Tag Archives: SARS

Advice From A Dutch Doctor

Originally published on Cortes Radio.ca. This radio broadcast was funded by a grant from the Community Radio Fund of Canada and the Government of Canada’s Local Journalism Initiative

Dr. Erik Hockheimer was a general practitioner in the Netherlands before giving up his practice to work with Doctors Without Borders which he did in many countries throughout the world and continues to support an advisor. As a GP he was very involved in the HIV epidemic and that led him to co-author and edit a book on viruses called Virology, published in 1991. While with Doctors Without Borders he continued to work with tropical diseases, HIV, Hepatitis B, and Ebola. He’s retired now but still consults with a number of NGOs particularly around helping refugees. 

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Shocked, Shocked?

[An earlier version of this article originally appeared in Medium, an online magazine, under the title “The Price Tag.”]

The influenza epidemic of 1918 — as most of us are remembering or discovering right about now — killed about 50 million people worldwide between 1918 and 1920. At that time, the world population was perhaps about 1.8 billion people (as opposed to today’s approximately 7.8 billion people). So to achieve the same statistical impact, a pandemic today would have to kill about 200 million people (or approximately 2/3 the population of the US). Spread of the disease was greatly aided by military deployment at the end of WWI, and by the poor physical condition and abysmal living conditions of troops in the trenches. So far, Covid-19 is not even remotely in the league and hardly merits comparison. However, that could change. Like the old Carpenters song, it’s only just begun.

My second reaction to Covid-19 was one of puzzlement or frustration (I’ve written about the first reaction elsewhere). All around me, people were not only scared or appalled, but bewildered, outraged, shocked. What a freakish thing to happen, how unfair, how incredible, how surreal! A pandemic? A Plague? How mediaeval! Who woulda thunkit? How could that happen here?

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