothing about it anymore. It’s time.

  52. I don’t think the spread of a flu has anything to do with prejudice against groups, in fact it makes me think seeing everything that way is itself sort of viral. If the tools to fight a new outbreak involve things like quarantine, then it’s not being bigoted to wonder why this can’t be imposed more swiftly, efficiently, and completely. Instead, we have to contend with the unwillingness of the authorities to take action because of outcries like yours, and the effect is, same old same old, i.e. gradually spreading illness, which travels the same way people travel, i.e., by plane, or train, or sea. By the time we begin enforcement, it’s everywhere, which reinforces themes of the ineffectiveness of travel restrictions, which are then associated with bigotry, as you are doing here. FYI, I am a south Asian woman.

  53. @NH I agree completely! Especially the first point!

  54. There is a pandemic whether you are willing to admit it or not. Thousands of people, many of whom are totally unaware of their status, are presently infected. Thousands will die all over the globe before this is finished. There is no known, effective treatment for this life threatening malady. Yes, people should be alarmed .

  55. The food consumption and purchase habits of the Chinese, and the unimaginable tolerance in that country of such food habits, brought the world SARS. That was strike number one. It has brought the world coronavirus. That's strike number two. So let's say coronavirus ain't so deadly, and just 1 in 50 dies. Okay, we can relax a bit. But if the food consumption and purchase habits of the Chinese don't change, and that nation does not adopt and implement American and European standards for purity, markets, and animal safety fast, strike three is certainly coming. And who's to say it won't have a 50% death rate, or worse?

  56. @Snowball I agree. And I think we all have to be very careful about accusing people of racism when people point out the risks that are more commonly taken by certain cultural practices. I do not believe mentioning that is racism. It has to be part of the conversation about health and safety.

  57. @Snowball : If the death rate is 1 in 50 for a disease that spreads the same way as the flu, I really hope we won't be "relaxing a bit".

  58. Okay, when should we panic ? I trust the science, but do not trust the governments. I especially don't trust a government like China that controls the media and the social network in their country. I do not believe that China has been truthful as to the magnitude of this outbreak. Are you going to tell me that only people from Wuhan travel to France , Japan , Australia etc.etc ? We are constantly lied to by the government but now we are supposed to believe that we are being given the true facts and figures ? I was born in the morning, but it wasn't this morning.

  59. I agree that the reaction to the epidemic may indeed be destructive. But the epidemic itself may be far worse. The two most salient facts about this epidemic are that it is highly contagious and that it may be spread by non-symptomatic victims. History suggests that what is coming is a pandemic of major proportions, probably the worst since 1918. The country should be mobilizing all of its resources to deal with the consequences. I hope that it is.

  60. @Richard Cohen a pandemic is coming for sure, but when? You're only going to really know after the fact. By all means, stay safe, but the public address system knows that you can not keep keeping the threat level at High without it becoming meaningless.

  61. @MJ The problem here is that we see a virus that appears to be as contagious as the flu but with a death rate that is at least an order of magnitude higher. The cat is already out of the bag, so far as this epidemic is concerned. It cannot be stopped, but we can and must prepare for it to sweep across the world and the United States.

  62. With appreciation to Dr. Rosenthal for her opinion and contribution earlier on taking cautionary measures in addressing this new virus. Strong as an ox, a young friend now has come down with a rare case of the flu and is bedridden with his one-year old. It was inevitable that 'Coronavirus' joined our exchange because there is a sense of panic growing in America. There is no cure for it, he added, while I made him laugh by mentioning there is no remedy for a common head cold. Now. I am worried about his health and that of his young family because he is not protected by a vaccination. When we go insular in our thinking and ignore what is happening 'elsewhere', we fail to realize that our planet is linked, and that what is taking place on another continent does not affect us. On occasion, 'Whatever' shows up at Our Door, in the form of a political, economic or health issue. The blaming of this illness is already being placed on a mass of over one billion people, and we would do better to listen to our scientists and health experts on how to address this contagious fear. Thank you, Farhad Manjoo, for your reminder.

  63. Read Albert Camus La Peste. A stunning characterization of collective fear and psychosis that grips a society. The fearful over-reaction to an infected cell, person or society is what causes the real damage, not the malady itself. The hero of the story is a doctor who pushed aside fear and courageously confronted the disease -- a metaphor with lessons that are relevant to the coronavirus and the such crises.

  64. @GM La Peste is also a criticism of Nazism, « la peste brune, » so it is indeed very apt reading these days.

  65. It is complacency not panic that is threat.

  66. Panic is a waste of energy too. How about informed concern? That's way better!

  67. Honestly, it's kind of too much to ask us not to be scared. I heard a health expert say it is spread by cough or sneeze at a distance of up to six feet. Picture yourself on a crowded rush hour subway, with one person on your right sniffling, the one on your left coughing. You are trapped. The subway is a petri dish. Easier not to be scared if you are not in a crowded urban areas or if your work doesn't involve close contact in small quarters with a lot of different people! Would be nice to work from home but all of us can't do that.

  68. @Clarice if you're an old man with health issues then you have something to be concerned with-- otherwise, keep walking.

  69. It is without question that much of the panic regarding the Cornavirus is due to none other than pure racism towards Chinese people. The emergence of the virus within China feeds a long held stigma that Chinese people are “dirty” and to some extent “barbaric” through the consumption of non traditional animals by certain groups (particularly in the south) of the country. People must realize that this outbreak could have occurred in any of the numerous countries (including the US) where certain groups consume meat from unconventional sources. By all accounts, the growing panic toward the virus (which has been proven less virulent than the flu) only underscores the power of these biases. More recently, reports have come out that people are questioning whether Chinese products purchased on Amazon contain the virus. Certainly the threat of the coronavirus should be taken seriously, but that can be done with stigmatizing and slandering an entire country of people.

  70. @chinaspecialist, with respect, your accusation of racism is nonsense. I have neither heard nor read any racist take on the coronavirus outbreak. The only Chinese-specific criticism I have seen is of the government’s delayed response, and much of that criticism is coming from the Chinese themselves. There has been widespread disgust at the way animals were caged and tortured at the Wuhan wet market, but that kind of animal abuse is rife throughout Asia, and the criticism (and horror) is not new, and is not specific to the coronavirus. The mode of infection is, however, unique to that specific practice of unsanitary (wild) animal caging and slaughter. Your statement that it could spoken anywhere is wrong. It’s fiction. You can say anything here. You can say the world is flat. But you cannot make fiction fact.

  71. @chinaspecialist Charging others with "racism" is a handy tactic to avoid facing facts. The fact is that both SARS and the Wuhan Coronavirus emerged in China and then spread to other countries. China doesn't get a free pass on this one.

  72. I agree this is all hype. It is the middle of winter in Wuhan and there is another strain of flu going around with very similar symptoms. All the people that have died as far as I know were elderly or had preexisting conditions. Although the mortality rate is stated at around 2 % how many people with regular viral flu would actually have the corona virus. No one outside China has died and statistically more people have been killed or injured by lightning strikes since the outbreak began.

  73. @luke, your statement that “ All the people that have died...were elderly or had preexisting conditions” is not true.

  74. Oh Ya - "All the people that have died as far as I know were elderly or had preexisting conditions" - so pretty much nothing to worry about. You know - losing those people ... right ?

  75. It’s so easy to be flip and say don’t worry because it’s “just” X number of people who have died from this, or who died from SARS. But if you are one of those people or someone who loved one of those people, this is huge (SARS had the potential to be a much bigger mess than it was). If you currently have relatives and friends in China and know they are on lock down, you are right to worry. Things are very bad there. Everyone matters. Many people are frightened, and have good reason to be. Millions of people in China are suffering from the consequences of the government’s emergency measures, and many more than have been reported may have been infected, and even died, without being tallied. This is not a time for arrogance, second guessing, or cynicism, but for compassion. And for staying put, if you can. I have canceled my plans for an international trip in the next several months. My spouse who travels to Asia frequently is staying home for the foreseeable future, as is a friend who spends a lot of time in China. Why risk getting sick? Why add to the travel confusion, if you don’t have to? Best to just stay out of the way. It’s a good time to get outside and clean up the garden. Clean air and good microbes.

  76. So far, the Wuhan coronavirus is not much more frightening than the outbreaks of other recent coronaviruses like SARS in 2003 or MERS in 2012, each of which killed fewer than a thousand people around the world. The new virus’s death toll has just exceeded 130; for context, according to the CDC, about 15 million Americans have been sickened by the seasonal flu so far in the 2019-2020 flu season, and 8,200 have died from it. (The flu kills between 300,000 and 650,000 people around the world annually.) A very important quote which i will be using a lot in the upcoming weeks. Context is everything, it is also very boring and doesn't press the adrenaline buttons like fear and panic, and therefore is also overlooked and ignored.

  77. The vibe I feel on social media could be described not as "panic," but as a sort of "post-ironic panic." This is old school panic combined with contemporary skepticism. It's very strange.

  78. Apparently many people are staying home, not circulating, not working, in China. If people take an extra week or two of vacation, and many people wear masks while they are out, they may slow or stop the epidemic in China. We are coming into spring, which is drier, and healthier. So the epidemic may slow for spring and summer. But if it moves slowly through the population, it may come back next fall and winter. The 1918 flu ran for 2 years.So it's important that the countries realize that there need to be a lot of masks available for people for the next 2 years. I may need to insist on quarantines and surveillance. People will change their hygienic practices to the more modern practices that China and Asia have adopted already. As an American I've been ashamed of the way my countrymen are so careless, ignorant, and selfish. Most of them sneeze and cough without covering it all. The facts are, sneezing and coughing are the best ways to spread these viruses. You can spread the virus by mucus or other body fluids but most of us aren't that close to other people. If we wanted to keep our family safe we should sleep separately from them and practice good hygiene at home. wearing a mask, quarantining ourselves, staying out of the kitchen and using a separate bath if possible. Paper tissues are not good for stopping the spread of disease. Manufacturers realize that people don't like getting their hands wet, so they made them impermeable. so all the sneeze goes out the sides.

  79. Giving some thought to the situation, I once bought 2000 masks. Over the last 10 years I've been giving them away every winter. I don't have many left. But I did experiment with polar fleece. I cut them up into 8 inch squares, washed and dried them to get rid of the lint. I thought they made excellent handkerchiefs. In a pinch I would use polar fleece for masks, or perhaps two layers of another fleece. Folding the upper edge of the mask down and having it on the inside of the mask would provide a seal almost as good as a mask with a metal guide piece. If temporarily exposed, say in a store, pulling out the fleece handkerchief and covering your nose and mouth will give you some protection.

  80. The reason coronavirus is more worrisome than the flu, is that the death rate is higher compared to the number of people with the disease.

  81. Some years at the local urgent care I worked everybody who came to clinic had the flu. The waiting room was jammed with people. Mostly kids. Even people who took the flu vaccine. The flu is a virus and the only thing that can be done once one gets it is treat the symptoms. Drink plenty of fluids, nsaids for fever,and rest. The flu vaccine is a good place to start but washing hands covering ones mouth when coughing or sneezing etc are best prevention. Children and old people are the most vulnerable to serious illness from the flu especially people with serious medical conditions.

  82. Not a chance with Trump in charge, but if nothing he is extremely predictable, he will do whatever is in his best interest and not that of our country or the rest of humanity of that you can be sure.

  83. This is one of the more lucid takes on the entire Wuhan virus and I'm glad it was featured as an NYT Op-Ed. That said, NYT--like other publications--is benefiting from the clickbait nature of the situation and is leaning into the panic side of things, ultimately feeding the fires Farhad Manjoo is worried about. I wish the NYT reporting were more measured and more contextualized so that readers could understand the risk and the uncertainty surrounding it in a more educated manner. I also wish their headlines were less sensationalized; why say that there are "More cases than SARS" instead of "There are still only 1% of annual flu cases and 0.3% of annual flu deaths" or some such?

  84. Clicking the Health page on digital NYT I found 13 (!!) articles on the Coronavirus from the last 2 days. Opinion has 3 op-eds today(so far). So who is amping the response and fueling the fires?

  85. You are underestimating the virus and the potential reaction.

  86. A much more serious problem for hospitals is Candida autos. It is a killer of a fungus and is posing serious concerns in many hospitals, particularly those whose patient population includes recent immigrants or overseas travelers. Google it and read the CDC reports!

  87. While no society is perfect....the conditions that helped create this virus and others has its roots in China’s utterly cruel and inhumane treatment of animals. While the author and others may feel this plays into cultural stereotypes, the fact is, much of the world’s wildlife is being literally being consumed out of existence...by the second most powerful and advanced country on earth. Species, after species are being poached, smuggled and then slaughtered to feed the growing and insatiable demand of these so called “wet” markets and traditional “medicine” shops... Instead of educating the public about this quackery, the government has been going around the world promoting the nonexistent benefits of medicating oneself with mutilated tiger parts, tortured bear bile, pangolin scales, shark fins, skinned donkeys and slaughtered rhinos and elephants. Yes, panic overtaking reason is a legitimate fear, but so is having niceties and pieties blotting out the truth.

  88. Farhad... you are not being helpful with this statement: So far, the Wuhan coronavirus is not much more frightening than the outbreaks of other recent coronaviruses like SARS in 2003 or MERS in 2012, each of which killed fewer than a thousand people around the world. Only events and actions lining up exactly correct prevented SARS and MERS from becoming true world pandemics. Both had fatality rates way above the 1918 flu pandemic. As for the current coronavirus.. it is simply too soon to tell what the transmission rates and fatality rates are for the virus. It has been classified by world health organizations as "novel" in nature.. meaning.. there is no vaccine or cure for it. The only current line of defense is to isolate human to human contact to the maximum extent possible and for humans to use safe health practices (which many humans simply will not do). Now.. is the public over-reacting... or could it over-react? Sure. Masks for example.. are being worn by some with no actual objective reason for doing so.. and largely ignoring a primary latent transmission pathway --> foamites left behind by an infected person on some physical object that is later touched by another. ALL of us.. you included Farhad need to assume the worst of this virus until objective data from qualified professionals tells us otherwise. The fact that there appear to be some cases of humans contracting the virus from asymptomatic humans should worry everyone.

  89. It seems like only yesterday that America was in the grip of a vaping epidemic. Just before that it was Hillbilly Elegy and the opioid crisis. I'm not saying that none of these events are unimportant, but the press does seem to come across as "The Boy Who Cried Wolf," only they don't do it for entertainment purposes, but for entertainment-styled ratings.

  90. As others mentioned, it's the fatality rate and unknown infection behavior, unknown complications, etc that is important. Comparing this to counts of flu cases is meaningless. The other eye roll about reading this article is the ease of poo pooing this panic while safely far away and not infected. If a breakout with all these unknowns occurred close to home with friends and loved ones seeing a 1% to 2% mortality rate - I'd really like to see the author "no big deal" -ing that scenario.

  91. The author writes: "Consider that 30 years after the AIDS outbreak, men who have sex with men are still restricted from donating blood in the United States, long after the scientific basis for such a ban has passed." Actually, people who are HIV+ are still denied the ability to immigrate to the U.S., even if their spouse is an American citizen. That seems a lot more significant that not being able to donate blood.

  92. Hey. Farhad, I usually like your frankness. But don't minimize the danger and the damage that coronavirus causes until we have definitive information. I'm Asian-American and I have relatives from China. They and I have long been critical of the health risks of China's markets and the tendency of the government to mishandle outbreaks of disease so as to turn them into pandemics.

  93. Tell your readers not to buy masks if they haven't been infected, because when stores run out, leaving people who have been infected unable to buy masks for themselves, there really will be a dangerous epidemic. Tell them to just keep practicing good hygiene and not engage in panic-buying of things they don't need.

  94. Comrades. After so many years of self-promotion to its people, I am curious how the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) will spin this event to maintain its grip on the Nuevo riche class and the proletariat. After all, Beijing is accountable, right? The yuan stops there. Shanghai (24 million) looks like a ghost town. Shanghai. Vacant. Deserted. Apocalyptic. Few people on the subway. Sheltering in place in skyscrapers. Hoarding masks, food water. No shopping. In the land of sharp elbows, elbows just got sharper. The economic, political and social implications of this may be the end of the CCP, unless they can distract over a billion people with a war.

  95. Australia’s former conservative Treasurer Peter Costello, who was appointed (by the conservatives) to head the government’s Future Fund, has already stated that the Coronavirus outbreak is a much bigger threat that climate change. Accordingly he has no intention of directing the Fund’s investments away from climate change linked industries, as the US investment company BlackRock has announced they will do ... (sigh).

  96. The restriction on blood donation by gay men may be overly cautious, but your pushback most definitely has a social justice element to it. For any health decision I make for a loved one I would prefer the most cautious science to the most generous social justice motivation. You are of course free to put a needle in your child's arm, or avoid inoculation, if your politics call for it.

  97. Social media is the bane of modern times, it's usefulness largely illusory (people with simpatico interests have always found some mean of coming together) it's harms more and more glaringly obvious. It's as almost as though humanity has by accident subjected itself forever to the loudest most obnoxious voices in the room. Whoever comes up with an escape from prevailing social media conditions that doesn't involve Unibomber style withdrawal from the world could be the next Mark Zuckerberg, only richer and happier.

  98. This virus is quite a bit more deadly than the flu (>2% mortality rate vs <.1%), and appears to be quite a bit more contagious than either SARS or MERS. Particularly troubling is the fact that it appears to spread from people before they show signs of illness. The death rate will also go up significantly if infection rates increase because many people with the disease require hospitalization, and a full on pandemic will overwhelm healthcare systems. You are foolish to think it doesn't require a vigorous response, and your insinuation that the Chinese reaction has been politically motivated appears to be based on your preconceived notions of that government. If anything, more drastic reductions in travel to and from the affected areas are called for.

  99. Based on the comments I’ve been reading on the virus update section, the emotional contagion is alive and well. (Another article was about face masks disappearing so fast they fear for health workers.) Some people posting comments sound unhinged with panic. Others are already on the conspiracy theory track—biological warfare, etc. Sigh. Can’t we just shut down the internet for awhile?

  100. When you say that quarantines should not be used because they have been used politically in the past, *you* are making an argument on political grounds. How woke do you have to be to be complaining about something that have not even happened yet. A good article would look at expert advice and look at what the government does in response and compare them. This article did not do that. And the prof you interviewed doesn’t know how the Chinese public health system works either. Your opinion is wonderful. Next time, do an article quoting experts and don’t do an editorial. We would be better informed by expert opinion. You would feel better telling us your opinion.

  101. I agree with the author that we need to be vigilant about making sure that we don’t allow our fears about spreading the virus to be an excuse for discriminating against Chinese people specifically and all Asians more generally. However... I am beyond angry that China’s idiotic and inhuman practice of operating wildlife markets continues to threaten the health and safety of all of us. There should be an international committee established to develop standards to monitor things like this and severe consequences for those who don’t comply.

  102. "Social media, she added, “should be recognized as a global public-health threat.” Facebook and others present the biggest threat to not only health but our democracy with all the fake news and no desire to stop it because of the constant flow of the gold coins. Five million people already left Wuhan so the horse has already left the barn and this is typical of China who has know about the virus since Dec 11 and did nothing just as they did with SARS.

  103. I make a habit of not commenting on articles I haven't fully read yet I have to comment on this piece having only read about 2/3rds of it after suffering an allergic reaction. Here are just 2 examples why: “Tech giants have been racing to tamp down conspiracy theories and hoaxes about the Wuhan virus…” “Consider that 30 years after the AIDS outbreak, men who have sex with men are still restricted from donating blood in the United States…” Seriously? Tech giants are now supposed to be the final arbiter regarding health effects? Well, pass the smokes, the drink, the global warming and the oxy as I'm feeling a bit less than healthy. I have nothing whatsoever against gay relationships but recent statistics show that 70% or more of HIV infections in the US are found to originate in the gay/bisexual male community. It's really a "This gun isn't loaded argument and I'm not going to rest my head on the end of the barrel m'kay? I'm a scientist and I have often found similarities between the scientific method and journalism. You posit a hypothesis, gather and review data and test and re-test your hypothesis. Having found no such methodology here, rather, a self-fulfilling prophecy, I moved on.

  104. Not many people who read NYT fall for this stuff, so you're writing to the wrong audience. But there is a woeful lack of ability to reason and discern truth from fiction in the U.S. and elsewhere. This is amplified by the profit-driven sensationalist media, because fear equates to eyeballs--then you can sell your audience to advertisers.

  105. Prevention is better than cure, this likely won’t change the majority of our lives and fizzle our but only because of the precautions I’m very glad the decisions aren't made by you. Read about Samoa recently and the surprise measles outbreak killing families by the time you realise it’s a problem it’s too late that is why a bit of panic is good. Look at the lockdown in Wuhan you cant even imagine the difference in numbers if they had your attitude

  106. Said thing we all said about Trump's election.

  107. I'd trust the government a lot more if they'd done us a favor and banned all travelers arriving from China as soon as this virus emerged. But no, it's better to be dead than politically incorrect.

  108. The Chinese government failed to shut down their wet markets after SARS. They are responsible for the Wuhan Coronavirus.

  109. I cannot breathe wearing a mask, so I guess I’ll die?

  110. It’s simple common sense, just like with heavy outbreaks of the “ regular “ Flu. Stay home, if you can. Avoid optional gatherings with many people present. Try to stay well hydrated and well rested. Avoid the obviously sick. Good Luck.

  111. You also might want to worry about the viciously cruel wildlife markets which are so prevalent in China. My worry is that once this panic has died down, the Chinese government will restore these hellish places.

  112. So, this columnist thinks that the real problem is racist white people, and that quarantines and travel bans are just expressions of white racism. This doesn't surprise me coming from the NYT. Mr Manjoo is typical of the kind of woke liberal who is going to help Trump get elected to a second term. The comparisons to the flu are misleading. The modeling about where this epidemic could go points to something much worse. The Lancet recently reported that of the first 41 patients 15% died. 32% of the initial patients required ICU care, and it seems a good guess that all of them would have died if there had been no ICU space available. Elsewhere it is being reported that the doubling time is about 7 days, and there are currently 7835 confirmed cases worldwide. If the containment measures don't work, then seventeen weeks from now we could be looking at 1 billion cases, with 320 million needing ICU care which they would not get due to bed shortages. However the real issue, according to Manjoo, is racist oppression of marginalized people.

  113. Thank you for your rational and thoughtful article.

  114. "BEIJING (REUTERS, AFP) - China’s National Health Commission said on Thursday (Jan 30) the total number of confirmed deaths from the coronavirus in the country has risen by 38 to 170 as of end-Wednesday, as the number of infected patients rose by more than 1,700. "The commission said in a statement there were 7,711 confirmed cases as of the end of Wednesday, with an additional 12,167 suspected cases." https://www.straitstimes.com/asia/east-asia/china-virus-evacuations-begin-as-death-toll-hits-162-in-hubei

  115. I was waiting for this from the NYtimes - what took so long. Basically blaming trump and racism on the response to coronavirus - that is how the left wing will perceive this editorial.

  116. Right, the actual experts at the World Health Organization state that: "WHO advises against the application of any restrictions of international traffic based on the information currently available on this event." https://www.who.int/ith/2020-27-01-outbreak-of-Pneumonia-caused-by-new-coronavirus/en/. This disease is most likely going to cause orders of magnitude fewer deaths than an ordinary flu season. The Chinese government's quarantine is a mass authoritarian overreaction, just like how the Xinjiang reeducation camps were their overreaction to the real but limited problem of Uighur terrorism. It's sad to see misinformed people in the free world start calling for a similar authoritarian overreaction.

  117. Another form of denial is refusal to recognize when real danger requires emergency measures. This is an epidemic in China now and could become a global pandemic in a few weeks. This article is not accurate. Please read "Early Transmission Dynamics in Wuhan, China, of Novel Coronavirus–Infected Pneumonia" by Q Li et al., that appeared in the New England Journal of Medicine today. We need to maintain quarantines and take actions to require potentially infected contacts to shelter in place and not spread infection, while prevention is still possible. This article is in denial of the real danger.

  118. I will withhold comments and opinions about this coronovirus disease until I see some analytical articles in either Science or Nature. (I am a subscriber to both.)

  119. get a clue!! One of the research teams calculated that in its early stages, the epidemic doubled in size every 7.4 days. That measure, called the epidemic’s “serial interval,” reflects the average span of time that elapses from the appearance of symptoms in one infected person to the appearance of symptoms in the people he will go on to infect. In the early stages of the outbreak, each infected person who became ill is estimated to have infected 2.2 others, according to the study in the New England Journal of Medicine. That makes the new coronavirus roughly as communicable as was the 1918 Spanish flu, which killed 50 million and became the deadliest pandemic in recorded history. To halt the growth of the virus’ spread and allow the epidemic to burn itself out, health officials in China are going to have to cut the rate at which the germ is passing from person to person by more than half. That could be done by quarantining anyone who’s ill, by closing down schools or workplaces or social gatherings, or eventually by administering a vaccine that does not currently exist. Even under the most optimistic scenarios, Derek Cummings, a University of Florida expert in the spread of infectious diseases said, “a lot of control needs to take place.”

  120. IF we do not get our act together soon and vote in governments (around the world) firmly rooted in science, AND that are willing to tackle the major problems that we face NOW, then it will quickly spiral into who knows who and how much money they got. Look around and BILLIONS of people are becoming displaced by climate change, as well as continuous strife or war and one wonders how long ANY border is going to last. We see movie upon movie about apocalypses, whether they be of the zombie type, or virus type, or war type and they ALL end up the same. The government tries to corral the people and they eventually break through the barriers. Then the government is left with the decision to destroy its own citizens or not, It plays out again and again. We are ALREADY being limited in our freedoms to not only move around from country to country, but within them. We are not even allowed to be (loiter) in many cases when you think about it. Climate change is still the number one priority, and frankly people should be freaking out. What they usually see is only a few degrees difference here or there, or more water or less water here or there. We have had the HOTTEST decade (year after) in the history of mankind. A few thousand people perishing is tragic. Anyone having their life lost is. However the numbers are astronomical in comparison to what is going on in far away places. Those people affected have nowhere to go. We are all in this together. It is not us versus them.

  121. Yes! Thank you! I can always count on you to deliver the unpopular but logical opinion. Now let the wave of panicked comments that you're downplaying this commence.

  122. Just as there were those opposing contact tracing at the beginning of the AIDS epidemic based on privacy concerns, we now see the Times continuing to promote an extreme position that quarantines are ineffective, based on “experience” from the Middle Ages and the writings of particular medical historian - not a medical epidemiologist - who has consistently conflated isolation of victims with social issues. While everyone is apparently entitled to their opinion, shouldn’t Times columnists have some direct content knowledge and be required to do a little homework?

  123. OK. What's the difference between a "pandemic" and an "epidemic".

  124. The classic example of free speech that's not protected is yelling "fire" in a crowded theater. Except crowds today gather not in theaters but online, on social media, on Facebook and Twitter. As Mr. Manjoo quotes a public health expert, the contagion deadlier than a virus is panic and lies borne online and spread instantaneously, light years faster than any microbe can infect. Lies accelerate at the speed of fear, prejudice and hate. Social contagion is deadly for people but also for democracy predicated on majority consent for legitimate authority. Panic and social fear can also be measured by inequality: poor people have fewer options other than hoping for the best. It's ironic that the people of India can vote but don't have access to basic sanitation such as toilets. Unsaid of course is access to affordable medical care, malnutrition, and lack of agency in the face of danger. America's homophobia dismissed the gravity of HIV/AIDS because it was "gay cancer" until we learned it wasn't. Drug addiction wasn't a crisis until it wasn't just Blacks in the hood dying from overdoses and criminalization. It's telling that we say something goes "viral" when it spreads instantly online. Viral on social media is the ka-ching sound that's music to the ears of Zuckerberg, Dorsey and other billionaires that own the big digital pipelines. They make more from electrifying lies than accepting responsibility for their greed. If Zuckerberg could patent pandemics he would.

  125. “ must suffer the Consequences “. Please, Trump Fans: Provide ONE example of Him suffering any consequences for anything in his entire misbegotten LIFE. Please, go ahead. I’ll wait. HELLO ???

  126. Maybe the NYTimes will stop giving it daily prominent coverage, huh?

  127. Yes - very odd, human behavior isn't it ? Far more people are murdered & killed with guns and weapons every year. Far more folks are killed with automobiles. On & on .... But the world isn't freaking out about any of those ? Why is that ? Humans are crazy ...

  128. @Dheep' Hmm, but lions, wolves, dingos, orcas, raptors are sane?

  129. As someone who has studied emerging viruses for many years, I believe you are seriously underestimating the potential danger - mainly because we still cannot predict the next stages of the outbreak and we still lack an understanding of how many people will be infected, and how many of those will develop severe disease or die. Doing everything in our power to control the virus - if that is still possible - and to prevent infection is really necessary. It is still not clear how similar this virus and its disease are to SARS, and some of the unknowns could clearly lead to very serious outcomes. While unnecessary panic is to be avoided, that does not mean we have good ideas how this will play out or that they will not be severe.

  130. @Colinpny Well stated!

  131. @Colinpny in short, this op-ed is irresponsible. And laced with ignorance.

  132. Panic is not helpful, there is no doubt about it. On the other hand, apathy isn't helpful either. I consistently oppose efforts to compare this to the flu. Many people get the flu, but its current mortality rate is extremely low, around 0.1%. If it wasn't for antivaxxers that figure would probably be even lower. This coronavirus, on the other hand, appears to spread rapidly and has a mortality rate of something between 2%-4% with no vaccine at all. Now imagine if the flu had a death rate of just 1%. Should that make people panic? No, especially because we don’t know where this is going to go. Hopefully it will peak and go away. But if might not. Shoulder shrugging comparisons to the flu every time a new virus emerges does not engender support for investment in healthcare and research, the two fields that will be everyone’s ally in the event that this or another virus in the future does become deadly on a large scale. So by all means, cut through the racists and the doomsdayers (they're going to take advantage of these situations regardless), but don't dismiss the seriousness of the matter by resorting to the flu comparison.

  133. @Joe C Well stated Joe.

  134. 'So far, President Trump has offered a measured response to the virus. “We have it totally under control,” he said this week. And this is supposed to reassure us?

  135. @Karen It's not even measured. It's a cover up

  136. Beware above all the China Bashing; the NYT is deeply into it, in a way that is both shameful, and embarrassing, and proof yet again that we are a rapidly declining former empire.

  137. Yeah the hype is horrifying. Half the headlines I see about the damn virus in NYT or WaPo inset the word 'Deadly' in headlines about coronavirus. "Deadly" is hype. Stats I'm reading about the virus suggest a death rate of 5% or less. Sounds like an illness comparable to flu. And the death rates we're seeing probably overestimate the actual death rate because they're based not on all cases but on the ones that are bad enough to send the patient to the hospital, or at least to the doctor. STOP WITH THE STOOPIT DEADLY HYPE, Times and WaPo.

  138. Re: "...Beware the Pandemic Panic... Coronavirus is scary. How we respond to it may be worse..." ...Precisely! So, far...there are a few thousand people, infected, and a few hundred deaths. A lot of inconvenience, unplanned expense, 'N, some terribly, tragic (premature) deaths. Unpleasant as these casualties are...we're nowhere near the infection/ death statistics from the 1918 Influenza Pandemic, nor the 1340 Pneumococcal Pandemic, aka, the 'Black_Death'. We haven't reached the morbidity / morality of either Ebola, OR Hiv_Aids; thus...it is VERY important that we keep calm, and deal with this situation, and equally important we NOT over-react...with the possible exception, of the scammers, 'N, 'snake oil' sales-force, trying to take fraudulent econo-advantage, as they always do, in response to tragedies! For them...I recommend* 'defenestration', an age, old remedy as appropriate deterrent / punishment! BTW: My favorite, (Steven King), novel is "The Stand', which is centered around a human_engineered, ('B.-W.M.D.'), influenza, ("Capt. Tripps"), that get's, out of level 4 bio-containment. *{https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Defenestration#Notable_cases}

  139. First of all the panic is being caused by the media. The media is very good at scaring the hell out of people. Nothing like a new scary virus to sell papers and bring eyes to the evening news. But the real blame goes to the leaders of the world , signing trade deals, adding to deep pockets , while nobody is ahead of this. The best of the world are running big companies , trying to make even more money, they hire the best there is out of Harvard and Yale to help them make money but the weird thing is the virus doesn’t really care if you are rich or poor or black and white , if anything a World wide threat should bring the world together but even this can’t unite mankind, there is a suicidal nature to the human race , a fear and hatred of living, which is why people are so quick to go to war and even in the countries that allow elections elect the same sort of people who rise to power in totalitarian regimes. With the right leadership this virus should have been stopped in its tracks long ago , but people are to busy talking tough and bragging to come to grips with reality. So now we have this. Let us hope the leaders of the world can learn to work together and the people of this planet can learn to elect the best rather than the brashest

  140. @Lonnie Yes, China shut down a city because of undue media coverage in the US.

  141. Count on the NYT to congratulate itself on giving special consideration to "racial and religious minorities". Neither the disease or any possible reaction has anything to do with this.

  142. IF we do not get our act together soon and vote in governments (around the world) firmly rooted in science, AND that are willing to tackle the major problems that we face NOW, then it will quickly spiral into who knows who and how much money they got. Look around and BILLIONS of people are becoming displaced by climate change, as well as continuous strife or war and one wonders how long ANY border is going to last. We see movie upon movie about apocalypses, whether they be of the z0mbie type, or virus type, or war type and they ALL end up the same. The government tries to corral the people and they eventually break through the barriers. Then the government is left with the decision to destroy its own citizens or not, It plays out again and again. We are ALREADY being limited in our freedoms to not only move around from country to country, but within them. We are not even allowed to be (loiter) in many cases when you think about it. Climate change is still the number one priority, and frankly people should be freaking out. What they usually see is only a few degrees difference here or there, or more water or less water here or there. We have had the HOTTEST decade (year after) in the history of mankind. A few thousand people perishing is tragic. Anyone having their life lost is. However the numbers are astronomical in comparison to what is going on in far away places. Those people affected have nowhere to go. We are all in this together. It is not us versus them.

  143. Peeps are so predictably irrational. We get our panties all twisted over 130 coronavirus deaths while blithely ignoring our willful destruction of the environment in which we all live.

  144. The biggest problem is we have an incompetent president who won't know how to deal with this kind of scientific stuff... When Ebola hit while President Obama was in office, Republicans blamed him for it, yet, his policies saved us.

  145. the "...conspiracy theories and hoaxes about the Wuhan virus..." that worry me are the numbers being released by the Chinese Government and their narrative about where and how it originated.

  146. @Mary Elizabeth Lease I would be more worried about the conspiracy theories.

  147. Interesting...Europeans “protected” themselves from contracting the Black Plague by wearing masks...

  148. The impact from The NY Times on this would have resonantly far more with me if if came from outside the Editorial pages. No direct offense to Farhad but he does write about the great pronoun wars with equal seriousness. China has no real free press so the information from there is highly suspect. We don’t know what we don’t know but the information we are getting does seems to indicate that this is worse then originally thought. NYT: can we get some insights here from the journalistic side? Then we can hear, and better evaluate the opinions from the Opinion pages.

  149. I have a neurogenic cough (triggered not by external irritants but by my body's response to cold temperatures). The subways and buses are full of drafts. If I start to cough, I try to suppress it, but people tend to drift away from me. It's not a bad way to get a seat. I used to say very loudly: "I'm not contagious--it's not pathogenic--it's neurogenic." And people might laugh (if they understood medicalese). But now, it's better not to say anything at all. These are serious times. I wanted to see a film about Shanghai. But I have to rethink the medical and political implications.

  150. Mr. Manjoo’s pseudo-scientific, politically motivated opinion about China’s efforts to contain the Wuhan coronavirus is eerily similar to the unmediated statements masquerading as expertise and in some cases as fact, that he decries. Indeed, while many residents of Wuhan may have left before the central government imposed an unprecedented cordon, common sense dictates that it is in our interest to have the people in the epicenter where there is a high concentration of the virus remain there and not traipse the virus throughout the world, even if that “could erode trust.” This is an emergency. Those who actually have the expertise to inform us about epidemiological considerations, unlike Mr. Manjoo, support China’s containment efforts.

  151. You might want to update your counts as more people have been quarantined, more have died, more infected, in more nations, with a "flu" that has no vaccine and spreads before symptoms are noted. Yes, it may be an over-reaction, but like with climate change, if you get it wrong thinking it's not too bad (now), therefore it won't be in the future, you may be in for a worse future.

  152. It's been widely stated that the best way to avoid this illness is to wash one's hands, just as with any virus. Likewise, most masks do not provide a lot of protection to wearers compared to handwashing. Finally, if people would simply stay home when ill, fewer would become ill in the first place. Panicked buying of face masks will not stop this virus, but common sense can.

  153. We should be scared, and worried. 8000 people are infected in 30 days and there is no cure.