Saturday, February 1, 2020

The new coronavirus is not going to end mankind

Forget about global warming, international terrorism, SARS virus, or being kidnapped on your way to work. 

We have a new scarecrow: previously unknown coronavirus from China. The real question is: how bad is it?

According to the data from China as of February 9, 2020, there were about 800 deaths among 38,000 people diagnosed with coronavirus or a 2% mortality rate. 2% is scary, but the keyword in a previous sentence is "diagnosed". The illness with coronavirus starts just like the common cold and in the majority of people, it ends like a common cold. Runny nose, mild fever, cough, and this is it. The number of people whose disease does not progress to a severe form is tens of times larger than the number of people who feel bad enough to be tested. In reality, the mortality rate from this virus is probably only a small fraction of one percent. A fraction of 1% is also bad, but it is not much worse than a mortality rate of the influenza epidemic, which claimed around 60,000 lives during winter 2017-2018 in the US alone. 

What makes this virus so scary is the fear of the unknown on one hand and the media, which blows it out of proportion, on the other. It is not unlike the fear of Martians. We don't know Martians, but we, just in case are afraid of them. However, I would rather be afraid of reporters.

Sergei Shushunov, MD