Mounting Anxiety over Coronavirus Unknowns

Coronavirus cases hit 6,000 this a.m. with deaths reaching 132, the AP reports—but flu is a much more dangerous enemy with 15 million cases and 8,200 deaths this season in the US alone, as Axios points out.

So, why are people so much more anxious about nCoV2019 cases?

It’s the uncertainties, write Lena Sun and Lenny Berstein in The Washington Post: How lethal and contagious is the virus? Can asymptomatic people spread it? Can it be contained in China?

China agreed yesterday to allow WHO experts in to help sort through those questions to inform a global battle plan, the WHO reports, as the case count surpassed the total (5,327) seen in China with SARS back in 2003.

But as David Quammen, author of Spillover, writes in a New York Times commentary, not only are there many unknowns about the current outbreak, we can’t know how dangerous it will be. He likens viral outbreaks to steel balls in a pinball machine: “You can slap your flippers at them, rock the machine on its legs and bonk the balls to the jittery rings, but where they end up dropping depends on 11 levels of chance as well as on anything you do. This is true with coronaviruses in particular: They mutate often while they replicate, and can evolve as quickly as a nightmare ghoul.”

See the latest news on the nCov2019 outbreak here

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