Dunning-Kruger pandemic spreading faster than the Coronavirus

Ed Park, MD age-related-diseases, News 21 Comments

The mass hysteria surrounding Coronavirus is a form of fear resonance in the hive mind. Not since the Y2K threat and the 911 event has there been so much terror. Yesterday, I went to a grocery store in Irvine, California to buy a greeting card and was shocked to see the shelves emptied of toilet paper. Schools are shutting down, events are being cancelled, entire populations are quarantining themselves, and economies are being risked without the degree of reward that would warrant these changes.

The Dunning-Kruger effect suggests that people who know little about a subject overestimate their knowledge and people that know much about a subject overestimate how much others also understand. My Facebook feed is jammed with the first type of doomsday prophets predicting an apocalypse. Since I am a medical doctor and have a masters degree in public health, I fall into the latter category so let me briefly explain several public health and medical concepts in this blog.

Virulence– the severity of an illness. Early reports of high mortality rates of COVID-19 suffered from a wildly inaccurate denominator. It is precisely BECAUSE the vast majority of people only experience mild or no symptoms that they weren’t tested. In contradistinction, South Korea deployed widespread testing and found a mortality comparable to other respiratory viruses.

Again, because the disease is so mild and behaves like other viruses, people are not being testing and the death rate is mathematically inflated. I don’t want to make a equivalency argument with the common flu, which we have accepted like traffic accidents or inner city violence, because that would make COVID-19 seem like a fender bender or shoplifting, quite frankly.
 
The flu in the United States is a true annual pandemic. The CDC estimates that, from October 1, 2019, through February 29, 2020, there have been: 34,000,000 – 49,000,000 flu illnesses and 20,000 – 52,000 flu deaths
 
In contrast, as of 3/8/2020, there have been around 400 cases and 16 deaths in the US yet colleges are shutting down and you can’t friggin’ buy toilet paper at Costco.
 
Let me repeat the USA flu vs Covid numbers:
34 million cases of Influenza versus 400 cases of COVID-19
and 30 thousand deaths from Influenza versus 16
 
Read that several times over again please before you start hoarding toilet paper.
 
You can argue that we should have been shutting down society and quarantining nations for the flu but show me that evidence that COVID-19 is different let alone worse that the flu before you succumb to hysteria regarding the latest apocalyptic group think.
 

Host factors

Clearly the Dunning-Kruger “virus” is a co-factor for the virulence of fear being spread by the media and amateur public health experts on Facebook. In public health, we refer to host factors which means what are the characteristics of the host that mitigate the severity of illness. 

COVID-19 is no different from any other respiratory illness. Hosts with poor immune systems (a result of aging and T-cell hypofunction are much more likely to get ill and die. Most young people are not affected because of their immune competence.

Herd immunity

When people have antibody-based long acting immunity to a virus, we call that “herd immunity”. The mechanism for Influenza’s virulence is well-understood as the surface proteins are able to rearrange and mutate like the combinations on lock.  The many ways that they can rearrange are what make the flu more deadly and elusive and why the flu vaccine is not very effective. In contrast, I am not aware of any such mechanism in Coronavirus. We know that such antibodies can be developed because 99% of people recover.

So no, Facebook experts, this one is not different; it is much easier to develop herd immunity than the flu.

Fomites

A fomite is an object upon which a virus can reside and therefore spread.  Contrary to what people believe, airborne spread is not the only or the best way to enter the body. Because of the nose hairs, mucous, phlegm, coughing, and sneezing we have protection (and potential spread) of viruses via these mechanisms. How clever it is that the viruses get us to expel them into the air!  When a person sneezes onto a door handle and you touch it, it usually enters when you rub your eyes. Everyone rubs their eyes unconsciously. So the best protection from spread by fomites is just to wash your hands with soap and warm water.

Quarantine

Although a largely effective means of preventing transmission, the use of a demographically-based (not patient-based) quarantine is like bringing a tank to a bar fight. It is unfair, unwise, and unfounded to shut down schools and discriminate against people based on national origin for a condition that is many orders of magnitude less severe that the flu. I am not saying that COVID-19 is not bad. I am merely stating the obvious: the flu is infinitely worse in every way and yet we managed to run a society with the full knowledge that it will be a yearly deadly pandemic with no cure in sight. If we were able to manage our fear with the flu, why are we giving up all our freedoms over this common cold virus?  Everybody just needs to avoid rubbing their eyes, cough and sneeze into a tissues (not sleeves), and wash their hands more often.

Remember all that mayhem that followed the Y2K virus? Oh that’s right, nothing happened. Here are the stats for other Coronaviruses that the media warned us about:

Outbreak Virus type Deaths
2003 severe acute respiratory syndrome outbreak SARS-CoV 774[31]
2012 Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus outbreak MERS-CoV Over 400[32]
2015 Middle East respiratory syndrome outbreak in South Korea MERS-CoV 36[33]
2018 Middle East respiratory syndrome outbreak MERS-CoV 41[34]

The 911 event ushered in multiple wars that cost millions of lives, trillions of dollars, and the abnegation of the 4th amendment of the Constitution.

It’s not the only thing we have to fear, but fear itself, combined with Facebook prophets of doom are making it harder to enjoy life and shop at Costco these days. The best we can do is go on living and resist the calls to destroy our world for the sake of a handful of minor upper respiratory cases that pale in comparison to the flu that we have tolerated for generations. Look at the infographic below and ask yourself why you would make the COVID-19 circle the size that it is when compared with the Spanish flu in 1918. And why isn’t there a big circle EVERY YEAR with 640,000 deaths a year from the flu worldwide?  The product they are mongering is fear and unfortunately, the supply appears to be unlimited relative to hand sanitizer and bottled water.

Everybody please calm down. This is not a new threat, the virulence is not high, it still impacts hosts with immune aging, we will likely have herd immunity making it less severe each year, and simple measures of decreasing transmission on fomites like your hands will control the spread. The only epidemic I see here, as medical doctor and public health trainee, is that of the Dunning-Kruger viral co-factor. The main thing I take away from this madness is that Facebook is amazing and it has are transmogrified humanity into a transhumanist hive-consciousness.

 

Postscript: To my Facebook friends who may be spreading fear, I respect your intellects and hope that you will continue to emphasize what is known and not just the “what could happen” narrative. Thank you.

Comments 21

  1. If only the direct viral effects were the worst of it… I believe it’s the least of it as the broad spectrum push for control via quarantines, behaviors, economic (markets crashing as I write this) becomes readily apparent. The cause is the vector for taking care of many things the elites have been herding us towards.

  2. Hello Dr. Park –
    Thank you so much for your professionally informed, but still common sense, input on this hysterical, mob psychology topic du jour.
    Warm regards,
    gym

  3. This is a slanted point of view. The rate of spread and the lack of vaccine or demonstrated effective treatments, the shortage of test kits, the slow government response, are the concerns. This being new and unknown, it is prudent to err on the side of caution.
    Panic is not necessary, and is counter-productive. But minimizing, or, even unconsciously misdirecting, is also dangerous to oneself and others. In particular, the fact that it can be carried without your knowledge or symptoms is of concern.
    Dealing with the unknown can be difficult, but we have many ways and circumstances where we deal with the unknown successfully. One way is to prepare for the possibilities. It has been shown, scientifically, to reduce stress symptoms and to create more positive, effective community collaboration.
    Why not contribute your specialized expertise to that preparation effort?

    1. Post
      Author

      Hi Marybeth,
      Fear is real but it isn’t a real great way to manage your decisions.
      At the end of the day, shutting everything down for the fear of what may happen amounts to group agoraphobia.
      It is sad to see humanity so easily manipulated.
      Are you prepared for the global climate crisis, mass shootings, asteroid collisions, and alien invasion?

      I am trying to contribute by saying “wash your hands, keep calm, and realize this is not new.”
      The root chakra is a hell of a drug, though.

  4. Hi Dr Park … I agree and have been making similar arguments. Yet how do you explain the huge crush of patients in Northern Italy and people keeling over in Iran? Ditto Wuhan? It seems to me like there are two viruses at work: a tame one and a vicious one. Italy and Qom have direct ties to Wuhan. Ditto South Korea. Can you see the possibility that something more is going on in these hot zones?

    1. Post
      Author

      I need to do a deeper dive into the gene sequences of this versus other coronaviridae. I would say that an epidemic is not a curve. The exponential early phase is more impressive and the final stats create the aggregate curve. It really spreads and kills among the elderly but not so much in the general populace

  5. Great blog Dr. Park. I continue to be amazed at how our global society can be controlled through fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD) from governments and institutions rather than logical and rational data and common sense. Why do we call it “common sense” if it’s not very common?

    1. Post
      Author

      Thanks, Brent. We have a situation where a lot of people have never thought deeply about infectious disease and they are basing judgments based on fear and group think. I’m trying to slow the spread but it’s challenging

  6. Interesting article and his points make a lot of sense. On the other hand, people keep fire extinguishers in their house, and most people have never had to use them. But it is still a good idea. Does that mean people who keep fire extinguishers are panicking?

    What I am saying is the full effects and nature of Covid-19 are still an unknown (because it is brand new), so it is wise to be prepared.

    So the question is to find the right balance between the reality and the potential, but right now we do not know the reality because it is so new, started in Wuhan in late December. So even if we overestimate the potential, it is like keeping a fire extinguisher anyway.

    This writer is correct to warn us of going to far in one direction, but nobody knows exactly how much is too much right now. We are all guessing and learning as we go.

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  9. If the flu kills so many each year, how come we don’t hear hospital administrators complain about lack of ventilators?

    This is an honest question, not sarcasm.

    1. Post
      Author

      It is because they are staggered over time. Also, no one really is paying attention because it is old not new. Finally, younger people are getting hospitalized with symptoms that they might have tried to fight at home because of the fear factor

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  11. As there officially exists no therapy at this point for Covid19 I am wondering how doctors in hospitals treat patients (apart from the really bad cases who need ventilators)? Do you know which medications are used and which side effects those medications can have? Thank you very much!

    1. Post
      Author

      Doctors have tried many things but nothing works to cure ARDS. With regard to infections, there are side effects from anti-viral therapies and all people that get well rely on an immune and inflammatory system that can mitigate the causes and down regulate its own collateral damage. Sorry for the vague response but clinical medicine is messy and probabilistic.

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