For fun we’re going to use some logic as it relates to the Corona Virus in China. Instead of fear mongering, we think the USA will probably be in good shape, that said if we look at the numbers the other countries near Asia do not make sense. There is a wide range of opinions including people who think its the black plague (not even close) and people who think it should be compared to the common flu (no ability to understand statistics). We’ll attempt to put some numbers and predictions around this.
High-Level: From a top down view you can assume that it is a pretty deadly disease. Not because of the current numbers (35,000 confirmed and 725 deaths) but because of the precautions that have been taken. When the US was attacked in Baghdad they didn’t bother flying the US leaders out. Yet… We’re evacuating important people located in China. Add to this the fact that China has locked down ~400M people (at least attempting to keep it locked down) which is more than the population of the USA and Canada combined. Even during the SARS outbreak the level of restrictions was not this high.
We can make a few conclusions, the severity of the disease is 100x+ higher than any foolish comparison to the flu. You’ll get the flu at least a few times during your life and the chances of dying are in the basis points (less if you’re under the age of 60 or so). This new virus has a death rate of about 2%+ and you have to add in bodies that were found before they could be tested. Therefore an easy conclusion here is that this is a serious illness that is not currently contained. We can prove out that it is not currently contained because of the rapid growth. Therefore, conclusion number 1 is that this is a serious infection.
Current Numbers: The second item to be aware of is the growth of confirmed cases. It appears to be growing at a 10% rate or so per day. This is likely an understated number since it is reaching a point where testing this many people has a lot of errors in it. If you live in a major city, imagine trying to take 20,000 of them and test them all in a day or two. It doesn’t make a lot of sense and we know China is certainly understating the number. The more important number to track is actually the number of cases outside of Hubei. Only a few weeks ago most cases were largely contained in that particular province but now we’re looking at 25,000 people (according to the latest data) which results in 10,000 total cases outside of the primary infection point.
You can manually track places outside of Hubei with this website.
So what should you actually track? You should really track numbers in areas like Thailand, Mongolia, Malaysia, Vietnam and Cambodia. Why? Well these countries have extremely low “cases” despite being popular areas to visit and quite close to China. It’s extremely unlikely that Singapore with 33 confirmed cases and Thailand with only 32 makes a lot of sense. There is a lot more traffic from Wuhan to Thailand. Instead if you are in Singapore you should be happy about the higher number of confirmed cases because it means your government has adequate technology to lock down and test everyone coming in. Another great example is actually Japan, while people are scared of the number of cases found on the cruise ship, you can conclude that they are taking the right measures and have adequate testing to prevent a rapid outbreak. Just take a look below.
If you look at the rough numbers from the table, why would Thailand have an equal number of cases relative to Singapore? It doesn’t make a lot of logical sense. And. The ability to simply go to Thailand is easy (without the flight data) so the chances that Thailand is behind the correct number is high. We’d wager that Thailand will end up being one of the countries with a mini outbreak at this time. The fact that Australia has half as many cases as Thailand should be another clear indicator that they are behind. And. We’ll add that Mongolia having zero cases is questionable given the close location.
Some Good News: If you’re in the USA, Europe… even Korea, Japan and Singapore, you’re pretty much good to go. The chances of having a mass outbreak in an advanced country is low. Advanced countries will be able to correctly identify the right people and increase safety for the general public. We’d be extremely surprised to see an outbreak in a major US city. Within a month or so we think the issues in Japan/Korea/Singapore will be solved /contained. The real issue appears to be in the third world countries that are located near China. The second piece of good news is that you really shouldn’t cancel any “flights” to an area outside of Asia. The virus does not live long on seats. You simply want to avoid going to China for a while and avoid the third world Asian countries as an extra precautionary measure.
Current Predictions: This wouldn’t be fun if we didn’t put out some predictions on the issue. The first one is that the total outbreak number will certainly exceed 100,000+ at some point. That is pretty likely given the spread to low-tech third world countries. The second one is that China will not solve the issue in “14 days”. We think the chances of a 14 day slow down is next to none. This likely goes on past the month of February at a minimum and into March. By the time that the issue is contained we would then add another 4-6 months before tourism goes back to normal. It is unlikely that people suddenly decide to go back to China after something this large occurs, particularly if the infected cases clears 100K.
On the positive side of things, we think this will probably peak in about a month. This means the major countries will have it contained. No major outbreaks in Singapore, USA, Europe, Australia, Japan or Taiwan. This is not going to last forever that’s for sure and we won’t be hearing about it by the end of the year (if we do it was a catastrophe). As a rough estimate we’ll go ahead and wager that the mortality/death rate will be around 2%, it seems to be stabilizing in this area and since most numbers are fudged it means 3% is more likely. This is a pretty serious issue for diseases for those that looked up mortality rates of other viruses.
Some Conclusions: The first conclusion is to certainly avoid Asia for a bit if you planned on going. If you must go certainly avoid China (for now at least). It isn’t worth the risk for a 2% death rate. The second conclusion is that panicking in the USA is a bit humorous, you’re not going to do much with a face mask. The size of the disease particles is actually smaller than the protective mask can prevent (yes we looked this all up). You might accidentally increase your chances of getting it since the particles can stick to the mask as you inhale.
If you want to be extra careful, you can reduce your travel to the regions near China as well but we’d wager that the major countries will have things under control. If you want to track it more seriously, we would look at every third world country and province outside if Hubei. That’s the major issue at this time as no one in their right mind is flying into Wuhan. Hopefully, this came out as somewhat balanced, we can’t believe the headlines that this is similar to the flu. We’ve seen too many media headlines trying to say “not a big deal” which is the exact opposite of what they did during the financial crisis. So it’s best to assume it’s worse than mainstream media, worse than Chinese media and *better* than hysteria in the USA/abroad. The face mask business in the USA is booming for no reason (if you’re in the face mask business congrats on the extra sales!)
Yes our Q&A will take place tomorrow for product purchasers only thanks!