Some medical experts in Hong Kong have devoted their careers to the study of micro microbiology and viruses, after the traumatic episode of SARS. These are the people I will tend to listen to, on this topic. For example, Yeung Kwok Yung and Gabriel Leung.
And these Hong Kong specialists project the evolution of the infection in a way no Western newspaper (who mostly take the official government numbers at face value) dares to relate, it seems.
Widely different projections
Let’s take an example. (Note that I am not vouching for the accuracy of this source, and it is a forecast based on questionable assumptions. But I don’t understand why journalists in Europe and North America seem not to be taking that input into consideration.)
He also estimates the REAL number of cases was as follows on 25 January:
- People with symptoms in Wuhan only: 25,000 people
- “Hidden cases” (no symptoms yet): 44,000 people
In contrast, an expert from the Chinese government forecasts the peak might be reached in about 10 days. I am sure their model is good, but I’d like to know what their assumptions were.
Why the situation might become a full-blown epidemic soon
The numbers of infected people might shoot up dramatically this week. Here is why.
The incubation period seems to be up to 19 days (from infection until symptoms appear), based on the case of the Chinese lady who went to Wuhan and later went back to her home in Canada. Not “up to 14 days” as related so far.
[Update 31 Jan.: a Professor of microbiology at the University of Hong Kong Medical School said the incubation period might be longer than 14 days. Source in Chinese: click here.]
Such a long incubation is really scary. Here is why.
- Not everybody is tested. The test kits are not available in unlimited numbers. Most people who are still in incubation have not been tested.
- The “positive” cases detected so far are (1) people who have been in Wuhan and (2) people who have been in direct contact with someone coming from Wuhan.
- But what about the 3rd circle (those who have been in contact with someone who was herself infected by someone coming from Wuhan)? How many are they?? One can imagine tens of thousands of people starting to have symptoms over the next few days.
Let’s hope this is all wrong. All I am trying to do is to provide a balanced view. When the official forecasts seem to be too rosy, they invite this type of analysis…
Do people know how to take the right precautions?
I see a serious lack of information around these masks.
First, wearing a disposable facial mask helps, but in principle, they need to be changed every 3 to 5 hours.
Many people are wearing the same mask for several days. If there is no other option, it might be fine, but the mask needs to be disinfected with alcohol (which will break the fibers a little, every time) and be dried in the open air (if possible under the sun).
Second, not all surgical masks are the same. Real medical-grade masks come with a performance number, based on an ASTM standard. The performance on BFE (Bacteria Filtration Efficiency) should be 95% or more. A good one is 99.8%. (Note: the risk here is a virus, but this virus may attach itself to a bacteria.)
Third, users should not touch the surface of the mask. Grab it by the elastics.
If you need to remove and re-use the mask, fold it (keep the inner side on the inside of the fold) and place it inside an envelope.
Fourth, wearing glasses or goggles helps, too. The eyes are a common entry point for the virus.
And, above all, keep hands clean. People who touch their eyes with their hands in a dangerous area have a high risk of getting infected.
The best ways to disinfect surfaces are solutions with at least 80% alcohol concentration, or with a 1 to 99 ratio of bleach to water. That ratio can be 1 to 65 if you want the same cleanliness level as a hospital.
I hope this advice is useful. Feel free to pass it to your staff or your suppliers in China. And let me know in the comments if I am forgetting something important.
Also, remember to read my prior post on the topic: What the Wuhan Virus Means for Importers of China Products, where I give some suggestions based on what I’m seeing about the possible effects of the virus on your supply chain.
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