Keeping this new flu virus in perspective

My favorite radio host reminded his listeners last week that back in 2009 when we had the swine flu epidemic, around a thousand Americans had died of it before Obama finally got around to declaring an emergency. Yet there was nowhere near the level of panic in the media back then that there is this time. I guess when you’re a media darling…


I don’t know if they can be compared.
The 2009 flu (H1N1) affected 59,000,000 Americans, and around 12,000 died.
With the Covid 19 we have around 170,000 cases, with more than 6,000 deaths.
In the region where I live (fortunately it’s an isle) there are 75 cases, 2 of which died.
One of them was 47 years old.
One of the first cases here in Italy is a young sportsman, and it was saved only thanks to intensive care unit, with an artificial ventilator machine.
We have only 6,000 of those machines in all of Italy, and hospitals are already at its full because of this virus.

I don’t know if this is true, but I’ve read that the H1N1 flu was less lethal than the common flu and at the time the panic was unjustified.

This is just what I read, if anyone can confirm or disprove this with actual official data and statistic it would be great

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I somewhat agree with both @cophnia61 and @phil321. This is a nasty virus that spreads easily and comes with serious complications. I hope the heart, kidney, and testicle damage isn’t so severe as to be permanent.
The only ‘good’ things are that most cases are mild and it doesn’t disproportionately kill young, healthy people like the Spanish Flu did, because it’s already in more than half of all countries.

With the case of H1N1, the Wikipedia article makes it sound like even the CDC and WHO consider their official numbers to be low, due to difficulty in gathering mortality data.

Honestly, I think the severity of symptoms with this virus will make the official mortality rate closer to the real number, because of how nasty it is (viral pneumonia).

I hope y’all are doing well in Italy. Things haven’t been looking too good from what I can see from this side of the planet…

On the politics side, though, I think it's telling that the media in the US only started telling people to take precautions once they could use it for political capital (by blaming POTUS for everything, of course. About on par with the 'Corona-chan is a CIA op' conspiracies online, if you ask me). I've been following this online since info first started leaking from China. Back in January, all the mainstream media was telling us that it's 'just a cold, bro' and that anyone telling you things were bad and only going to get worse because of the Chinese government's slow response was a conspiracy theorist. There were even (admittedly rag) outlets saying that worrying about it or taking precautions was 'sinophobic' (interesting time to start caring about Asians on the progressive stack again, but okay).

But as soon as Trump came out and said that we didn’t need to worry in the US yet, all those same outlets started saying that it would be Trump’s fault that corona came to the US, because we didn’t… What? Ban all travel into the US? Isn’t that considered racist, these days? Shut down everything before we had any cases? Must be nice to have a financial situation where you can survive without income for months on end…
Again, it’s just a cheap reach for political capital going into an election season that looks horrible for the Democrats. (As much as I clearly like Trump as president, I wish the Democrat voters got better choices than they did these last two runs.)

Even this morning, along with the reasonable advice of “Try not to get sick, but don’t panic. And for the love of God, stop buying up all the freaking toilet paper!” they had to throw in jabs at the president (oh, he’s finally taking this seriously). Seriously, can I not listen to a mainstream news source without hearing ‘Orange Man Bad’ regardless of the story?
(I normally don’t watch that crap (yes, Fox included) because it’s not worth my time, but I figure I should keep up with the advice my family is probably getting.)

I have to say though, I’m glad I have emergency food already (several pounds of rice, canned fish, beans, etc). Store shelves are already emptying where I am. And of course, there’s no freaking toilet paper…
But this means I’ve been able to hit more enjoyable food when making a grocery run (at least, on what hasn’t been sold out yet).

And the sauerkraut will get started tomorrow, assuming I can find my big jars… Might end up being made in multiple smaller jars instead…
I finished eating a batch I made a couple of years ago just the other day. I found it hiding in the back of the fridge… Gave it a mold check and a sniff test before having a go at it (took out the top inch, just in case), but it was still tasty and crispy, and I didn’t get botulism!

Anyway, I hope everyone is safe and prepared to ride this out, since society is probably going to be halfway shut down for at least another month.


I find the current Corona virus reaction to be unusual. I recall some hysteria in the UK for Avian Flu, Swine Flu, etc. This time it’s even bigger. After a number of these outbreaks, you get desensitised.

Managed to get some toilet paper and am slowly stocking up. No crazy big shops, but picking up some extra rice and ramen each time. I have 4kg of Basmati rice lying around swell.

But just enjoying life as usual (which also seems to be the case for the kids in the park near my apartment). Still eating out, going for group runs, etc. The only difference being I have to work from home – but I just go to coffeeshops instead!

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Interesting…Here in the US, all events are being cancelled, supermarkets look like they’ve been ransacked, and everyone who can is working from home and avoiding going out. The public reactions for swine flu & bird flu weren’t nearly as bad here. I hope this virus goes away soon. On one hand, since all my social events are cancelled I’ve got more time for Japanese study. On the other hand, the general mood of panic from people and the news is hard to take, and I find myself needing to take breaks from the news every so often. Even the Japanese news seems to be mainly about the virus lately.

My gosh, I feel for you guys! I’ve been reading about Italy’s lockdown, and even as extreme as it is, I wonder if something like that would help the US too. Things are getting crazy here. Many people are already practicing “social distancing” (A.K.A “staying home and avoiding crowds as much as possible”), but the headlines keep getting worse and worse.

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I saw an estimate today that of all SARS-CoV-2 infected people in the USA, only about 14% are confirmed. That’s partly due to limited access to testing, but also because many carriers have mild or no symptoms. The famous Diamond Princess experiment showed that more than ½ (322 of 621) carriers were asymptomatic. Younger people tend to be less symptomatic, so the proportion of asymptomatic carriers in the general population could be signficiantly higher than ½.

Interestingly, reports from China said that 1.2% of cases were asympomatic. Maybe that was false, maybe they were using different criteria to check (such as CT scans of the lungs), or maybe there were other environmental factors at play (such as long-term effects of air pollution).

The large number of unidentified cases makes everything more complicated. The United States government has arguably been giving bad advice up until now, saying to assume no infection if no symptoms. That’s reasonable in places with no “community spread” but unreasonable where it exists.

The much stronger guidance for “social distancing” that came out today seems like a good move. Places with community spread will of course need stronger prohibitions to limit travel and in-person interaction.


Hey guys, as I understand it there is good reason for the extra measures combating covid19 even though it is less deadly than a lot of other outbreaks. Covid19 is much more infectious and so it’s likely that almost everyone will get it at some point. Clearly a lower fatality rate can still mean more deaths overall if enough people get infected. More importantly though, health services cannot treat everyone at once so it’s important to slow the spread to avoid unnecessary deaths.

This is why everyone in the UK is being asked to avoid unnecessary social visits, work from home and avoid pubs, theatres etc.

I imagine other countries are enacting similar measures so please pay attention to government announcements.

Even though most people will be fine if they ignore this advice, it’s important to follow it to avoid spreading the virus to at risk groups, and to ensure they are able to get the care they need if/when they are exposed.

Edit: So no don’t panic. Almost everyone will be fine. But that doesn’t mean you don’t need to take this seriously and work hard to limit the virus’ spread.


Thanks for all the helpful info! Hopefully the virus gets less widespread soon. I’m worried about the effect people’s massive panic buying will have though. Whole supermarket aisles were completely empty last I went, even though it was a half-hour after opening time. While I have enough extra supplies for a while, if people’s panic buying goes on for months then I may be in trouble eventually. Hopefully people start calming down and stop overbuying so much. I’ve been messaging older family members and friends to make sure they’re ok, and so far so good, but I’m doing everything I can to see that they know about the “social distancing” recommendations the government here put out.

I was quite shocked at how fast the virus spreads in Europe comparing to Japan. I remember reading not that long ago about UK offering to host Olympics in case the Japanese can’t handle it - now it almost sounds laughable. And it seems that European countries actually take more serious precautions than Japan. Makes me wonder why Japan is doing so good. Is it just because literally everyone here wears masks since pretty much the beginning of the whole thing?


I figure people’s cupboards and freezers have finite size, so once those are full, people’s rate of buying food will go back to normal and stocks will catch up again.


I can’t say for sure, but it’s probably a difference in compliance.
There have been numerous incidents in Europe and the US of parties refusing to break up, attention-seekers licking things in public, etc.
I haven’t seen stuff like that coming out of Japan (could be wrong). Might be a case where the overly collective aspect of Japanese culture comes in handy.


No one closes the restaurants here though, which happens in some European countries. Shopping malls are full of people on weekends too, at least in the region where I live. Big events get cancelled but apart from that it seems that people live pretty much normally, commuting to work everyday and going on business trips and occasional nomikais. But on the other hand there are disinfection sprays literally everywhere and people actually use them, everybody seems to care about hygiene more than before - maybe that’s one of the factors? Or maybe people in Europe didn’t think that the virus spreads so far and weren’t ready for it until it was already a bit too late whereas Japan was in position to take at least some measures in due time, cause it was inevitable that the virus reach them? We wore masks at my workplace as early as first half of February (edit: actually since the very beginning of February), before the first fatal victim in Japan.

Anyway, the pace at which it spreads in Europe and the abruptness of it really shocked me.

Yeah, I went out to Roppongi today and it seemed like a normal day. I’ve been working from home, but have been going to restaurants, shopping malls, etc.

Anyway, the pace at which it spreads in Europe and the abruptness of it really shocked me.

I feel it might be because the masks actually help. The virus is can be spread by coughing and sneezing and the masks must be doing something.

The UK media was telling people not to wear masks and that they might even increase your chances of infection…

Even when sick? The US media is telling people not to wear masks when not sick, but that’s because people have been hoarding masks, and the masks are better at keeping sick people’s germs in than keeping germs from the surrounding air out, apparently.

The word “mask” is being used for 2 different things. There’s the N95 mask needed by the healthcare workers, which offers significant protection if used correctly. But there’s also just covering your face with anything, and there may be some evidence that this reduces the spread if everybody does it.

Oh, really? A lot of people are hoarding the basic surgical-type masks that you can find in pharmacies here in the US. This prompted a ton of articles like this and
this saying to not buy masks when not sick because they don’t protect non-sick people anyway and healthcare professionals/sick people need them more. So you’re saying that wearing masks (even the basic ones that are at any pharmacy or supermarket) may help even people who aren’t sick?

Regarding mask availability, government and industry in the United States have not acted quickly enough to start domestic mask production. However, I don’t blame them fully, because the current supply problem was partially induced by unexpected factors.

For example, in early Feb 2020, my friend went around town and bought all the masks left at hardware supply stores, and took masks directly from stock at a medical facility. Most of them were sent to close relatives in China, and some were kept for personal use. This might sound like an ugly anti-Chinese anecdote, but ㋐ I don’t think the action was wrong, since the overseas relatives badly needed masks at that time, and ㋑ it’s just a factual account of what I observed directly.

Also, China reportedly drained existing stock from other countries, for example see this article from Feb 5 titled “China requests 145m masks from Egypt.”

Regarding mask usefulness, Bilingual News episode 402 had non-expert commentary about sub-standard masks (not an “N95 respirator” or “surgical mask”) being effective against the virus, because any reduction in exposure to, or spreading of, the virus helps. Michael also pointed out that masks can be sterilized and reused. Of course, it is plausible that masks could increase risk if used incorrectly, so mask should be worn with appropriate knowledge and discipline.


Probably not, but they may help stop sick people from spreading the virus. The big problem with this virus is people spreading it without knowing they have it (mild symptoms or none at all). So if everyone wears a basic mask, this might reduce the spread a little. Getting people to stay home as much as possible is going to make a much bigger difference though.

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What I find most irritating where I live is that “they” have deliberately made it so you can’t sit anywhere indoors (shopping malls etc.). Any chairs/benches have been cordoned off with yellow tape. You can go in and buy things but there’s no where to sit down! You can buy coffee at McDonald’s but you can’t sit down and stay and drink it.

Luckily the weather is warming up and here and there are cement retaining walls etc. that could serve as makeshift seats while out for a stroll. Or perhaps I can sit on the bench at a bus stop while I read my book.

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Wow, they’re really taking precautions to make sure people stay home… I haven’t been out much since this whole virus panic started, besides food shopping, but considering a lot of restaurants are changing to “take out only” it wouldn’t surprise me.

Also, thanks for the info on masks everyone!