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The unwarranted fear of CoronaVirus

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Anant Chetan
Anant Chetan
An aficionado blogger and an engineer by profession. By qualifications, a Masters in Embedded System Design.

If Coronavirus or Covid-19 had a social media account, it would literally have the highest number of followers anything living or dead ever had. Literally, everywhere I go I hear “coronovirus” in someones’ conversation. Economy is being hurt, companies are suffering, countries are trying to seal their borders. I think the panic is unjustified, the fear is exaggerated out of proportion. Covid-19 would be feeling like a superstar, on cloud nine. There are zillion other viruses that kill way way more people across the world every year and are as contagious as it is, show the exact same symptoms, but they don’t get the same kind of publicity that covid-19 is getting. The fear of the virus is causing more damage than the virus itself. 

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) estimates that more than 40,000 people die every year because of influenza viruses. The fact sheet gives the exact same information regarding prevention of the virus that is being circulated for covid19. The exact same symptoms, the exact same targets groups. Did we fear flu or influenza the way we do covid19?

H1N1 and H3N2 which look like some fancy US visa (H1B) types, but are the names of viruses. As per a report, H1N1 circulated widely from October to mid-February, then H3N2 picked up from mid-February into the spring. In total, the CDC estimates that up to 42.9 million people got sick during the 2018-2019 flu season, 647,000 people were hospitalized and 61,200 died. That’s fairly on par with a typical season, and well below the CDC’s 2017-2018 estimates of 48.8 million illnesses, 959,000 hospitalizations and 79,400 deaths. Was there even a travel advisory for the United States? How many people cancelled there flights to the US because of the flu virus? Are you keeping a track of the number of deaths?

International Journal for Infectious diseases, published a research work for the cases in Italy which estimated excess deaths of 7,027, 20,259, 15,801 and 24,981 attributable to influenza epidemics in the 2013/14, 2014/15, 2015/16 and 2016/17, respectively, i.e. a total of 68,000 deaths. And these are deaths, not the ones who got sick, that number would have been huge. As an indication of how big that number could be, in the January of 2018, in just one week i.e. from Jan 8 to Jan 14, 832,000 flu patients were registered. Did Austria stopped its train connections? Did people think before visiting Rome? Were any districts of northern Italy placed in quarantine? Are you comparing the number of deaths caused by coronavirus with the deaths caused by other viruses?

Robert Koch Institute in Germany estimated more than 25,000 flu related deaths in 2017/18, and of course millions and millions infected.

In India every year more than 100,000 patients die of pneumonia, which could be due to a virus or a bacteria.

Should I continue? I can literally continue putting up links like these. Accessing data is not a difficult task in this era. As per WHO 250,000 to 650,000 people die of influenza across the world every single year. It is not at all difficult to find out the distribution of these deaths across different countries or continents. You could do it yourself, you will find thousands and thousands of people dying every year in the country you are living in because of some virus that is as contagious as Covid-19, only the name would be different but everything else would be the same. These viruses have been in existence probably as long as we (humans) have existed.

Coming back to coronavirus, more than 100,000 cases and more than 3000 deaths at some point (not updated). That means the virus has a 3% fatality rate. When we do the calculations based on this number and extrapolate it to the population of our own region, we are bound to get scared. But Biology and Mathematics are different and you cannot simply extrapolate the numbers by using a mathematical equation. For two reasons:

First, 100,000 is the number of cases detected, meaning a person showed some symptom and got tested. However, this number does not say the number of people who actually carry the virus in their bodies. It is quite possible for a healthy person to be infected by the virus and still continue to live a normal, regular life for ever.  If that was not true, the virus would not have spread so fast, especially when every border is screening incoming people and handling people who show some symptoms. There are approximately 11 million people in Wuhan, do you think only 100,000 of them have this virus? Even if you assume that 1% of the total 11 million have the virus, and out of that 3000 died, the fatality rate become .3%, less scary. 

Second,  the number 3000 in the number of deaths does not indicate the number of people who already had chronic respiratory disorders or heart problems or kidney issues or diabetes. The number does not tell how many people never took any kind of vaccines (not talking about Covid-19, but SERS/MERS/H1N1/H3N2 and many more). The number does not tell how many people had their immunity suppressed because they had some kind of transplant or major surgeries? If you take out the ones who had perfectly fine immune system, got sick and died, you won’t be scared at all. 

It does not help if you just google the number of cases detected and the number of patient that died simply because that is an incomplete piece of information. It is the fear of extrapolation that is creating the panic and not the virus or the deaths.

So, the moral of the story is that you keep doing what you have been doing so far, following basic hygiene like washing hands, cover your mouth with your elbow while sneezing or coughing and you actually do not need a surgical N95 mask. You need the mask if you yourself are sick and don’t want to spread the virus or you are sitting in a room with patients who are sneezing and coughing right on to you i.e. a doctor or a nurse. 

You will just be fine like you have been so far with all other zillion viruses roaming around you. 

People are already making money out of this manipulated fear. Be it social media or mainstream media, they have an addictive item to milk. How many times have you checked for Coronavirus related information since morning? What is happening? What is happening? How many died? Which country got it now? Am I not correct? Second, where are these corona-virus testing kits coming from? Somebody is manufacturing them and they aren’t for free or do you think that’s the case? Third and the last, a company would come up with a vaccine in a few months from now and would not need to say a word to market the vaccine. More than a billion customers already waiting in line. 

Thanks for reading!!! Wish you all good health. 

Also read: Coronavirus will hit India from Pakistan, not China

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Anant Chetan
Anant Chetan
An aficionado blogger and an engineer by profession. By qualifications, a Masters in Embedded System Design.
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