The real facts about coronavirus

The most dangerous thing about coronavirus is the media hysteria, says Sue Leach, owner of The Natural Health Hub. You have much more chance of dying from flu or a traffic accident than from Covid-19, and if you’re going to get het up about infectious diseases look at the figures for TB

 

There’s no doubt coronavirus should be taken seriously. We have no vaccine for it, health authorities are struggling to find ‘patient zero’ who brought it into this country, and details of the incubation period are still conflictory. But before we all rush out and buy our face masks and stock up for months of self-inflicted isolation, let’s get the situation into perspective. Just consider some FACTS. If you are reasonably healthy and under 80 years old you are extremely unlikely to die from this disease.

  • There have been approaching 90,000 reported cases of coronavirus so far, with an estimated death toll of around 3,000. Compare that with seasonal flu: according to an estimate by the US-based Center for Disease Control and Prevention, flu causes between 291,000 and 646,000 deaths globally a year. Which means that if the number of deaths from coronavirus rises a hundredfold in the next few weeks or months, it will only have reached the lower limit of the estimate for existing strains of flu.

Compare that with the danger of driving: according to the World Health Organization there were an estimated 1.35 million deaths from road traffic injuries worldwide in 2016.

  • The vast majority of people who have died from coronavirus in China have been elderly, with 14.8% 80+ and 8% 70-79 years old.
  • 99% of those who have died in China had a pre-existing health condition such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic respiratory disease, hypertension or cancer. And of that nearly one per cent of people who did succumb the majority were healthworkers who were repeatedly exposed to the disease.
  • In the normal run of events life expectancy in China is significantly lower than here: 76.25 years old, compared with 80.96. This is because China still has many very poor rural areas that do not have the level of hygiene and good health we have in this country. So their figures do not reflect what may happen here.
  • In China there are normally more than 600,000 traffic fatalities annually. The number of lives saved by Chinese not driving hugely exceeds the number of virus fatalities. We saw the same effect with the SARS virus in 2003.
  • The disease seems to be on the way out in China. In the seven days before 24 February the WHO recorded 6,398 new infections – down from 13,002 in the previous week. Last Monday it was 415.

The fact is that, with the rate of infection now falling steeply in China due to sensible containment measures, it looks as if coronavirus will never be so widespread to be classed a pandemic by the WHO.

The media here is completely Sinophobic. Any illness coming out of China immediately hits the headlines as pandemic potential (remember SARS and avian flu?) – whereas diseases from elsewhere don’t excite anywhere near such concern. There was only a brief angst about Ebola when it came to our notice in west Africa in 2014, though that was way more lethal than Covid-19.

Let’s cut the hysteria. If you want to get your knickers in a twist about any infectious disease it ought to be about tuberculosis. The WHO reports there were 10 million new cases of TB worldwide in 2018, 1.45 million deaths and 4,672 cases in England.

None of us buy face masks to protect against that. Nor would we dream of doing so because of winter flu. Or closing schools, and cancelling major events. Panic is infectious – for most of us it’s more likely to make us ill than Covid-19 ever is.