Have most of us already been through this epidemic without noticing?


Based on his own experiences, Grahi explores the path of Covid-19 and raises several important questions.

Empty Beach

There was plenty of time and opportunity for covid-19 to spread worldwide

The novel Wuhan coronavirus originated in Wuhan, China in December 2019 and quickly spread throughout that city. The Chinese government swiftly implemented an authoritarian quarantine wall around Wuhan and strict isolation of entire districts and cities all around China, so the virus only spread to a lesser extent throughout the rest of China.

However, the Chinese government allowed the continuation of flights from Wuhan to other cities around the world. The first country to ban flights from Wuhan was Singapore on 23 January, with the USA, Australia and other countries following suit in the first few days of February. It was not until 18 March that the Australian prime minister announced that Australians could no longer travel abroad.

This means that the Wuhan coronavirus had about two months to travel around the world and widely infect the people in most cities. This novel form of Wuhan coronavirus had a rapid infection spread from person to person compared to most other viruses. Its basic reproduction number was up to 6, compared to 2-3 for the common cold and 0.9-2.1 for seasonal strains of influenza.

This suggests that many people here in Australia were already exposed to the Wuhan coronavirus before the isolation, quarantine and travel restrictions were put in place. In other words, we in Australia already had our first epidemic of this Wuhan coronavirus before we knew its name – but ours was a silent and hardly noticeable epidemic.

My personal experience with the Wuhan coronavirus

Let’s look at my personal experience. More than half of my closest 20 friends (with a range in ages of 55 to 90 years) have reported one or more Wuhan coronavirus symptoms in the last three months. These symptoms include pneumonia (in a 90-year-old man); a persistent dry cough (in 13 of the 20); along with mild fever, fatigue, mucus production, sore throats and digestive upsets.

In late January or early February I personally experienced a dry cough with phlegm. This occurred mainly in the morning, and I continued my normal daily routine which included plenty of exercise. However I woke up one morning and noticed a complete loss of my sense of taste and smell. After a couple of weeks my taste and smell slowly started to return and by late April was back to perhaps 70%. All of the above symptoms conform to the Wuhan coronavirus, and the sudden loss of taste and smell is particularly associated with it.

I am not endorsing the misconception claiming that the Wuhan coronavirus is ‘just the flu’, because I realise that it differs from influenza in affecting other organs in addition to the lungs, while also being unusual in its long incubation period and spreading without symptoms. Furthermore, the flu usually shows in Australia in our cold season, whereas the Wuhan coronavirus arrived here in our warm season. However, I am suggesting that the Wuhan coronavirus swept through our population here in Australia with an overall medical effect comparable with that of the flu.

So what actually happened?

So, why did the Wuhan coronavirus cause an obvious epidemic in Italy from mid-February onwards and subsequently also in e.g. New York? Why have so many died in the Northern Hemisphere from the same pandemic which, so far, has barely registered in Australia except for travellers returning from the Northern Hemisphere?

  1. The Wuhan coronavirus seems – like the flu – to produce disease mainly in cold weather. To date there is no tropical or Southern Hemisphere country which has been shown to suffer any net mortality attributable to this pandemic, even among the elderly.
  2. As in other parts of the world there may have been an initial spreading of the Wuhan coronavirus through e.g. Italy and New York with relatively few symptoms. However, more than a month later this was followed by dramatic pictures of unhealthy and elderly people overwhelming hospitals. Research shows that elevated cortisol and lack of sleep contribute greatly to the severity and length of viral infections. This may have been a self-fulfilling state of fear and stress enabled by the media as overweight, sick and elderly people realised they were seriously at risk.
  3. In spite of the dreadful images in the media, the death rates in most hospitals around the world have failed to be overwhelming. Research in Italy showed that 98% of the people who died had one or more serious underlying health conditions such as obesity, high blood pressure, heart and arterial disease, diabetes or lung disease. Many of them may have died with the Wuhan coronavirus, not because of it.
  4. Testing for the virus has been disappointing. Official policy in most countries including Australia has been not to test people with mild symptoms. Test kits are expensive, in short supply, and too often inaccurate. Not testing reasonably healthy people leaves the possibility that many of those who were infected and who were spreading the virus never got counted. I suspect that the antibody tests will remain so inefficient that we will never know what percentage of any population was exposed to the Wuhan coronavirus in January-February 2020. Furthermore, widespread testing of antibodies will probably not be attempted in any country before about May 2020, by which time it would be too late to tell when the exposure first occurred. There is also some indication that the human immune system does not necessarily produce antibodies to the Wuhan coronavirus, and that even if such antibodies are produced they do not last long.

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Copyright © 2003-2020 David Niven Miller – reprinted from growyouthful.com with permission – illustration by Osho News, credit AFP/Saeed KHAN


Jivan Grahi is an economist and author focusing on health and slowing down the aging process. growyouthful.com

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