Covid-19 Versus Other Viral Diseases
There was a dramatic change in COVID-19 in Australia on 28th March 2020 – it came out from being an unknown and frightening mystery into the light enabling rational analysis. No longer did we have to fear 15 million Australians becoming infected and no longer was there any rational fear of “thousands” of deaths, let alone the initial prediction of “up to 150,000 Australian deaths”.
On 6th June, I listened to an “Outsiders” interview with Dr Michael Levitt, an anaesthetist in Sydney who specialises in the management of difficult airways and fibre-optic intubation and is a member of the COVID-19 management committee at Western Sydney Hospital.
Dr Levitt was asked an opening question: “Did we need the lockdowns?” His answer was a remarkably blunt “Well, absolutely not!”
Dr Levitt went on to add that it was understandable in the early days of our COVID experience that we should initiate restrictions prohibiting incoming planes and ships, social distancing and place some limitation on gatherings. This was because at that stage, we didn’t know what we were dealing with, but within days we were able to judge the threat of the virus.
Dr Levitt made the point that from late March, or early April, it was clear that lockdowns were no longer necessary. He commented that there were never any lockdowns for the flu, for SARS, for MERS or Ebola, and he mused that perhaps there may be some intelligence available to governments around the world which provoked such dramatic responses.
The interview proceeded to explore the possibility of a 2nd wave (never going to come, according to Dr Levitt) and clearing the backlog of elective surgery cases (up to 2023/4 before they fully catch up). Dr Levitt pointed out that hospitals are seriously under-utilised and there is no incentive for state governments to spend the money necessary to increase the rate of catch-up as they have the perfect political excuse, being “it was the pandemic and we had to go slowly to allow for a 2nd wave and to make everybody safe”.
Dr Levitt remarked that the most underemployed people in the community are ICU medical staff. He fears the long-term health consequences of people not presenting themselves for medical advice or treatment because of their fears of contamination, may ultimately dwarf the COVID casualty numbers.
Dr Levitt said that he was at a loss to understand why there has been such a massive over-reaction to the COVID threats by governments all around the world and mused that perhaps they have information that they are not sharing with their populace.
There is little doubt that the daily barrage of government edicts, often getting changed several times a day and the constant media circus surrounding COVID has frightened vast numbers of our citizens into complete compliance. Dr Levitt commented that it is much easier to scare people than un-scare them.
All of this resonated with me, as I have been saying since the end of March that more people die from the flu than from COVID, yet we don’t seem to care much about it. I decided that I would investigate it, and the first thing I noticed is that it is extremely difficult to get any statistical data on the flu – which says a lot.
I was able to compile the following table, but it is a hybrid from different data sources and some of the data conflicts with the “Influenza Fast Facts” document that I have reproduced below.
The COVID mortality rate is currently 1.17%
The table shows that influenza consistently has more cases and more deaths overall than COVID-19, but at a mortality rate somewhere around 1 in 200-300 cases, whereas COVID is sitting at 1 death in 85.4 cases.
The following “Influenza Fast Facts” shown on isg.org.au gives an indication that the flu has, in past years, been just as medically dangerous as COVID-19, without anywhere near the amount of official or media hysteria.
Influenza Fast Facts
- Influenza (commonly known as "the flu") is a highly contagious and potentially deadly disease that can be spread through coughing and sneezing.
- In Australia, influenza on average causes 1,500 to 3,000 deaths,about 18,000 hospitalisations and 300,000 GP consultationseach year.
- Influenza is caused by a virus and causes more severe illness than the common cold. It can cause serious and debilitating complications, including pneumonia, especially in people that are vulnerable such as the elderly and other in the "at risk" group.
- People with a chronic disease have a 40 times increased risk of death from influenza. Annual vaccination is the single most effective measure to prevent influenza.
- Only 42 per cent of the "at risk" group under 65 years of age are being vaccinated annually.
- Less than 50 per cent of healthcare workers, who are at a greater risk of contracting and spreading influenza, are being vaccinated against influenza annually.
The last item in the list above indicates that even many healthcare workers don’t take it that seriously. The Australian Government Department of Health “strongly recommends” that all healthcare workers (particularly those working with people who are “immuno-compromised”) be vaccinated every year.
I can’t understand why they are not required to be vaccinated against influenza, rather than be “strongly recommended” to get their flu shot.
We have had only one case ever of SARS in Australia, and no cases of either MERS or Ebola. Australia did prepare for an Ebola outbreak in 2014 and commissioned a private healthcare provider to run an Ebola treatment facility in South Africa as part of an international assistance program.
In an article from the Sax Institute, back home “enormous outlays of time, effort and financial resources were spent on preparations…. but there were no cases of EVD in Australia. However, several people with suspected infection were transferred to designated hospitals for investigation, which provided valuable experience in the application of protocols and use of high-level containment facilities.”
It seems to me that the “valuable experience” etc. described above has been lost somewhere between 2014 and 2020.
Of course we did have a Pandemic in 2009 for the Swine Flu, the following Wikipedia summary provides a good point of comparison between how the swine flu virus was handled in 2009 and how we are handling COVID-19.
Australia had 37,537 confirmed cases of H1N1 Influenza 2009 (Human Swine Influenza) and 191 deaths reported by Department of Health but only 77 deaths reported by the Australian Bureau of Statistics. The actual numbers are much larger, as only serious cases warranted being tested and treated at the time. Suspected cases have not been reported by the Department of Health and Ageing since 18 May 2009 because they were changing too quickly to report. Sources say that as many as 1600 Australians may have actually died as a result of this virus.
On 23 May 2009 the federal government classified the outbreak as CONTAIN phase except in Victoria where it was escalated to the SUSTAIN phase on 3 June 2009. This gave government authorities permission to close schools in order to slow the spread of the disease. On 17 June 2009 the Department of Health and Ageing introduced a new phase called PROTECT. This modified the response to focus on people with high risk of complications from the disease. Testing at airports was discontinued. The national stockpile of antiviral drugs were no longer made available to people with the flu unless there were more than mild symptoms or a high risk of dying.
It seems that whilst there was little disruption to the day to day lives of most people, there was evidence of a substandard management response from our health authorities. Perhaps more diligence in 2009 and less civil interference in 2020 might have been the right approach.
My great fear about influenza is that the zealots who are killing our economy and our spirits in the name of saving us from dying from COVID, will turn their attention to saving us all from dying from the flu – remember the annual death toll from the flu is far greater than the current COVID death toll.
For most of my adult life, I have joked about saying my nightly prayers along the lines of “Dear God, please don’t let the government help me, I can’t afford it”. It now seems that I should have been saying it in earnest.
Here is the Timeline of 'open' confirmed cases, recoveries, and deaths that I want you to see.
The opinions expressed in this article are my personal opinions and the information that I have provided within the article is, to the best of my understanding, factual. I respect the right of others to have differing opinions. Any errors or inconsistencies are entirely my fault.
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