Are Plane Crashes and Human Latent Viruses Connected; The CBCD Highlights an Unlikely Relationship

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An article published on December 19, 2013 on said that “A South Jersey doctor was killed when the plane he was flying crashed in rural Virginia (1).” The Center for the Biology of Chronic Disease discusses subjective probabilities and unlikely events.

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Many decisions are based on beliefs concerning the likelihood of uncertain events. - Daniel Kahneman (3)

The CBCD has learned that Dr. Gregory Voit died Wednesday after his single-engine Beechcraft crashed onto the front yard of a home in Albemarle County (1). What were the odds that his plane would crash?

Most people believe the probability of dying in a plane crash is much higher than dying in a car accident. This is especially true after people read about a tragedy like Dr. Voit’s. As an article published in The Globe and Mail noted, “We are not very good at estimating probabilities. Many of us think that we are likely to die in an airplane crash, especially after the story of a horrific crash is splashed across the newspapers. Yet the likelihood of dying in an airplane accident is very low, far lower than the chances of dying on the highways.” The article was published November 25, 2011 (2).

In the same way, people judge the probability of dying in a car accident to be much lower than it is. People judge the likelihood of developing a disease caused by the presence of a latent virus, such as the Human Cytomegalovirus (CMV), to also be lower than it really is. According to Nobel Prize winning psychologist, Daniel Kahneman, in his book ‘Judgment Under Uncertainty,’ “Many decisions are based on beliefs concerning the likelihood of uncertain events such as the outcome of an election, the guilt of a defendant, or the future value of the dollar. These beliefs are usually expressed in statements such as "I think that . . .," "chances are . . .," "it is unlikely that . . .," and so forth.” The book was published in 1974 (3).

In other words, people form subjective probabilities about events all the time. In fact, individuals are dependent on these probabilities in every decision and every action they take. Hence, every bias, or misrepresentation, or error in these probabilities will result in terrible decisions and poor outcomes.

The CBCD points out that many doctors and most individuals believe that ‘it is unlikely’ that a latent virus can cause disease since it is ‘dormant’. When people think about latent viruses causing disease, they rely on simple rules governing judgments and decisions that are founded on “common knowledge.” Common knowledge says that latent viruses are dormant, and are therefore harmless.

However, these beliefs are simply wrong, and therefore the subjective probability people associate with them is also wrong.

Take, for example, research, which shows that latent viruses are not dormant. In fact, as a new study found, “…advances in techniques to study global changes in gene expression have begun to show that HCMV latency is a highly active process which involves expression of specific latency-associated viral gene products which orchestrate major changes in the latently infected cell.” In addition, “as techniques for studying HCMV at a molecular level have become increasingly powerful, it is now emerging that latent HCMV infection profoundly modulates the latently infected cell and the surrounding cellular environment.” This is according to a study published on November 21, 2013 in the medical journal Viruses (4).

Daniel Kahneman wrote that “people rely on a limited number of heuristic principles which reduce the complex tasks of assessing probabilities and predicting values to simpler judgmental operations. In general, these heuristics are quite useful, but sometimes they lead to severe and systematic errors (3).” The CBCD believes that commonly held views on the ability of latent viruses to cause disease are deeply flawed and full of error.

To learn more about how latent viruses can cause major diseases, visit:


(1)    South Jersey doctor killed in Va. plane crash. Published on December 19, 2013.

(2)    The heart of reason, and the reason of the heart. Published on November 25, 2011.

(3)    Judgment Under Certainty. Published in 1974


The CBCD is a research center recognized by the IRS as a 501(c)(3) non-for-profit organization. The mission of the CBCD is to advance the research on the biology of chronic diseases, and to accelerate the discovery of treatments.

The CBCD published the “Purple” book by Dr. Hanan Polansky. The book presents Dr. Polansky’s highly acclaimed scientific theory on the relationship between foreign DNA and the onset of chronic diseases. Dr. Polansky’s book is available as a free download from the CBCD website.

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Hanan Polansky
Center for the Biology of Chronic Disease (CBCD)
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