Relax! Coronavirus is Less Dangerous Than the Flu, Says Epidemic Expert

January 31, 2020 3:37 PM UTC
All the panic surrounding the Wuhan coronavirus is misplaced. According to experts you should be worried more about the common flu.
  • The flu is more dangerous than the Wuhan coronavirus, according to experts.
  • In the U.S., 6.7% of deaths occurring during the week ended Jan. 18 were attributed to pneumonia and influenza.
  • So far, 2019-nCoV has largely affected the aged and the infirm.

The danger posed the Wuhan coronavirus (2019-nCoV) is not as lethal as media reports would have you believe, according to an expert.

According to a researcher and epidemic expert at the Oslo Metropolitan University, Svenn-Erik Mamelund, Coronavirus should not be a cause of panic [yg.no]:

People who aren’t usually anxious about the flu probably don’t need to be so concerned about the Corona virus either.

Affecting mostly the old with underlying diseases

Per Mamelund, the demographic most likely to die from coronavirus consists of old who have other underlying diseases. Unofficial data from British and Chinese researchers showed that 39 out of 41 deaths blamed on Wuhan coronavirus were in people aged above 50 years [Quartz] . This is not vastly different from the flu which claims mostly senior citizens.

The coronavirus, provisionally known as ‘nCoV-2019’ is behind the unprecedented lockdown of over 50 million people in China – and human activity may have set it loose. | Source: AP/Heng Sinith

In the U.S., for instance, during the 2017/2018 influenza season, 83% of the deaths [cdc.gov] caused by the disease were in the 65+ age group.

Source: CDC

Flu will kill more people than Wuhan coronavirus

Other experts have echoed Mamelund’s view. Vanderbilt University Medical Center’s preventive medicine and health policy professor, Dr. William Schaffner, recently told Kaiser Health News that “coronavirus will be a blip on the horizon” [Kaiser Health] compared to the flu.

Sheridan Memorial Hospital’s chief medical officer Dr. John Addlesperger, shares the same view that coronavirus is less dangerous than the flu [Sheridian Memorial] noting that influenza killed 35,000 people in the U.S. last year.

An emergency physician with the Hospital Corporation of America, Dr. Cole Sondrup, stated that the Wuhan coronavirus will be less fatal than the flu:

My guess is when the season is over coronavirus will have killed far fewer people than influenza.

Not the time to throw caution to the wind though

That said, there is a lot that is unknown about the Wuhan coronavirus. The respiratory disease’s incubation period is also a cause of concern. The period can range from two days to up to two weeks [cdc.gov]. This allows it to spread undetected through person-to-person contact. Consequently, countries that have repatriated their citizens from the coronavirus hot zone are keeping their nationals in isolation for a number of days as a precautionary measure. France has, for instance, set a 14-day isolation period [Science Alert].

Additionally, no vaccine for the Wuhan coronavirus has been developed yet. Thus the only method of containing its spread is physical containment.

Editor’s Note 1/31: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that the mortality rate for the flu was 6.7%. That figure actually refers to the percentage of deaths attributed to influenza and pneumonia during the week ended Jan. 18.

Samburaj Das edited this article for CCN.com. If you see a breach of our Code of Ethics or find a factual, spelling, or grammar error, please contact us.

Last modified: January 31, 2020 7:30 PM UTC

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