On the Seasonality of the Virus

What are the odds that the coronavirus will recede on its own during the spring because of warmer temperatures or a higher ultraviolet (UV) index? This has been a question from the beginning.

There has been some research in support of the idea that the warmer season would force the virus to retreat. And there has been other research that concluded that the virus would retreat but not disappear, that it would survive in the southern hemisphere and that it could then stage a comeback in the northern hemisphere in the fall when cooler temperatures return.

Single Variables

Looking at the United States state by state, we find little correlation between the number of deaths per capita and the UV index. For example, Wisconsin with a UV index of 4 in March has so far suffered 25 deaths per million inhabitants, but Rhode Island also with a UV index of 4 saw as many as 60 deaths per million. At one extreme, New York, New Jersey, Michigan, Connecticut and Massachusetts, all with a March UV index of 4, had over 100 deaths per million. At the other extreme, South Dakota also with a March UV index of 4 had only 7 deaths per million. (All deaths figures are as of 12th April 2020 per Worldometer). Read more

A Few Certainties About Covid-19

There is plenty that we do not know about the coronavirus. But let us take stock of the things that we do know for sure, and of some other things that we will soon know.Screen Shot 2020-01-27 at 2.29.15 PM

Real-world Exponentiality

By now, a child understands exponential growth. If you start with one apple on March 1st and double every three days, you will have a thousand apples on March 31st and a million on April 30th.

But in the real world, not the abstract world of math, there are constraints on that growth. Doubling your apples every three days is feasible for a month or so because you can probably find a thousand apples and also find a place to store them. But it would be more difficult to find, transport and store a million apples, unless you are willing to pack a six car garage with apples from floor to ceiling (accurate math). If you did, most of them would rot and your neighbors would call for psychiatric help, two other constraints on unbridled exponentiality. Read more

The Pandemic as a ‘Gray Rhino’ Event, with Michele Wucker

“The paradox of the Gray Rhinos is that the further they are down the road, the less likely you are to do something about them. But that is the time when it will cost the least and you are most likely to be successful.” ____ Michele Wucker

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Sami J. Karam speaks to best-selling author Michele Wucker about her 2016 book The Gray Rhino and how its method and lessons apply to the coronavirus pandemic. Gray Rhino threats are highly probable, highly impactful but often neglected until it is too late or until the cost of dealing with them becomes very high.

Topics include:

  • 0:00 Introduction of Michele Wucker
  • 1:05 When will we be able to travel to Asia or Europe again?
  • 3:10 Explaining the concept and examples of Gray Rhino events
  • 9:00 Various reactions to the spread of the pandemic
  • 15:50 Was the virus predictable?
  • 19:20 Why should we have been readier for the virus when it is so rare?
  • 22:00 Why we ignore what is “over there”. Did it start “over there” or over here?
  • 25:35 How could we have prepared for the pandemic?
  • 31:00 The current catch-22: deaths by virus vs. deaths of despair
  • 44:10 Stages of a Gray Rhino event applied to the pandemic
  • 50:10 What other Gray Rhino events do you worry about? A triad of Gray Rhinos
  • 55:45 How alarmists help avert deep crises
  • 59:40 Conclusion

TO HEAR THE PODCAST, CLICK HERE OR ON THE TIMELINE BELOW:

(photo of Michele Wucker by Hal Shipman)

The Relationship Between Fertility and National Income

We all heard that “demography is destiny”. But how many of us truly believe it? If demography was destiny, the world would look very different today. The two demographic giants China and India would be uncontested economic and military powers. The United States would be a regional power struggling to keep up. Larger European nations such as Britain, France and Germany would barely register on the economic map, while smaller ones such as Switzerland and Finland would be invisible. Nigeria and DR Congo would be African powerhouses. Brazil, Indonesia and the Philippines would be the shining stars of their continents. Read more

Advocate of Early Detection: Podcast with Cardiologist Dr. Michel Accad

22 April 2015

Cardiologist Michel Accad advocates early testing for detection of heart disease.

“We do have very robust technology, non-invasive technology that is simple to use and reliable and that has been established for a long time, to try to detect heart disease before it actually causes any problems. Most of the time when heart disease becomes manifest with symptoms or sudden cardiac arrest or a heart attack, it has been present for many many years before that time. So there is an opportunity to make a diagnosis that is very specific.”   Dr. Michel Accad, Athletic Heart of San Francisco.

Demography is one of the recurrent themes at populyst. In America Heading towards Zero Population Growth, I wrote that the population of the United States is growing at a slowing rate and that, except for immigration, it will not grow at all in the 2030s and 2040s. This prediction may however come into question if US life expectancy increases significantly in the next 20 years.

For this and other reasons, it is useful to periodically examine the progress being made in health and medical practice.

Heart disease remains the number one killer in the United States, accounting for 611,000 of the 2.6 million deaths in 2013. Strokes were responsible for an additional 129,000 fatalities, which means that cardio-vascular ailments led to 29% of all US deaths. By way of comparison, cancer in its various forms accounted for 23% of US deaths.

Death by heart attack is largely an older person phenomenon. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), as many as 40% of fatal heart attacks strike people aged over 85 and only 8% strike people aged under 55. This means that a hypothetical increase in US life expectancy, which currently stands at 79 years of age, must probably be accompanied by a measurable reduction in heart disease.

The table, compiled from CDC data, shows the percentage of heart disease and cancer fatalities per age group.

Heart v Cancer

Detection and prevention are seen as essential ways to fight back against cancer. It has become widely accepted that after a certain age, people should undergo routine testing for detection of some cancers even if they appear on the surface to be completely asymptomatic. Some such tests are mammograms and colonoscopies. It is important to note that these tests are most often covered by insurance, a factor which certainly raised their adoption among patients and their doctors.

By contrast, historically, the approach to detection of heart disease has relied primarily on a nebulous review of the usual risk factors, mainly diabetes, blood pressure, cholesterol, smoking, and their frequently attendant obesity. More recently however, a growing number of cardiologists have started advocating proactive testing via CT Scans (aka CAT Scans) of all people over 45 or 50.

MichelAccadPhoto
Michel Accad, MD.

One of the most vocal among this group is San Francisco-based Dr. Michel Accad, a practicing cardiologist who is also the founder and medical director of Athletic Heart of San Francisco.

In addition to early detection of coronary heart disease and other heart ailments, Dr. Accad also champions a more proactive approach to early detection of any risk of sudden cardiac arrest. Although relatively rare compared to coronary heart disease, sudden cardiac arrest can strike any person of any age during strenuous physical activity.

Dr. Accad’s years of experience coincided with rapid advances in technology and the two have converged today into the following messages:

1- It is a good idea for any person over the age of 45 to get a CT Scan. Because the first manifestation of heart disease can be catastrophic (one third of all heart attacks are fatal), it makes sense to try to detect the presence of any plaque in the arteries.

2- It is a good idea for any person of any age who is active in high-intensity physical activity to undergo tests designed to detect early any risk of sudden cardiac arrest.

As noted above, insurance typically covers cancer tests such as mammograms and colonoscopies. But CT scans designed to detect plaque in the arteries are not generally covered. Perhaps this is due to the fact that treatment of cancer can be far more expensive than treatment of heart disease, at least in its milder form. Dr. Accad notes nonetheless that the cost of CT scans is not prohibitive for a vast majority of patients.

I discussed all of these issues and questions of life expectancy with Dr. Accad in a podcast which you can hear through this link or by clicking the timeline below.

TO HEAR THE PODCAST, CLICK HERE OR ON THE TIMELINE BELOW:

Dr. Accad may be reached through Athletic Heart of San Francisco or through his blog.

Disclosure: Sami Karam and populyst have no business dealings with, and receive no compensation from, Dr. Michel Accad, Athletic Heart of San Francisco or any other parties named in the podcast.

Plans to Tame Kenya’s Exploding Population

The government has plans to reduce the total fertility rate from 4.6 to 2.6 children per woman.

EDITH FORTUNATE writes in AFRICA REVIEW:

Ann Wafula, 30, patiently waits to see the gynaecologist at Gilead Medical Centre, situated in the upmarket Upper Hill area of Nairobi.

The mother of a three-month-old baby boy, who is also her first born, is here to consult with the doctor on what contraceptives she should use, based on a hormonal test carried at the hospital.

In Hagadera, three hundred kilometres away to the east of Nairobi, 21-year-old Asha Abdalla is a proud mother of twin girls, delivered just a few days ago at a local dispensary. The twins are her second and third born, while her first born is aged barely two years. “I conceived when he was just nine months,” she explains.  READ MORE.

India’s Aging Population Vulnerable to Infectious Diseases

SOHINI DAS reports in the BUSINESS STANDARD:

As a large number of India’s population moves towards the 50 plus bracket, The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) Report 2012 shows that in the absence of proper healthcare infrastructure and adult vaccination programmes, the elderly population in the country are highly vulnerable to infectious diseases.

India’s population is undergoing a dramatic transition, the report says adding that the proportion of older people is expected to rise three- to four-fold in the next 40 years. India’s population of people aged 65 and over will be second only to China’s. Even conservative estimates predict that the number of people aged 60 and over will reach 323 million by 2050. By then, people in their fifties are expected to account for 30% of the population, while those in their sixties will make up 20%. READ MORE.

Africa: Why Investing in Africa’s Youthful Population Can No Longer Wait

BUNMI MAKINWA, Director of the United Nations Population Fund – Africa, argues that “we need to recognise that the demographic dividend is no guarantee, and neither will it occur by itself. This is an opportunity that must be harnessed now for great gains in the future.”

From ALLAFRICA.COM: http://allafrica.com/stories/201210020326.html

The African Union’s ministers in charge of youth have underscored the need to harness the potential of the youthful population on the continent for its transformation. At the end of their two-day Conference in Addis Abba (12-14 Sept 2012), they tasked the AU Commission and the Economic Commission for Africa to identify policy recommendations for African governments in order to adequately address the challenges of young people.

This is a welcome development, and it’s heart-warming news.

Africa’s youth bulge

The notion of a demographic transition resulting in a youth bulge in Africa has been evident in the last 10 years. But it is gratifying that this is beginning to receive some attention among various policy makers on the continent. Ultimately, it should be the central focus of development strategy at the regional and national levels.

Currently, Africa is the most youthful continent in the world. At least 35 per cent of its more than one billion population is between the ages of 15 and 35. Experts estimate this could double by 2045.

In 2010 young people aged 15-24 years accounted for slightly more than 20 per cent of the total African population. In East and Southern Africa specifically, those aged between 10 and 24 years make up 32 per cent of the population of 125 million.

READ MORE: http://allafrica.com/stories/201210020326.html

Ageing in the Twenty-First Century: A Celebration and A Challenge

A new report from the UN Population Fund and advocacy group HelpAge International,  Ageing in the 21st Century: a Celebration and a Challenge, deems that:

Population ageing is one of the most significant trends of the 21st century.

It has important and far-reaching implications for all aspects of society. Around the world, two persons celebrate their sixtieth birthday every second – an annual total of almost 58 million sixtieth birthdays. With one in nine persons in the world aged 60 years or over, projected to increase to one in five by 2050, population ageing is a phenomenon that can no longer be ignored.

Ageing in the Twenty-First Century: A Celebration and A Challenge analyses the current situation of older persons and reviews progress in policies and actions taken by governments and other stakeholders since the Second World Assembly on Ageing in implementing the Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing to respond to the opportunities and challenges of an ageing world. It provides many inspiring examples of innovative programmes that successfully address ageing issues and the concerns of older persons.

The report identifies gaps and provides recommendations for the way forward to ensure a society for all ages in which both young and old are given the opportunity to contribute to development and share in its benefits. A unique feature of the report is a focus on the voices of older persons themselves, captured through consultations with older men and women around the world.

The report, which is the product of a collaboration of over twenty United Nations entities and major international organizations working in the area of population ageing, shows that important progress has been made by many countries in adopting new policies, strategies, plans and laws on ageing, but that much more needs to be done to fully implement the Madrid Plan and fulfil the potential of our ageing world.

Full Report: Ageing in the 21st Century: a Celebration and a Challenge 

USA: Long-Term Implications of an Older Population

The NATIONAL RESEARCH COUNCIL released a new report Aging and the Macroeconomy: Long-term Implications of an Older PopulationExcerpts of the press release:

Population Aging Will Have Long-Term Implications for Economy; Major Policy Changes Needed

WASHINGTON — The aging of the U.S. population will have broad economic consequences for the country, particularly for federal programs that support the elderly, and its long-term effects on all generations will be mediated by how — and how quickly — the nation responds, says a new congressionally mandated report from the National Research Council.  The unprecedented demographic shift in which people over age 65 make up an increasingly large percentage of the population is not a temporary phenomenon associated with the aging of the baby boom generation, but a pervasive trend that is here to stay.

“The bottom line is that the nation has many good options for responding to population aging,” said Roger Ferguson, CEO of TIAA-CREF and co-chair of the committee that wrote the report.  “Nonetheless, there is little doubt that there will need to be major changes in the structure of federal programs, particularly those for health.  The transition to sustainable policies will be smoother and less costly if steps are taken sooner rather than later.”

Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid are on unsustainable paths, and the failure to remedy the situation raises a number of economic risks, the report says.  Together, the cost of the three programs currently amounts to roughly 40 percent of all federal spending and 10 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product.  Because of overall longer life expectancy and lower birth rates, these programs will have more beneficiaries with relatively fewer workers contributing to support them in the coming decades.  Combined with soaring health care costs, population aging will drive up public health care expenditures and demand an ever-larger fraction of national resources.  READ MORE.