Humans vs Virus


‘The weather is better but that’s about it for good news,’ I said as I sat down opposite Campbell or Camp, as my drinking buddy is known. He was busily pawing his smart phone – against our rules – but he seemed intense and it was obviously important to him.

‘What are you looking at,’ I asked a bit peeved at him ignoring me as if I was burned toast.

‘Oh, just reading about some recent pandemics,’ he said rather crypticlly, putting his phone away.

‘Good current topic. Nothing else occupies the world and the media these days. Is the fear and panic really justified? Is this Corona virus really that bad?’

‘Well, that depends on how you look at it. From the point of view of a stock holder it’s absolutely devastating, unless you’re a short seller. It’s frightening for those afflicted and infected. It’s bad for health authorities and politicians who are scrambling; hospitals are overwhelmed with a few real cases and many more panicked citizens jamming up the system with common colds and flu symptoms.’

‘Travel restrictions, school closures, flight cancellations, food scarcities, they all point to something like the 1918 Spanish flu,’ I said.

‘Hold it right there. As I said, I’ve been reading up on this. Here are some sobering figures: The Spanish flu pandemic of 1918, the deadliest in history, infected an estimated 500 million people worldwide—about one-third of the planet’s population—and killed an estimated 20 million to 50 million victims, including some 675,000 Americans. Other estimates run as high as 100 million victims, around 3 percent of the world’s population at the time. In fact, more U.S. soldiers died from the 1918 flu than were killed in battle during the big war. By the summer of 1919, the flu pandemic came to an end, as those that were infected either died or developed immunity.’

‘Wow, half a billion people? That’s incredible,’ I said, stunned by the numbers.

‘Those of course are estimates. They didn’t have computers and social networks in those days,’ Camp said, powering up his phone. I let him do it, focusing on my beer. ‘Here goes: Since 1918, there have been several other influenza pandemics, although none as deadly. A flu pandemic from 1957 to 1958 killed around 2 million people worldwide, including some 70,000 people in the United States, and a pandemic from 1968 to 1969 killed approximately 1 million people, including some 34,000 Americans. Also, more than 12,000 Americans perished during the H1N1 (or “swine flu”) pandemic that occurred from 2009 to 2010.

Experts say that this Covid-19 virus may be five to ten times as lethal as seasonal flu, which, with a fatality rate of 0.1%, kills 60,000 Americans in a bad year.  Not sure how much the flu vaccine prevents. Does that give you some perspective? If it wouldn’t be for our modern, lightning fast and worldwide communications and media, we probably would be a lot calmer about this latest virus but I’m not saying we should not take it seriously and do all we can to stop it.

‘Wow, those numbers make me thirsty just thinking about them.’

We both sat quietly for a moment, looking out at the boats bobbing at the dock.  I wanted to change the subject. ‘Super Tuesday is over and it seems that the system is not totally broken. Give me Biden any day over Sanders, who should just get behind Biden and focus on getting rid of Trump,’ I said.

‘Yeah, that would mean he’d have to leave his ego at home,’ Camp said. ‘Hard to do when you have multitudes cheering for you.’

When Vicky brought our refills, she wasn’t her usual cheery self.

‘What’s bugging you,’ Camp always the diplomat, asked her.

‘Oh, it’s that darn virus. All I hear is corona here, corona there and it’s not about the beer. I’m worried it will get worse before it gets better and I don’t know what to.

‘Frequent and vigorous hand washing is the best defense and precaution.’ Camp said. ‘And don’t kiss strangers.’

‘Great advice,’ Vicky said, blowing Camp a kiss. ‘My son is the only one I kiss good night these days.’

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