Korean authorities have just announced 334 new confirmed cases of coronavirus in the country, bringing the national total to over 1,500.
Almost all of these new cases are in Daegu, a city of 2.5 million people a couple of hours’ drive from both Seoul and Busan (the two biggest population areas). And they were completely predictable, as I have explained in previous posts over the past two days, since authorities are conducting mass testing among members of a large church community that has been the source of most of the country’s infections so far. It was inevitable that among the thousand or so new members who were tested, many would test positive for the virus, since they are known to have had close contact with hundreds of people already confirmed to have it. That, of course, is not especially unusual in a flu outbreak. Nor is it “alarming,” except to people primed by fear, misinformation, and media hype to be alarmed.
I have seen no word on how many of those 334 new cases, for example, are actually experiencing serious flu symptoms, let alone in any life-or-death peril.
Let me state this again, very clearly: It’s no fun to get the flu, or to know that a bad flu virus is making the rounds in your neighborhood, your school, your workplace, your church, or what have you. Contagious illnesses are never fun. But so far, almost everyone suffering from this virus in Korea is experiencing respiratory flu symptoms, not life-threatening illness.
And then there is the media’s exploitation of all this for profit, driven and fueled by general ignorance — including among the “journalists” themselves — about viruses, influenza, and especially the language involved.
On that last point, let me perform a small public service here.
An “epidemic” is merely an infection of any kind that has spread widely through a population. There are flu epidemics every year throughout every community in the advanced world. It is part of social life. (It is also a more intense part of social life in the age of the UN’s Agenda 21, in which everyone is being urged and herded into increasingly dense urban areas.)
A “pandemic” is basically an epidemic (see above) that has been carried over borders and oceans into a very wide range of nations. “Pan” is the Greek-rooted prefix meaning “all,” and “-demic” is derived from the Greek demos, “people.”
An epidemic is just any general outbreak of a contagious thing. A pandemic is just an epidemic, but wider in range.
There is no reason for panic. There is no reason to cancel the global economy. There is no evidence that this virus is about to transmogrify into the plague. It’s a bad flu bug, and it’s making the rounds now, during flu season. This is annoying, and since it is new, no one’s body has developed any resistance to it through previous fights. That’s the special challenge of the coronavirus. Our bodies haven’t had to beat it before.
But it’s a flu bug. Most of us will not get it — particularly if we are more careful about social interactions than we typically are during “normal” flu epidemics — and those of us who do will likely experience minor to middling symptoms, if any. A few, of course, will get acutely ill, and a very small percentage of people, most of them in vulnerable groups for any kind of respiratory virus, will die from it, which is sad, but again not unusual during a flu epidemic. (See my “Living in the Midst of a Flu Epidemic” for the medical reality of all this.)
Cheer up. Spend more time alone for a while — it’s good for you anyway, as most of us use social life to hide from ourselves most of the time, to our spiritual detriment. Read a book. Listen to music. Enjoy a movie at home. Reduce your large social engagements and indoor public activities as much as reasonably possible over the next little while.
But please don’t lose your head, and please don’t let your local independent business owners lose their livelihoods out of irrational panic over a bad flu bug.