Authoritarian countries like China have an advantage in controlling the spread of outbreaks like the Coronavirus, but the West has the advantage in preventing them from even happening. Not that it shows.

Images coming out of China, despite the Communist regime’s best propaganda efforts, show the police arresting people on the streets for not wearing masks. In some cases, they are handled very roughly. China’s efforts to control the Corona outbreak consist of very simple preventative measures like requiring anyone in public to wear face masks (in short supply in a country of 1.6 billion people); closing the city of Wuhan which has a population of over 11 million, and building huge hospitals in place to care for the sick.

Smuggled image of corpses in a Chinese hospital in Wuhan (Twitter).

While these are effective measures they come at quite a cost in terms of the individual rights of Chinese citizens. You don’t really have the right to say “No” to that government if it wants to lock you in a city or arrest you for not wearing a breathing mask. Since authoritarian regimes are able to take such draconian measures to control the outbreak of disease, they really have no incentive to develop the full suite of vaccinations for their populations that are available in the West. In the U.S., the government can’t lock you inside Chicago or New York or arrest you for going outside without a mask.

That regard for individual rights has required our society to develop a vaccination regime that has eradicated many deadly infectious diseases, like Typhoid and Yellow Fever.

In the West, we have the annual trudge to the doctor or pharmacy for the Flu Vaccine. In spite of this, 26 million in the U.S. have contracted the flu this year and 25,000 have died — in just about four months.

Imagine the panic a headline like this would cause here: “Virus Kills 25,000 in the U.S., 26 Million Infected!”

China’s problem is actually much bigger than ours. They don’t offer flu vaccines for their huge population, likely because of the incredible cost involved with vaccinating 1.6 billion people every year. Their population is not as healthy or as wealthy as ours is, nor has it the same access to healthcare. If a really strong virus gets loose in a population that large and that densely packed in cities (74 million people live in China’s four largest cities) the death toll could be staggering. Where the flu in this country tends to prey on the very old, the very young and those with weakened immune systems, in China it would affect the population as a whole. This may be part of the reason why China is taking such drastic measures to control the contagion.

The fact that it’s just the flu is a good reason for us not to panic and overreact to what is happening in the U.S. We have 25,000 dead from the flu here, and it isn’t because we eat bats in a soup.

For a practical resource on how to deal with the Coronavirus, visit Apple iBooks.