novel coronavirus, image by Gianluca Tomasello

The latest Coronavirus numbers from Italy are stark: 10,149 reported cases, with 631 deaths. That equates to a 6.2% mortality rate from the virus, or more than one out of every 20 people.

South Korea, on the other hand, has experienced 7,755 reported cases with only 61 deaths. That’s about a 0.8% mortality rate. Still disturbing, but much better.

Both countries are locking down areas to control the spread of the disease. Both are providing mass testing for any member of the population who wants it. Both have an aging population (45.4 years in Italy, vice 41.8 years in South Korea). While it’s true that Italy’s populace is, on the average, slightly older, the small difference is very unlikely to explain the large gap in survival.

The keys may lie in the response time, and the health care systems. South Korea, having seen the damage the disease was wreaking in China, was quick to identify and isolate those with the illness. As has been demonstrated, they were not completely successful… but they didn’t need to be. What they did, instead, was slow, not stop, the spread of the disease. Because of the slower pace of disease growth, their hospitals were able to handle the cases as they came in.

Italy, on the other hand, treated the disease casually at first, as if it were no more than a flu. This allowed a large spike in initial cases, overwhelming their health services – services which were generally adequate for their population, but unprepared to handle a huge influx of illnesses. Their health care professionals were properly trained, but the physical equipment required to monitor and save victims of a virus whose patients often experience a short period of organ failure was not available.

This is the lesson we need to learn if we are to avoid a similar situation in the United States. It’s not the disease itself, as terrible as it might be. It’s the response to the disease which will determine the eventual mortality rate. That is the only thing which will matter… because we can keep survival high only as long as we have beds and machines available to keep people’s lungs going during the day or so when they might be naturally overwhelmed. If the virus is allowed to surge, there will be many more people dying, and it won’t simply be the elderly and those with pre-existing conditions; those groups will have the highest death rates, certainly, but it’s going to kill people from every category: healthy adults, promising children, newborn babies.

We can curtail the damage if we follow the path of South Korea instead of Italy, if we treat it as a pandemic rather than “WuFlu”. If we join together and address the public health issue before worrying about an economic hit which was due to come anyway.

This is the lesson I fear we are intentionally ignoring, for reasons of political gain.

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About AlienMotives 1991 Articles
Ex-Navy Reactor Operator turned bookseller. Father of an amazing girl and husband to an amazing wife. Tired of willful political blindness, but never tired of politics. Hopeful for the future.