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by Olav Phillips

By now you have no doubt heard about the Corona Virus, and that it is spreading but what do we really know? More importantly what is the news not telling us about this.

The first thing we know for sure is that the story has been vastly underreported, almost buried under BREXIT, Impeachment, the upcoming election and a whole host of other world events.  A quick scan of the news showed much the common reported news items across the various news outlets.  What one didn’t see is the worsening situation in China, the standard cruise ship passengers and the many other Corona Virus stories which seem to about these days. It was almost like someone didn’t really want to talk about it huh? Maybe… Let’s explore the facts and maybe make a few guesses.

Timeline:

  • On December 31st, 2019 – The World Health Organization received its first report of pneumonia from the Wuhan area in China.  China reported that the pneumonia had been contracted between December 12th and December 19th.  The cases are reported by Wuhan Municipal Health.
  • January 1st, 2020 – Chinese authorities close the Hunan Seafood Wholesale Market and finger it at the potential source of the outbreak.
  • January 5th, 2020 – China announces the cases are not SARS or MERS but something new and they are investigating.
  • January 7th, 2020 – China identifies the virus a novel corona virus, a new corona virus, labeled 2019-nCoV by the World Health Organization.
  • January 9th, 2020 – A 61 year old man dies in China after being exposed to the virus.
  • January 11th, 2020 – China announces the first nCoV death of the 61 year old man.
  • January 13th, 2020 – Thailand reports its first case – A Chinese national who had flown in from Wuhan.
  • January 16th, 2020 – Japan confirms their first infection, a Japanese man who had visited Wuhan.
  • January 17th, 2020 – China confirms the second death prompting the United States to start screenings in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New York.
  • January 20th, 2020 – China reports 139 new cases and a third death, while the National Institute of Health announces they are working on a vaccine.  “The NIH is in the process of taking the first steps towards the development of a vaccine,” says Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
  • January 21st, 2020 – Washing State confirms the first case on US soil.
  • January 22nd, 2020 – China announces Wuhan will “temporarily” close all transport terminals (Air/Rail/etc..) and announces the death toll has increased to 17 while the infection rate has now increased to 547 across China.
  • January 23rd, 2020 – WHO meets and determines nCoV is not a international public health emergency. China cancels all large Lunar New Year celebrations.
  • January 26th, 2020 – The Beijing Cultural and Tourism Bureau cancels all tours, including international ones.
  • January 28th, 2020 – Xi Jinping meets with WHO Director General and agree to send in a special team including people from the CDC to investigate the outbreak.
  • January 29th, 2020 – The White House announces a new task force to investigate and ensure up to the minute information.
  • January 30th, 2020 – US reports first person to person transmission of the virus, and that’s not supposed to happen btw..

So that was then, where are we now?  According to the lastest WHO status report there are now 37,588 confirmed cases.  I know what you’re thinking but as of 1/22/20 there were only 547?  That was what was reported, but as of today there are now 37,251 in China alone and the risk assessment from the WHO is set to VERY HIGH (Their caps btw). So in two weeks the number jumped 36,000?  Yes that is what you are reading. Here is the WHO situation map:


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https://www.who.int/docs/default-source/coronaviruse/situation-reports/20200209-sitrep-20-ncov.pdf?sfvrsn=6f80d1b9_4

A new ARCGIS map which has emerged shows the infection rate in realtime and is now reporting 40,533 reports with 910 deaths.

https://gisanddata.maps.arcgis.com/apps/opsdashboard/index.html#/bda7594740fd40299423467b48e9ecf6

From this map you can see the cases in china are geometrically increasing This is probably what prompted China to build a outbreak hospital in four days with 1000 beds, then to build a second hospital right after the first one.

Meanwhile in other news Reuters is reporting that on 1/31/20 almost all airlines cancelled their flights into China for the duration of the outbreak.  Everyone from RowandaAir to Delta have cancelled their flights, in fact on a few Air China 747’s were allowed into the United States via Alaska and California to evacuate United States citizens from China.  Those travelers, by the way, are quarantined at Travis AFB and El Toro NAS  for the next 14 days while they work through the incubation period.

That seems like a fairly substantial response and it would appear the rest of the world is sealing China off.

So what are they NOT talking about?

Well the world seems to be downplaying this story but there is other news and interesting facts people are not talking about.

The Wuhan Institute of Virology

Although some news organizations like the BBC and Foreign Policy are reporting the growth in conspiracy theories about the source of the Virus, it is interesting to note that one of China’s Class 4 Virology labs is located 13.5km from the fish market the government has tagged as the source of the outbreak. Initially this distance was reported at 33 miles, but in actual fact it is just 8 miles.

So what are they NOT talking about?

Well the world seems to be downplaying this story but there is other news and interesting facts people are not talking about.

The Wuhan Institute of Virology

Originally founded in 1956 as the Wuhan Microbiology Lab, the Wuhan Institute of Virology is the first biosafety level 4 (BSL-4) lab built in mainland China.  As a BSL-4 facility this site studies the worst of the worst.

The Wikipedia Describes a BSL-4 facility as:

Biosafety level 4 (BSL-4) is the highest level of biosafety precautions, and is appropriate for work with agents that could easily be aerosol-transmitted within the laboratory and cause severe to fatal disease in humans for which there are no available vaccines or treatments. BSL-4 laboratories are generally set up to be either cabinet laboratories or protective-suit laboratories. In cabinet laboratories, all work must be done within a class III biosafety cabinet. Materials leaving the cabinet must be decontaminated by passing through an autoclave or a tank of disinfectant.[9] The cabinets themselves are required to have seamless edges to allow for easy cleaning. Additionally the cabinet and all materials within must be free of sharp edges in order to reduce the risk of damage to the gloves. In a protective-suit laboratory, all work must be done in a class II biosafety cabinet by personnel wearing a positive pressure suit.  In order to exit the BSL-4 laboratory, personnel must pass through a chemical shower for decontamination, then a room for removing the positive-pressure suit, followed by a personal shower. Entry into the BSL-4 laboratory is restricted to trained and authorized individuals, and all persons entering and exiting the laboratory must be recorded.

As with BSL-3 laboratories, BSL-4 laboratories must be separated from areas that receive unrestricted traffic. Additionally airflow is tightly controlled to ensure that air always flows from “clean” areas of the lab to areas where work with infectious agents is being performed. The entrance to the BSL-4 lab must also employ airlocks to minimize the possibility that aerosols from the lab could be removed from the lab. All laboratory waste, including filtered air, water, and trash must also be decontaminated before it can leave the facility.

Biosafety level 4 laboratories are used for diagnostic work and research on easily transmitted pathogens which can cause fatal disease. These include a number of viruses known to cause viral hemorrhagic fever such as Marburg virus, Ebola virus, Lassa virus, and Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever. Other pathogens handled at BSL-4 include Hendra virus, Nipah virus, and some flaviviruses. Additionally, poorly characterized pathogens which appear closely related to dangerous pathogens are often handled at this level until sufficient data are obtained either to confirm continued work at this level, or to permit working with them at a lower level. This level is also used for work with Variola virus, the causative agent of smallpox, though this work is only performed at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, United States, and the State Research Center of Virology and Biotechnology in Koltsovo, Russia.

It is also important to point out that while its proximity to the source infection  could be purely by chance, and far be it from me to engage in conspiracy theory, that same lab has come under fire from various experts regarding its safety after a December 2019 accidental release of SARS.

From the Wikipedia:

The laboratory took over a decade to complete from its conception in 2003, and scientists such as U.S. molecular biologist Richard H. Ebright expressed concern of previous escapes of the SARS virus at Chinese laboratories in Beijing, and the pace and scale of China’s plans for expansion into BSL–4 laboratories.

In the original Nature article there is more detail about some of the concerns. The article now also includes a statement from Nature confirming these concerns were about the December 2019 accident.

But worries surround the Chinese lab, too. The SARS virus has escaped from high-level containment facilities in Beijing multiple times, notes Richard Ebright, a molecular biologist at Rutgers University in Piscataway, New Jersey. Tim Trevan, founder of CHROME Biosafety and Biosecurity Consulting in Damascus, Maryland, says that an open culture is important to keeping BSL-4 labs safe, and he questions how easy this will be in China, where society emphasizes hierarchy. “Diversity of viewpoint, flat structures where everyone feels free to speak up and openness of information are important,” he says.

What’s more interesting is the potential links of the Wuhan Virology Institute to BioWeapons research.

In a January 14th, 2020 Washington Post article titled “Virus-hit Wuhan has two laboratories linked to Chinese bio-warfare program” a former Isreali intelligence officer and BioWeapons expert named Dany Shoham is quoted as saying:

Certain laboratories in the institute have probably been engaged, in terms of research and development, in Chinese [biological weapons], at least collaterally, yet not as a principal facility of the Chinese BW alignment.

He goes on to say:

Coronaviruses (particularly SARS) have been studied in the institute and are probably held therein.

SARS is included within the Chinese BW program, at large, and is dealt with in several pertinent facilities.

When the Washington Post pressed Shoham if the virus may have leaked he responded:

In principle, outward virus infiltration might take place either as leakage or as an indoor unnoticed infection of a person that normally went out of the concerned facility. This could have been the case with the Wuhan Institute of Virology, but so far there isn’t evidence or indication for such incident.

Not a tacit denial, but also not a tacit approval. I have included that since as with a situation like this there is no certainty. My intent is to point out interesting information and let the reader draw their own conclusions.

While Shoham’s statements are now being criticized and labeled conspiracy theory, its important to point out that Shoham not only has a doctorate in Medical Microbiology he also was a lieutenant colonel in the Israeli Defense Force and was a senior analyst with Israeli Military Intelligence from 1970 to 1991 where he specialized in biological and chemical warfare.

Another interesting fact the Washington Post article points out is that, according to a US Official, is that on the Chinese Internet a rumor started to circulate which blamed the US for the release as part of a conspiracy. This rumor may have been part of a internal disinformation program or just rampant speculation.

All this while the same media is now looking to impune a person who is apparently an authority.

Articles like:

Interestingly as much as these representative articles decry these theories as just plain old conspiracy theories only one mentioned Shoham by name and non of them talk about is background. They also don’t point out that he did give one angle for transmission but did not say it was the only path. It’s just rather odd a BSL-4 facility with some international concerns that is working with SARS is 8 miles away from the infection point and the virus is SARS like with the huge difference that it can be transmitted between humans which is a big change.

The Virus is spreading rapidly

It is spreading very rapidly. From 12/31/19 till today the infection rate, for what the WHO is declared is not a pandemic, has increased from three to over 40,000 world wide and continues to expand.

Miriam Webster defines a pandemic as:

an outbreak of a disease that occurs over a wide geographic area and affects an exceptionally high proportion of the population a pandemic outbreak of a disease

In this context the Coronavirus has not met that threshold do to the large population of China but as it spreads it appears it may. The isolation of China’s transport system is a signal of this as well as the Chinese governments attempts to isolate the most severely impacted cities.

From this tweet you can see an example of a government checkpoint:

The spread is also signifigant enough that in China towns and cities are actually isolating themselves as we can see from the twitter posts below:

At the same time the government is doing its best to downplay the severity of the issue:

From inside the hot zone some frightening stories are emerging. This message cannot be confirmed and may very well be inaccurate but if it is, and China has in the past downplayed the scale of emergencies, it is very frightening.

But the one thing which I found the most distrubing is a now deleted tweet from Dr. Eric Feigl-Ding, a Harvard epidemiologist, health economist, and nutrition scientist at the Harvard Chan School of Public Health. In the tweet he reacts to the transmission rate of the Corona Virus:

How bad is it? According to Dr. Feigl-Ding is “thermonuclear bad,” and that should cause us all to pause. Even more interesting is Dr. Feigl-Ding’s belief the number of cases is under reported by 10x which would put the infection rate close to half a million in mainland China.

I’m not sure why he deleted that post but he did. It was there and very telling.

Is the Corona Virus an accidentally released bioweapon? Did it come from bat’s or some exotic animal at a fish market? We will probably never know but what is obvious is that in the West and frankly everywhere this story is under reported. China air travel has been halted, at least for now. Cruise ships are being quarantined. People traveling out of China are being quarantined. Thousands of flights cancelled. It’s a big reaction! But is CNN on the ground in hazmat suits? Does MSNBC have interviews with leading virologists? Does Fox have interactive screens filled with information? No. No they do not.

Something is going on and it appears people are concerned. As I have shown the information is out there for you to find, but you need to look and if Dr. Fiegl-Ding is correct about the under reporting rate it may be much larger then we believe. That doesn’t mean panic, or get really scared but it does mean be observant. Let the CDC and the WHO work on it. Let the virologists do what they are trained to do but watch and listen but most of all be informed.

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