Quick Hits – On social media and mass hysteria!

When he published ‘Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds’ in 1841, Charles Mackay couldn’t possibly have perceived the advent of social media, but he certainly nailed one of it’s more deleterious possibilities.

It took years for the Dutch tulip mania, the Beanie Baby craze, and the Dotcom bubble to truly grip the populace before those financial flights of fancy faded overnight. But when you combine a relentless 24/7 news cycle with a dash of Facebook, these manias, and particularly the fear-based variety, can spontaneously erupt and reach a fever pitch in just a few short days.

And even though they almost always quickly fade with none of the predicted dire consequences ever coming to fruition, we’re always ready to buy into the very next panic. I keep telling you that humanity behaves in “waves” and this is another perfect example of that theory.

As you’ve likely already surmised, the coronavirus is our mania du jour and it certainly seemed to soar to new Facebook group heights this weekend. People are truly terrified of it, and when you consider the media fueling the rating frenzy fire and President Trump’s abysmally poor response to the pandemic, I don’t blame them.

Corona Virus

Who needs John Donne? There’s nothing quite like a virus to remind us of how connected we really are. But let’s take a deep breath and set aside all that fear for just a few minutes so we can take a more objective approach to the disease.

The first thing we need to do is understand the coronavirus’ current mortality rate is just a little bit worse that most of the 20th Century’s major outbreaks. And remember! The mortality rate only concerns those who actually contract the virus.

The exception, the 1918 Spanish influenza epidemic with its 20 percent mortality rate, killed 50 million people worldwide. The 1957-58 H2N2 virus, or “the Asian flu,” caused 1.5 million global deaths, and though the mortality rate can’t be accurately calculated, some researchers put it as high as 1 in 300. The 1968 H3N2 pandemic resulted in 1 million worldwide deaths, while 2009’s H1N1’s death toll was 150,000 to 575,000.

So, we’ve been here before and we’ll be here again. But please note that, given medical advances and a greater global preparedness, the death toll has decreased with each passing pandemic. This is why science is such a good thing, particularly when dealing with ever evolving pathogens.

Again, it can’t yet be precisely determined, but the coronavirus mortality rate in China has stabilized at around 3.8 percent, while the early European numbers put it at 2 percent there. So yes! It will likely be worse than 1957, 1968, and 2009, but not significantly so.

And that mortality rate is bound to be inflated because the Harvard Medical Blog reported that 80 percent of REPORTED coronavirus cases are so mild that sufferers recover in just three days. The BBC similarly noted that most corona cases go unreported which means the mortality rate is likely to be a lot closer to 1 percent.

To put that in perspective, you have a far greater chance of perishing in a car crash and that prospect certainly doesn’t encourage any of you drive any safer. Right now, we’re looking at 3,000 worldwide deaths with 2,912 of them occurring in China where the health care system certainly can’t be described as “First World.”

Then there’s the media failure to report exactly who’s dying from the disease. Here are the facts according to Worldometers.info:

  • 80 percent of decedents were male and 20 percent female
  • 80 percent were 60 and older
  • 75 percent had an underlying issue like heart disease, diabetes, or cancer
  • The mortality rate for 0- to 49-year-olds is just 0.2 to 0.4 percent

That means, as is the case with any annual flu, those with preexisting conditions and the elderly need to be particularly careful. And by “careful” I mean as the World Health Organization suggests:

  • Maintain a social “distance” of three feet if you can
  • Don’t touch any part of your face in public, particularly your nose, mouth, or eyes
  • Wash your hands frequently
  • Stay hydrated
  • Disinfect commonly used household surfaces
  • Avoid congested areas like train stations and airports if you can
  • If you do get flu symptoms, see a doctor immediately
  • Stay home if you’re sick

I’d also like add:

  • Get enough rest
  • Avoid sugar! 80 percent of viruses go straight for the body’s glucose supply
  • Avoid the processed and fast foods that wreak havoc with your immune system
  • NO antibiotics! They don’t work on viruses and they destroy your immune system
  • Surgical masks won’t protect you and they actually encourage face touching

If you must fly, here’s what Popular Science magazine advises:

  • Choose a window seat to limit exposure
  • Point your fan towards your lap at low to medium speed to repel airborne germs
  • Wipe your tray table, armrest(s), and seat down with disinfecting wipes
  • DO NOT touch airline magazines, blankets, or pillows – bring your own

And even though I’d like to hold Jake Arietta and his MLB ilk down to cut off their absurdly scraggy beards, contrary to popular belief, the CDC did NOT say facial hair makes you more susceptible to a virus.

Lastly, though I’m certainly not one of those loony New Agers, there are supplements that can seriously boost your immune system. My wife swears by Source Naturals’ Wellness Formula, an astragalus tincture can be very effective, and I’ve had great luck with Viracid and megadoses of Vitamin D purchased through Aurora’s The Compounder.

Compounder owner Larry Frieders is an expert on how to stay healthy during flu season, and to be clear, I received no remuneration for that recommendation.

Yes! The coronavirus will likely turn out to be somewhat worse than the average flu, but it will be nothing compared to the devastation of 1918. So, now that you have the numbers, let’s not panic, as worrying only reduces your capacity to fight off those pesky germs.

The lesson I’ve taken to heart from this mania is that humans are inextricably interconnected to the point where we’re only as strong as our weakest link. An open market in a backward Chinese province just demonstrated those six degrees of separation are a complete illusion.

And those folks who fervently believe that health care and sick days are a privilege, need to recognize our “weakest link” theory will ultimately lead directly to them. Probability dictates another outbreak of the Spanish Influenza magnitude sometime this century and no one will be immune.

The 2003 SARS scare, with its 11 percent mortality rate, would’ve far more devastating if the disease had been more easily transmitted.

Put more simply, as the great Mr. Donne warned us way back in 1624, there’s no need to ask about that ringing bell because it always tolls for us!

4 thoughts on “Quick Hits – On social media and mass hysteria!

  1. Been sayin’ this since the start. Ironically, I’m reading your blog while listening to Governor Pritzker tell us the Corona Virus could possibly hit everyone. The media is the biggest promoter of panic.

  2. I have always found alcohol kills germs. I use lots and lots of Tito’s and have never had a problem.

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