@Trumpster wrote: "there are many unknowns, including unknown unknowns, should we panic and shutdown entire cities every time we encounter one?"
It generally makes sense to shut down cities when the relevant public health experts (e.g., the CDC in the United States) decide that the level of risk is high enough, and that doing so would serve the public interest. (I am not necessarily claiming that this standard has been satisfied in the case of Wuhan.)
You mentioned earthquakes, but I think that hurricanes are a better analogy. When a hurricane is offshore with an uncertain track, then entire cities are essentially shut down and evacuated. Sometimes the hurricane misses the city, but that doesn't mean that evacuation was the wrong decision. And they will typically evacuate again if another hurricane threatens, and that is also not wrong.
@Trumpster wrote: “Before the current corona virus panic was the avian flu, and before that was MERS, and before that was SARS, in between all of those somewhere was Ebola. New viruses will not stop at the new corona, should this be a precedent then, on how China should react to every new infectious virus?”
No. Each virus is different in terms of mortality rate, infectiousness, incubation time, case numbers, geography, etc. And so each one needs to be assessed individually. For example, if we consider the other diseases you mention:
- Ebola, SARS and MERS: People outside of Africa, China and the Middle East didn't need to be overly concerned about these, simply because of the geography of the cases.
- Avian flu: Few people anywhere needed to be overly concerned about this because of the low case numbers, maybe apart from those who visited live poultry markets.
The Wuhan coronavirus appears to have significant mortality rates, SARS-like infectiousness, a relatively long incubation time, and case numbers already in excess of SARS' 9-month total. It is also centered about as close to Kunming as Portland is to Los Angeles (800 miles). Those are the main reasons why I am concerned about it in a way that I never was for other viruses.
(Mortality, infectiousness and incubation links previously given here: www.gokunming.com/[...]
Link for case numbers: www.cnbc.com/[...] )