ForumTouchy Subjects ► The plausability of COVID19 being man-made
NYC is pretty much fucked already. Our hospitals are overflowing. The governor won't even issue a proper shelter in place order. Construction is still moving forward, even on stupidly non-essential sites (why the actual fuck are we continuing to work on a flagship Krispy Kreme store?). They're training optometrists to help with the pandemic, which is basically equivalent to asking a dentist to write you an eyeglasses prescription. Practically half the city has lost their jobs, and Cuomo won't issue a fucking rent freeze to help them. It's bad.
  
The US military is conflicted between what is mission essential and what can be let go. One might expect the military of all organizations to be prepared for biological hazards but they are not prepared for pandemics. Since I work at an airfield staffed for medical evacuations and the state may request assistance from us, we will likely work through the entirety of this. My active duty contract is ending but I'm currently stuck because I have nearly 2 years on my inactive contract that means they can keep me on active duty longer if needed. As of now I'm stuck in limbo working with mixed messages about whether I can finish my contractual service as normal or not. Depending on the severity of this I may just be wearing hazmat gear and going to work everyday by myself since we're already low on manning.
  
DIAV said:
As to waiting it out - I don't think that is likely to work. The figures I saw were that Covid-19 had an R-value (average transmissions per case) of 2.8. Until that figure drops below 1, the virus will continue to spread. All the social distancing can do is delay the transmission, not reduce eventual number of cases.
The R-value is directly related to the number of people a sick person comes in contact with. Social distancing radically drops the number of people a sick person contacts. If you can reduce contact to near-zero, then you reduce the R-value to near zero.

DIAV said:
That means the only way to reduce the R-value is by herd immunity. To do that, you need around 75% of the population to get it, even assuming a 100% immune response.
We aren't sure that you get immune to COVID-19, which is the problem with this. Lots of people in China who had the virus got it again after testing negative and being released.

DIAV said:
The current strategies will act to spread the load on the health services, and that may well save a lot of lives, but the pandemic won't be over until the vast majority of us have had it.
This isn't necessarily correct, the pandemic won't be over until either the majority of us have had it or all remaining cases are contained. Either of those scenarios would work. Because we're going to containment strategies so late in the game, it's hard to imagine containing this successfully, but it could still be possible.

DIAV said:
We have been fortunate this time around that the death rate is so low (estimated at around 1% taking into account the unreported cases).
Not necessarily lucky -- a higher death rate would mean less spread. We were much better off with Ebola, it was much easier to contain even though it's much more fatal. Also, the death rate spikes when medical institutions hit their threshold, and the 1% figure is not taking this eventuality into place.

DIAV said:
That will effectively double the normal death rate over the next 2 years.
This is very optimistic, assumes no deaths related to medical system overload.

DIAV said:
It could have been far worse. For comparison, the Black death is believed to have killed over 50% on the first pass and around 20% in subsequent pandemics. Ebola has a death rate of about 65-70%
As mentioned, we were empirically much better off with Ebola. The more fatal a disease is, usually the faster it kills you. If it kills you very fast, you have less time to spread it, which reduces the R-value and makes containment easier. Other factors play a role, of course.

It's hard to say how bad the plague was, given that European society had extremely poor medical and scientific knowledge at the time. That's more than 300 years before Ignaz Semmeweis was thrown out of medicine for the audacity of suggesting doctors wash their hands.
  
The R-value is directly related to the number of people a sick person comes in contact with. Social distancing radically drops the number of people a sick person contacts. If you can reduce contact to near-zero, then you reduce the R-value to near zero.


Indeed. I didn't put that at all well. It is hard to know how big the effect is, though. Most people are not completely isolated (nor can be if we want to continue essential activities like supplying food), and so transmission continues, and there will be a reservoir of cases. If you continue the distancing until the disease is totally eliminated, then fine. Once you ease off restrictions, the underlying rate causes the cycle to kick off again.


You also make a good point about immunity. Do you have any figures on the level of protection? I did state that the 75% figure assumed (unrealistically) a 100% immunity. What is needed is 75% herd immunity. If individual immunity doesn't reach that level, then the spread will continue.
  
(disclaimer: not an expert, just well-read)

As far as I know we don't know yet what would be needed for herd immunity or if herd immunity is even possible. We don't develop natural herd immunity for the flu or from some coronaviruses because they change over time. Without a vaccine, it's entirely possible this could be a perpetual disease, we just don't know yet.

Limited data shows that in Guangdong, 14% of patients were reinfected in the first few months of test negative. At least some of those were re-hospitalized, while same may not have shown any symptoms but maybe have been carrying the virus.

It's probably safe to assume that if we're seeing 14%, the actual number of people who could be reinfected is much higher, especially given China's extremely severe lockdown procedures probably preventing a lot of transmission.

So the Herd Immunity number I've seen without reinfection is 60%source. So does that would mean if 61% of people could re-contract or re-transmit the virus, we could not develop herd immunity? (note: I'm open to corrections on this)

Either way, it's going to be much more difficult than anticipated if somebody with antibodies can still contract or pass the virus, meaning possibly the only way to eliminate it is with vaccine or quarantine.
  
Likewise not an expert.

The 75% I've been quoting comes from a naive mathematical calculation of (base R-value/ Required R-Value + Base R-value) 2.8/3.8 = 0.74
  
Right, so I guess that calculation is still valid, except what 75% there represents is the number of people who are immune not just the number of people who have caught the disease.

So that means when only 25% of the population can catch the disease, we are likely to see herd immunity take effect. Which means that if only 26% of cases relapsed every X period of time, we can't get herd immunity unless relapse numbers go down from compromised people dying or something. However, in this case, the prevalence of the disease would go so far down that the medical system could handle it and it'd be a nuisance until a vaccine were made.

That may have to be the best-case scenario without massive international quarantine efforts.
  
This is probably a stupid question, but how do know the virus wasn't created intentionally?
  
Because:

1) What's the motivation to create something like this intentionally? You can't release a virus like this without hurting your own people. It's not deadly enough to wipe out a country.

2) This virus is extremely consistent with other naturally occurring viruses, it's implausible to expect something which could naturally occur must have been secretly manufactured with cutting-edge bioweapons development

3) Nobody had a treatment or a cure. If you were making this in a lab, you would have made a treatment for it so that you could keep your own troops/citizens/interests safe.

4) In any country, development of bioweapons requires hundreds, if not thousands, of people to be in on the loop. Scientists, military people, intelligence people, state officials, state leaders. Where are the whistleblowers? We would have to believe this was made in a lab, intentionally, and released without a single person getting a guilty conscience and leaking to the public.

It's just so wildly implausible compared to the natural explanation: novel diseases occur in nature literally all the time. We've seen this dozens, if not hundreds, of times in recorded human history. We've seen entire civilizations fall because of novel diseases. It's unhelpful and unrealistic to think that this time it's some giant convoluted conspiracy theory even though every other time it's been naturally explained.
  
Let me be clear, an idea like this rests on a number of assumptions but I haven't found a convincing reason to dismiss the possibility entirely. I'm still a far cry away from the Alex Jones interpretation of current events.

While this virus isn't strong enough to wipe out a country, the effects are devastating enough to destabilize the global economy and any nation that can't lock down entirely without violating freedoms. Countries like China can minimize collateral damage because they have more control over their own market and population.

I wouldn't imagine that a bioweapons lab would need to engineer a virus if they occur so easily within nature. Could it not be bred using human and animal test subjects based on the viruses? If so, it wouldn't take a lot of scientific prowess to make one. From what I understand, there are bioweapon development programs in countries like China and knowing how militaries operate, it's probably not staffed with the best and brightest. Why worry about creating a cure if it's a mild virus meant to destabilize a nation? Or it's just a test run prior to sending out a nastier one. For all I know, the virus could've been in a lab while the vaccine was being developed for a select few.

I do find the idea that it was intentionally bred and spread implausible but not wildly implausible.
  
This conversation is ridiculous, but...

The ONLY nation that would even have a slightest motive to do this is North Korea. And so they are the only ones we can entertain the idea of this. This is because most economies (ESPECIALLY China's) are heavily dependent on exports, whereas North Korea's export economy is, well, nearly non-existent and wouldn't really gain anything from a collapse of all other economies, but wouldn't have much to lose.

Okay, we have only one suspect.

But why do I say their export economy is "nearly" and not "entirely" non-existent? Because of North Korea's only ally: China. This is where the outbreak originated.

This no longer makes sense.
  
You can take a look at these boring scientific reasons it's not man-made (pdf).
  
I have considered China's loss due to export, that alone doesn't convince me. They've been pushing towards the independence of our economy due to how much cultural influence we have. Also, I will look at the pdf but I was hoping for a simple bottom line answer that could easily dismiss any idea it was manmade.

China's dependency on exports alone wouldn't convince me entirely that the government doesn't have a dark corner that could make risky moves like the Nazi party did with some of their secret human experiments.

I get that the idea is ridiculous, I have a co-worker who is biased when it comes to right-wing accusations against China, but he's skeptical enough that a simple bottom line answer might convince him otherwise. Last we talked, I had to admit I really couldn't dismiss the idea of a manmade pandemic entirely.
  
My summation of the paper:

It's probably not man-made because:
* the genomic sequence is consistent with recent evolution from the animal strains
* the mutations present show that it evolved in the presence of an immune response - that is, in a living being, and not in a petri dish. which is a pain in the ass to do in a lab.
* It doesn't bind to human cells as well as we could do on purpose - probably it binds better to another animal
* it's relatively ordinary for the mutations that occurred to occur in these places on the genome.
* there have been further mutations of the virus that were not present in early samples, which likely affect the virulence of the disease (i.e: it looks like it got better at spreading after some humans already had it)
* there's no evidence of contribution from viruses commonly used for genetic engineering, so it's very unlikely that this was produced by gene editing.

In order for a malicious actor to breed COVID-19, they would have had to do so in a way that was almost identical to the commonly accepted origin. That is, they would have to culture the virus in many living animals, purposefully transferring it from bats to other animals (like pangolins, ferrets, or cats). Then, after it had again mutated to better infect these new species, they would have released the virus (accidentally or intentionally), and then rely on random chance to get a "better" mutation once it was already in the human population.

It's worth repeating that the virus appeared in humans first that had no connection to the market in Wuhan that was initially implicated. It's far more likely in my mind that the animal->human jump happened elsewhere, and simply spread in the market because of the high density of shoppers and merchants.
  
Of course it's not man-made, wtf lmao. Nasty diseases come from bats and other shit animals all the time and this one happened to be a respiratory one where people respond asymptomatically for a while. Perfect for a pandemic.
  
Covid might be man-made in the same way that Bigfoot might exist. We can't completely rule it out, but there's no particular reason to believe it other than wanting to.
  
Fwip said:
That is, they would have to culture the virus in many living animals, purposefully transferring it from bats to other animals (like pangolins, ferrets, or cats). Then, after it had again mutated to better infect these new species, they would have released the virus (accidentally or intentionally), and then rely on random chance to get a "better" mutation once it was already in the human population


It would've been created using living animals and people; I'm aware. That's the scenario I'm considering. It's a cheap way to create a virus over a long period of time that doesn't necessarily have to be extremely potent to have the intended effect of destabilizing nations incapable of restricting freedoms to the level necessary to stop it.

It's difficult to say with certainty that it couldn't have been intentionally created but it's also probably easier to prove how little China has to gain from this.

Millpond said:
Covid might be man-made in the same way that Bigfoot might exist. We can't completely rule it out, but there's no particular reason to believe it other than wanting to.

I agree though Bigfoot would leave behind a lot more evidence if real. The problem is that at least two people I know and talk to on almost a daily basis are willing to believe it.
  
Guys, guys, guys. You're all missing the bigger picture, somebody definitely created this. Let's go through the evidence again:

  • It likely originated in bats, given genetic similarity between the strain found in bats and the strain found in humans. The person who discovered this therefore must spend time near bats or other creatures affected by early strains of the disease
  • If someone was crazy enough to do this, they would need millions of dollars in research and need to have some familiarity with weaponizing things
  • They would likely need advanced technology in order to simulate the animal biology and cover their tracks to make it seem like a natural pandemic
  • They probably would need to be a businessman or other person who travel a lot in order to sow the virus (if they didn't already live in China), likely a CEO
  • They would likely need to be able to conceal their identity, as they would be targeted by almost every nation and put on trial by the UN
  • They would need to ensure they were in good physical health, and would likely not be killed or incapacitated by the virus
  • As a backup, they would also probably need to be isolated from the rest of the world, and therefore we're looking for someone who is either a recluse or lives on an island.
  • They would also likely need an idiotic sense of purpose or a tendency to act without thinking it through.

So, we're looking for a millionare/billionare with a secret identity and likely a CEO of a large company that has a biotech division, advanced technology, good physical shape, whose house is isolated from the mainland, possesses a sense of vigilante justice, and a thing for bats. Ringing any bells?

I'll get Bruce Wayne on line one.
  
The evidence is it came from bats. Your other bullet points make it seem like I'm missing some key information because I don't see evidence that it requires so many major control measures, resources, and smart people to make a pandemic or to hide it.

Why would it require so much money? Just use live test subjects and keep things sterile so it doesn't get out. There are bioweapon labs in the world and I doubt they're staffed by great scientists.

One of the key things I'm getting at is that this virus seems like it's more damaging to countries that can't lock down their own people.
  
E7 said:
Your other bullet points make it seem like I'm missing some key information because I don't see evidence that it requires so many major control measures, resources, and smart people to make a pandemic or to hide it.

Why would it require so much money? Just use live test subjects and keep things sterile so it doesn't get out. There are bioweapon labs in the world and I doubt they're staffed by great scientists.

I mean, admittedly all of that was a buildup to an overblown joke, so obviously some of the information needed to be massaged into place. So maybe not as much money as I projected, but it played in well to my theory that the virus was created by Batman.
  
Thanks, very clever.
  
E7 said:
Fwip said:
That is, they would have to culture the virus in many living animals, purposefully transferring it from bats to other animals (like pangolins, ferrets, or cats). Then, after it had again mutated to better infect these new species, they would have released the virus (accidentally or intentionally), and then rely on random chance to get a "better" mutation once it was already in the human population
That's the scenario I'm considering. It's a cheap way to create a virus over a long period of time that doesn't necessarily have to be extremely potent

Except this wouldn't be cheap. It'd be extremely expensive and unreliable. We're talking keeping domesticated tens of thousands of animals over generations, plus thousands of people and medical equipment/expertise to actually detect the virus you want to breed. Then you'd need to churn through an ungodly number of viruses to get one that can spread to humans? And then most viruses that come from animals don't spread human-to-human, they only come from direct contact from animals, so you'd need to get lucky that you produced one that can actually spread. Producing a virus this way would probably be less reliable and more expensive than just bio-engineering one in a lab. It would certainly take thousands of people many years and millions, if not billions, of dollars. Plus you'd need to be able to dispose of an insane number of animals in secret, it's just ridiculous.

You might be able to short-cut some of this by injecting animals with the specific virus you want to try to change rather than waiting for novel viruses to appear in your population, but even then you're talking an insane moon shot of RNG to get anything useful while burning capital and animal populations.

E7 said:
It's difficult to say with certainty that it couldn't have been intentionally

You don't need to prove it couldn't have been created intentionally. It's thoroughly clear that it's implausible for this to have been created intentionally.

E7 said:
The problem is that at least two people I know and talk to on almost a daily basis are willing to believe it.
There are thousands of people who believe the Earth is flat even though they can literally look at the horizon and see that it isn't with their own eyes. There will always be credulous people who will believe any goddamn thing you put in front of them. That doesn't make it plausible or worth entertaining.
  
I don't understand why it would take so many people and animals. What's the factor that requires so many people and animals to get a virus that spreads from one species to another? I was picturing a low-grade lab with a few hundred captive people and animals.

Also, a bit off topic but it seems like ignoring people who are willing to listen to reason may be creating an echo chamber (a common thing in online communities). Everyone in my circles has biases towards something fringe. I try to take it seriously enough not to alienate them. Some people I know are unreachable by outside opinion because they have no skepticism but when that's not the case, I have discussions with those who are willing to research and engage with opposition in a constructive way.
  
You’re pretty much relying on random chance the entire way, though. The researchers might be little, but the amount of animals you would need probably exceeds 1000 by a fair amount.
Also the researchers would be unintentional test subjects by themselves.
That method to me seems to mimic nature, so why not let nature do its thing instead? It’s had millions of years to wipe out humanity, anyhoo.
  
Why would you need so many animals? I thought the virus outbreak was from eating raw or live animals so could you just hypothetically have around 20 people eat live animals infected with the a virus daily till you got one that spreads?
  
Forum > Touchy Subjects > The plausability of COVID19 being man-made