Thinking Rationally About Coronavirus COVID-19 (guest post by Alex Broadbent)

The following is a guest post* by Alex Broadbent, Dean of Faculty of the Humanities, Professor of Philosophy, and Director of Institute for the Future of Knowledge at the University of Johannesburg. He is the author of many works, including Philosophy of Medicine and Philosophy of Epidemiology, and co-editor of a forthcoming volume on the philosophy of public health. Thinking Rationally About Coronavirus COVID-19 by Alex Broadbent This article is meant to assist in thinking rationally about the current outbreak of COVID-19, especially through clarifying conceptual matters and structuring a cost-benefit analysis. This requires a factual summary, which is provided in good faith. However, the article should NOT be treated as an authoritative guide to any factual matter relating to COVID-19 or any other disease, nor to any medical or other technical or professional matter. The author has no formal medical or epidemiological training. Factual background Coronaviruses are ubiquitous (we find them wherever we look), and cause 5-10% of respiratory infections globally, rising to about one third during epidemics. There is no specific treatment for any coronaviruses beyond supportive care. As these figures imply, infections are typically not life-threatening. We have all had them; they are one of several viral infections aside from influenza that often inaccurately get called “flu”. However, some strains are more dangerous, such as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS, also originating in China) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), and can lead to pneumonia and contribute to serious pulmonary conditions.1,2 In December 2019 a clustering of pneumonia in Wuhan, a city of 11m people in Hubei Province (pop. 56m), China, led to the identification of a novel coronavirus, which the World Health Organisation labelled COVID-19 in February 2020. Early patients had visited a live animal and fish market, and the two closest relatives of COVID-19 are found in bats, suggesting zoonotic origin (in common with many coronaviruses and, ultimately, the majority of our infectious diseases, which mostly originate in agricultural and domestic animals3). However, the outbreak spread, showing that community transmission (human to human) was occurring. Here is a summary of the latest WHO situation report.4 Region Confirmed cases Of which, new Deaths Of which, new China 80,904 45 3,123 23 Rest of world 28,674 3,949 686 202 Global … Continue reading Thinking Rationally About Coronavirus COVID-19 (guest post by Alex Broadbent)