For those of you who follow this podcast, you know that our primary interest is the financial markets.
But sometimes outside events can be so strong, that they affect the world's stock markets. I think this is one of those events. So, today a look at this new Coronavirus.
Known to scientist as:2019 n-CoV, the “Novel” Coronavirus.
Here's what we know so far. Our first step in understanding where Coronavirus came from, is to throw out almost all of the initial reports on the disease.
Coronavirus first hit the western press earlier this month. At the time it was reported that: That Coronavirus appeared to be slowly increasing, and that was because humans to human transmission were slight.
Both of those reports have already been demonstrated to be invalid. Apparently human to human transmission is extremely active, and the disease is currently experiencing a geometric growth pattern.
Let me give you a couple of examples.
There have been two widely disseminated Coronavirus before this one. This one is called “Novel” Coronavirus, just indicating that it is the newest virus.
The two Coronavirus which preceded this one were SARS, the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, which also originated in China back in 2002. And the Coronavirus which came from the Mid East and was called MERS, the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome. It originated 10 years after SARS.
Both of these two outbreaks pale in comparison with this new Novel Strain of Coronavirus.
When all was said and done MERS infected only 2,500 people. While SARS infected 8,000. And those infections took place over several months.
There are reports coming our of Wuhan today, less than a month after this Coronavirus began, that Wuhan alone already has more than 8,000 people exhibiting Coronavirus symptoms.
If those reports are correct, then we are dealing with a significantly more virulent strain of this respiratory virus.
And it's this rapid spread of the disease, which leads me to conclude that contrary to those earlier reports, this disease spreads easily in human to human contact.
This is not uncommon among airborne respiratory diseases. A cough or sneeze or even a handshake can in some instances transmit a viral infection.
We also have some anecdotal evidence that points in this direction: a man in Seattle was reported to have the Coronavirus symptoms after just walking through the Wuhan Marketplace. We'll have more to say about that Market in a moment.
There are other examples of visitors to Wuhan being affected with fairly minimal contact with people in the city.
And perhaps the most convincing indication of the ease with which the Coronavirus spreads, is the draconian reaction of the Chinese Government. The army has quarantined the entire city of Wuhan, and it's over 10million residents.
Word is there are other cities within China which may also be placed in quarantine. This is a dramatic indication that the authorities believe this to be an existential threat.
In looking at the spread of this disease there are two measures that researchers use.
The first is the number of people infected by each carrier of the virus. The current estimate is that a carrier of this Corona Virus names 2019-nCoV, by researchers, infects about 1 ½ to 2 ½ people. A number that is lower than the infection rate of SARS.
This is part of the reason that the World Health Organization has been reluctant to label this outbreak as a significant international threat.
My guess is that these numbers are low, based purely on the anecdotal reports. And that the WHO is likely to change its threat level to significant very shorty.
Another measure researcher use to measure the threat of the disease is how many “generations” of patients have been infected. For instance, if I am the first generation and I infect you, then you are the second generation. And if, in turn, if you infect someone else, they are the third generation and so forth.
So just yesterday Chinese officials announced that the infection rate had reached the fourth generation, a level finally reached by both SARS and MERS, but later in their development.
Now we come to where this 2019-nCOV Cornavirus actually started to infect people. And this is where I think that us internet researchers can be particularly helpful in the process.
As I see it there are currently two locations that have been identified. The one, you will see most often referenced in the press. The other is currently being ignored.
Now this part of the process is a lot like a Sherlock Homes Murder Mystery. Right now it is the early stage of our investigation. We should build our list of suspects. And it's important to include everyone, even the butler at this point.
Because if we leave anyone off, and they are the murderer, our whole case is destroyed.
That's why I'm so concerned that this could happen here.
The number 1 suspect currently, and to read the press, there really is no other: is the South China Seafood Market.
From what I understand, this is a market place that has been around for years and years. One of those marketplaces with lots of different vendors offering primarily seafood, but also other delicacies as well.
These are the marketplaces where goods are delivered right from the farm or fisherman. Several of the large cities in American still have these marketplaces. And they often go by the name of the Central or City or Farmers Market.
Well, apparently one of the vendors at the South China Seafood Market branched out and was selling exotic game. Such delicacies as rats, and bats and snakes. And all kinds of other wild game.
And this appears to make it easy for the researchers.
We know that many of the coronavirus strains come from just these types of wildlife. And so, both the researchers and the press, along with the authorities have concluded: they have a culprit.
Wild game, South China Seafood Market, that was easy, it must be them.
Further strengthening their case is the fact that several vendors in the market are among the first to fall ill.
So if they are lucky those who are pointing to the South China Seafood Market as the place of origin may be correct.
But research hasn't shown that.
It will likely be several weeks before research can establish the real origin of this disease. And in the meantime, there is suspect number 2, that I think we should at least take a look at it.
The second suspect is the National Bio-Safety Lab, which began operation less than 2 years ago in Wuhan China.
It is the only laboratory that is internationally certified as a bio-safety level 4 facility. That is to say, that this laboratory is certified to handle the world's most deadly pathogens.
Pathogens that would likely be able to create a man-made disease that could easily replicate a MERS of SARS epidemic.
One doesn't have to be a research scientist to understand that the facility, just like the South China Seafood Market, also represents a possible place of origin for the latest Coronavirus outbreak.
And that doesn't have to be some sort of conspiracy theory, an accident could cause such an event.
Yet our attention is focused on the one, and as far as I know little to no mention is made of this other suspect.
I wonder why?
So here is what we know so far:
A very significant new respiratory virus has broken out in China, with the scientific name of 2019-nCOV or Novel Coronavirus.
The vectors of this new Coronavirus appear to be greater than the two related versions of Coronavirus, MERS, and SARS.
The impact of this new coronavirus is beginning to be felt in the financial markets.
On Wednesday we reported on 5 young biotech companies in related fields.
Currently, markets are beginning to react negatively to companies that do significant business in the region.
I believe that this will be one of the most important news stories for 2020, and we'll continue to keep you up to date.