Are the markets over-reacting? Are the Media and Financial Industry intentionally manipulating (or misinterpreting) coronavirus data in a case of using grossly inaccurate statistics filled with hyperbole to cause a desired outcome?
Coronavirus (aka Covid-19)
Covid-19, is a coronavirus in the same family as the common cold. Now it’s been determined that the virus may have been genetically engineered (by someone) to include HIV insertions (highly unlikely in nature) to make the virus more transmissible (transmission rate is referenced as ‘Ro’). i Much like SARs, the common cold and the Flu, it targets the Respiratory system.
Now what is NOT being discussed are the garbage statistics being used. Many in the Media and Financial Sector keep citing the ‘Ro’ rate and mortality rate (aka ‘case fatality rate’ or CFR for short) as a primary factor for Global economic instability. But really are they? Let’s take a closer look at both.
Just because something is ‘highly transmissible’ does not mean its fatal. The common cold is very transmissible but millions get it and survive annually. Same with the Flu. The ‘Ro’ rate of many diseases are far higher (and lower) than Covid-19. For example, “the R0 value of the 1918 [Spanish Flu] pandemic was estimated to be between 1.4 and 2.8. But when the swine flu, or H1N1 virus, came back in 2009, its R0 value was between 1.4 and 1.6…”. ii Currently, the New England Journal of Medicine states the Covid-19 ‘Ro’ is guestimated at 2.2. iii I say ‘guestimated’ because frankly, there isn’t enough reliable statistical information (especially out of China) to make a qualified determination and the Covid-19 numbers alone mean very little isolated in a bubble. The Ro rates of measles, mumps, rubella, polio, HIV and Sars (at least according to Wikipedia’s secondary documented sources) are far higher than Covid-19.iv Sure we know a great deal about the Flu and H1N1 due to years and decades of study, but Covid-19 is the new kid on the block.
Now that we’ve determined the Ro rate really is only one component of the picture (and a fuzzy one at that depending on how the math is calculated), let’s take a look at the Case Fatality Rate or “CFR”. WHO states Covid-19(at least in heavily hit China) is 3.0%, meanwhile Influenza has a whopping 6.7% (same as pneumonia) v. That clearly spells a dramatic difference between the two. Taking analysis further (and again, at least according to Wikipedia’s secondary documented sources), we can see that Yellow Fever (7.5%), Botulism (10%), Sars (11%), Typhoid (10-20%), Dengue Fever (26%), Cancer/Smallpox (30%), MERS (45%), just to name a few, all have eyepopping CFR rates far higher than Covid-19. vi
Now, besides China’s data being suspect, what the Media and Financial Community seem to want to ignore in breaking down the actual statistics behind the CFR are potential mitigating factors or factors which may give a clue as to how the CFR can be misinterpreted. A recent entry to the New England Journal of Medicine cites one study in Wuhan where there have been zero cases among children younger than 15; and that the CFR is 2% at most, and could be “considerably less than 1%.” vii In yet another entry to the New England Journal of Medicine, it was reported that “Since patients who were mildly ill and who did not seek medical attention were not included in our study, the case fatality rate in a real-world scenario might be even lower.” viii
Scientists are attempting to understand the significance of the ACE2 receptor (Angiotensin-converting enzyme 2) in the lungs which appears to be the entrance way for the cornoaviruses into the body.
Per a report from Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory:
“We also noticed that the only Asian donor (male) has a much higher ACE2-expressing cell ratio than white and African American donors (2.50% vs. 0.47% of all cells). This might explain the observation that the new Coronavirus pandemic and previous SARS-Cov pandemic are concentrated in the Asian area… ix
In a recent article which cites several prominent sources, including but not limited to: The University of South Carolina, the BBC, Gallup, smoking is indicated as a salient factor with coronaviruses (which could explain the limited cases of Covid-19 in anyone under 15 years of age in Wuhan as previously mentioned by the New England Journal of Medicine). In referring to the above mentioned Cold Spring Habor Laboratory report, the article states:
“…The study has no statistical significance, given that the sample size included only a handful of people with a single Asian victim, and such a small sample size is meaningless.
But the reference to ACE2 may be on the right track. Specifically, most scientists agree that both the Wuhan Coronavirus and the SARS virus which hit China in 2002-2003 attack the human body through the ACE2 receptor (short for ‘Angiotensin-converting enzyme-2’, which is an enzyme which plays a role in constriction of the lungs).
Here’s where it gets interesting …
A professor at the University of South Carolina found that smokers have significantly higher levels of ACE2 than non-smokers … but that no difference was found based on age, gender or racial group:
In this study, we analyzed four large-scale datasets of normal lung tissue to investigate the disparities related to race, age, gender and smoking status in ACE2 gene expression. No significant disparities in ACE2 gene expression were found between racial groups (Asian vs Caucasian), age groups (>60 vs <60) or gender groups (male vs female). However, we observed significantly higher ACE2 gene expression in smoker samples compared to nonsmoker samples.
This indicates the smokers may be more susceptible to 2019-nCov and thus smoking history should be considered in identifying susceptible population and standardizing treatment regimen.
Could this could help to explain why Chinese men are more susceptible to Coronavirus than other people?
Actually, it might…
The Chinese smoke a lot. BBC reported in 2015: China is the world’s biggest consumer of cigarettes – one in three cigarettes smoked globally is in China – as well as the world’s biggest tobacco producer. More than 300 million people – about a quarter of the population – smoke, with the average smoker consuming 22 cigarettes a day.
And it turns out that Chinese men smoke a lot more than Chinese women. For example, Gallup reported in 2005: Smoking in China is overwhelmingly a male habit. At least two-thirds of all Chinese men (68%) smoke at least occasionally, and roughly half (49%) are regular smokers. In contrast, only 6% of women smoke regularly (3%) or occasionally (3%).
Wikipedia writes: China … accounted for 51.4% of the world’s male smokers in 2015.
BBC notes: A new study has warned that a third of all men currently under the age of 20 in China will eventually die prematurely [from lung cancer and other diseases other than Coronavirus] if they do not give up smoking.
And a shockingly high percentage of Chinese male doctors smoke as well: A 2004 study conducted among 3,500 Chinese physicians found that 23% were regular smokers. There was a significant gender difference, with 41% of male physicians reporting to be smokers but only 1% of female physicians. More than one third of current smokers had smoked in front of their patients and nearly all had smoked during their work shift…”. x
SARS was similar in that an overwhelming majority of the people that died from SARS also had compromised Respiratory Systems due to smoking:
“…High rates of smoking have also been linked to more serious outcomes in both Sars and Mers.
One of the UK’s leading respiratory disease experts, Gisli Jenkins, professor of experimental medicine at Nottingham University, said that smokers had high rates of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a form of lung damage. And people with COPD are at high risk generally of respiratory illnesses such as the new coronavirus.
Prof Jenkins said it would be ‘astonishing’ if smokers were not at greater risk of Covid-19 than non smokers. And he said there may be a link between high smoking rates and severity of the disease.
‘China has extremely high rates of COPD and it also has high rates of severe pneumonia. In this particular coronavirus 15 per cent of the Chinese population who have been infected have severe respiratory disease and around two per cent have died – in the rest of the world the disease doesn’t seem to be as bad’…
Dr Sanjay Agrawal, chair of the Royal College of Physicians’ Tobacco Advisory Group, said research showed that smokers were twice as likely to get pneumonia as non smokers.’They are also more likely to get infections, the reason being that smoking will affect your defences so you’re susceptible to both viral and bacterial infections,’ he said. He added that the current strategy for managing the disease was focused on containment and delay – if it takes a couple of months for Covid-19 to really take off in the UK, smokers who quit today would be less at risk from the disease when it eventually arrives…’ xi
The Flu, or Influenza, does kill 30K people annually in the US alone and therefore can be considered a dangerous virus, however the Covid-19 virus has, at the time this was written, while tragic, only resulted in just over 3000 fatalities globally, and a large percentage of those deaths are in China. xii
In short, where the raw data being collected by the CDC, and then being parroted by the Media and many in the Financial Community, is really challenged is:
* The raw Data fails to account for and document victims that have underlying medical conditions, advanced age and/or other aggravating factors such as inadequate health care that may be contributing to higher CFR rates; and
* The raw Data fails to account for proximal cases of Seasonal Influenza which, ironically, happens to be occurring at the same time and may be artificially influencing Ro and CFR xiii; and
* The raw Data is based on highly inaccurate coronavirus tests which many times offer highly inaccurate readings, let alone fail to account for human error in the administering (or not administering the tests) xiv; and
* The raw Data fails to take into account reports that smoking may be a significant factor and may be a significant aggravator to CFR of Covid-19 due to ‘ACE2’ receptors in lungs…
The market reaction to Covid-19 seems to be more based on fear than actual numbers. Which begs the question, who or what is really driving this and are the parties behind it really being responsible with their roles or are they intentionally misleading the markets in clandestine effort to benefit from losses? The data on Covid-19 is FAR from complete and while caution concerning the virus is highly suggested, the ‘herd like’ Media and Financial Community seems to be setting up a whole new larger set of victims unrelated to the virus itself.
xiii https://www.cbsnews.com/news/12-million-americans-misdiagnosed-each-year-study-says/ and
xiv http://healthinsightuk.org/2020/02/12/coronavirus-a-reliable-test-is-badly-needed-we-dont-have-one/ and
© Tim Cox 2020
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