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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Coronavirus has upended the world. Reading about a disease that can make the lungs drown in fluid and put the body into septic shock is utterly terrifying. I think everyone has now imagined the horror imagery of being connected to a breathing machine, gasping for the last breaths of life. This pandemic has me afraid for my life and my friends and families life. For the life of society as we knew it. At times though I go into a state of denial and my mind wanders into the "flu hoax". Let me share some of that perspective.

There is another global pandemic and it has been going on for a long time. Almost 150 years. Not influenza (the flu), which kills 250 to 500 thousand people in the world per year. Tuberculosis. Know anyone who has died from it? Probably not. Do American's get vaccinated for it or something? No. We test for it and only have an incidence of 2-3 per 100k people. For some perspective, in 2018, over two hundred thousand children died of Tuberculosis. Yes, 200,000 children in one year. The World Health Organization (everyone is familiar with them now) reports 1.5 million people die per year of tuberculosis. That's an average of over four thousand people dying per day, every day of the year. As of today 22 thousand people have died from Coronavirus worldwide.

https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/tuberculosis

We just passed world tuberculosis day, March 24. Nobody cared. So why don't we care about tuberculosis? Because it's not prevalent in America anymore. Or Europe. It's actually estimated that 1/4 of the worlds population has tuberculosis. Ironically from what I have read I believe that will likely be very similar to the global infection rate of coronavirus. Tuberculosis is also coincidentally a respiratory disease. It is most often spread person to person through respiratory droplets (coughing and sneezing). The death also being similar - respiratory distress. The difference being that SARS-CoV2 (coronavirus) kills much quicker. Not that a more drawn out death is more appealing.

I don't want to minimize the threat of coronavirus, but I think it helps to have some perspective. There is always pain and death in the world. It's always lurking right around the corner. I hope if you read this you will take a break from reading death counts and hospital supplies and capacity horror stories and enjoy the health, happiness, and loved ones you have.

 

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What makes coronavirus a big deal is that unlike flu viruses and tuberculosis, it will kill a lot more people really quickly if left unchecked.

Tuberculosis being unchecked elsewhere in the world is a massive problem. It is a really different kind of illness due to its current rarity in certain countries, the availability of a partially effective vaccine, and some effective methods of treatment (none of which apply to the SARS coronaviruses). If coronavirus became treatable, less fatal, possible to avoid with a vaccine, or was less easy to catch, we might end up treating it like tuberculosis (that is, a silent killer ignored in parts of the world until it gets someone you know). The drug-resistant forms of tuberculosis and the fact that it is latent in a quarter of the world's population also makes it hopeless to eradicate at the moment, which is frankly depressing.

Interestingly, Colorado Springs used to be a place that people would go to get treated for tuberculosis when it was much more common in the US.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Well put. Though I believe your argument is a bit of a strawman. As no disease goes “unchecked” in society. We may not have a vaccine (yet), and we may not have as many therapeutics (though many are being used), but we do similarly have testing capabilities and are attempting to regionally erradicate the virus. I think tuberculosis is way worse in that it’s been around 150 years and there is no “cure” or decent vaccine. I highly doubt 1.5million people will die of coronavirus this year or next year worldwide. Though it is likely if it went “unchecked” that hypothetical doesn’t exist. While we see that coronavirus does have viability in warmer and more humid climates I believe contagion will be somewhat seasonal. In that more sun and humidity will “slow the spread”. Sun is good for killing viruses and boosting immunity and viruses suspend longer in dryer air and indoors.
 

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Well put. Though I believe your argument is a bit of a strawman. As no disease goes "unchecked" in society. We may not have a vaccine (yet), and we may not have as many therapeutics (though many are being used), but we do similarly have testing capabilities and are attempting to regionally erradicate the virus. I think tuberculosis is way worse in that it's been around 150 years and there is no "cure" or decent vaccine. I highly doubt 1.5million people will die of coronavirus this year or next year worldwide. Though it is likely if it went "unchecked" that hypothetical doesn't exist. While we see that coronavirus does have viability in warmer and more humid climates I believe contagion will be somewhat seasonal. In that more sun and humidity will "slow the spread". Sun is good for killing viruses and boosting immunity and viruses suspend longer in dryer air and indoors.
Believe me, I hate strawman arguments and accuse people of it all the time. I'll do my best to correct that impression (or reality) since I thought both your posts on the topic were quite well argued and I don't argue in bad faith on principle. 😀

I think I was a bit imprecise when I said "unchecked" as it isn't a binary. Even some diseases before modern medicine weren't "unchecked".

Let me clarify my point a bit: tuberculosis in its current state is more harmful than coronavirus is likely to be. I think we agree on that?However, we are comparing tuberculosis with some mitigation against coronavirus with heavy mitigation (as you indicate: coronavirus unchecked is a counterfactual impossibility since we have already started "reacting" to it). But the level of harm we're talking about between these two is merely average deaths and perception of risk. What we also need to talk about is the cost of reacting and the risk over time.

The problem with a negative utilitarian approach of counting up risk quantitatively is that we may mistake a background threat that is harder to avoid (car crash injuries and deaths, cancer costs and death, asthma costs and deaths, maybe even many tuberculosis deaths) with an incomparably immediate threat that can be countered through direct action (perhaps coronavirus, some flu epidemics, the first SARS-COV-1 for sure). Looking at "the numbers" can lead us to mistake "cost" with harder-to-quantify risk over time.

If other countries could do what the United States or Canada did to lessen the threat of tuberculosis, they absolutely should treat that as an emergency until it is achieved. It's hard to say what's needed to be done for coronavirus as it will hit different countries worse (like Italy), and as you suggest we don't know whether it will be less virulent seasonally, or mutate to become more of a risk over time. One possibility that I don't hear people talk about is that something similar to this variety of coronavirus might become part of the human condition like colds, flu, cancers, or tuberculosis. That is a scary thought, but that's not a risk you can shut the economy down over. And I am not a pessimist - we're currently "winning" slowly against HIV/AIDS, some forms of cancer, and a lot of other societal ills.

There have been worse pandemics than tuberculosis. For example: bubonic plague and the Spanish Flu. Spanish Flu was mishandled in its time - if that hit today it would probably look less like tens of millions of people dying in two years and more like what we're seeing with the direct action and passive wariness in response to coronavirus.

Everyone reaches the point where we realize that the individual or collective utilitarian cost is too great to bear compared to the risk, whether that is mitigating coronavirus or any other large social project. Maybe we've already hit that point. Maybe it's a few months away. Maybe we won't even approach it as a society and we will do something approximating "the best that we can" without making undue sacrifices. It's probably too hard to tell right now.

I think you could say I'm an agnostic on the fundamental issue you brought up in your first post. A big skeptical shrug and deferring to the experts, I guess? Death is coming, life is short. 💀🌞
 

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Coronavirus has upended the world. Reading about a disease that can make the lungs drown in fluid and put the body into septic shock is utterly terrifying. I think everyone has now imagined the horror imagery of being connected to a breathing machine, gasping for the last breaths of life. This pandemic has me afraid for my life and my friends and families life. For the life of society as we knew it. At times though I go into a state of denial and my mind wanders into the "flu hoax". Let me share some of that perspective.

There is another global pandemic and it has been going on for a long time. Almost 150 years. Not influenza (the flu), which kills 250 to 500 thousand people in the world per year. Tuberculosis. Know anyone who has died from it? Probably not. Do American's get vaccinated for it or something? No. We test for it and only have an incidence of 2-3 per 100k people. For some perspective, in 2018, over two hundred thousand children died of Tuberculosis. Yes, 200,000 children in one year. The World Health Organization (everyone is familiar with them now) reports 1.5 million people die per year of tuberculosis. That's an average of over four thousand people dying per day, every day of the year. As of today 22 thousand people have died from Coronavirus worldwide.

https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/tuberculosis

We just passed world tuberculosis day, March 24. Nobody cared. So why don't we care about tuberculosis? Because it's not prevalent in America anymore. Or Europe. It's actually estimated that 1/4 of the worlds population has tuberculosis. Ironically from what I have read I believe that will likely be very similar to the global infection rate of coronavirus. Tuberculosis is also coincidentally a respiratory disease. It is most often spread person to person through respiratory droplets (coughing and sneezing). The death also being similar - respiratory distress. The difference being that SARS-CoV2 (coronavirus) kills much quicker. Not that a more drawn out death is more appealing.

I don't want to minimize the threat of coronavirus, but I think it helps to have some perspective. There is always pain and death in the world. It's always lurking right around the corner. I hope if you read this you will take a break from reading death counts and hospital supplies and capacity horror stories and enjoy the health, happiness, and loved ones you have.

Both Tuburculosis and eventually Covid
Will become TREATMENT RESISTANT.

THEY MUST FIRST FIND A COVID TREATMENT . . .
 

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I was going to say something in reply to the OP but @waldowainthrop covered it better than I could. I will say that in between the first part of the OP and the last part, may lie balance. Anyone likely reading this post likely has COVID-19 as the greater threat than TB, so that is what one must gear up for. But it's a question of balance. We of course all know that PANIC is self-defeating and should be avoided (to borrow a line from Dune: Fear is the mind killer).

Life is really just one big character test. If we stay as high-minded as possible through this latest threat to humanity I believe we have made progress up the evolutionary ladder. Even those who may succumb to the latest illness are ahead, if they just keep their head.

(The latent Moody Blues and Jefferson Airplane references are purely coincidental)
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
What we also need to talk about is the cost of reacting and the risk over time.
How can 150 years be compared to 4 months?

My purpose was to bring perspective. We are being bombarded with stats and scary news stories. My point was a reminder that death is a constant. We mustn't kill ourselves with fear. That being said I'm staying home. Food and internet is enough to keep me pretty happy. And walking. I stay home for all humans, not just me and I think a lot of people are doing the same. Let's see where else we can improve life, for everyone.

I'm surprised all of the likenings to the flu and hope that tuberculosis can get the attention it needs as it's the number one killer and for awhile. I don't value any humans life over another's. Why TB is such a problem in countries like China and India, I can only assume is due to poverty, though I'm sure there are many perspectives on this topic alone.
 

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How can 150 years be compared to 4 months?
If something is a risk in the present, we can only act now. Can we save more lives from TB today or COVID globally today? Whichever one it is, that's the one I want the resources spent on. It's probably COVID but if it's TB let's focus on that more (although not in the US because those returns are diminishing). I don't really pretend to know - that's for the experts to figure out in this case.

I don't value any humans life over another's.
Me too. This is a really defensible position ethically, but I find a lot of people don't share it. 😕
 
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