With so much information floating around about corona virus (COVID-19), we are seeing things that many of us have not seen in our lifetime. There is a tremendous amount of fear and panic, countered by an equally tremendous amount of criticism and apathy. Neither response is healthy or helpful.
As a health and safety professional, I have spent much of my life researching health hazards and communicating with people about their risk. Uncertainty and fear are major drivers of stress, which increases the risk of injury and disease.
While grocery shelves are being stripped bare, we are also hearing people say that the flu kills more people, and we are seeing a slew of angry social media posts accusing people of over-reacting and being brainwashed, because “the mortality rate from COVID-19 is only 3.4%”.
I have written this article from the viewpoint of a health and safety professional, as well as a concerned daughter, mother, grandmother, wife, friend, etc., in an effort to help to clear up some of the confusion that is causing so much stress for people.
Is 3.4% Really a Concern?
As we know, COVID-19 has been declared as a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO). A pandemic is a global outbreak of a disease. Pandemics start as epidemics (which is the classification for a rapid spread of disease across a particular region or regions).
Make no mistake, the measures being taken by governments around the world to stop the spread of COVID-19 are intended to save millions of lives. According to the World Health Organization (WHO),
Globally, about 3.4% of reported COVID-19 cases have died. By comparison, seasonal flu generally kills far fewer than 1% of those infected.[i]
We cannot look at the total numbers of people who died throughout the entire course previous outbreaks of deadly diseases and make a direct comparison to the current numbers of corona virus deaths. We have to look at the rates and severity.
The Centre for Disease Control has reported that the risk of mortality rate is actually broad range, between 0.25% and 3.0%.High rates may be seen in resource-poor areas, as expected, as well as high-income areas countries “with limited surge capacity in hospital settings.” [ii]
When we compare these rates to the deadliest pandemic in history, the Spanish Flu of 1918, which had a 1% to 3% mortality rate, we can easily see the concern and why the WHO is urging governments to take swift action to contain the spread.
Yes, it is true that seasonal flu kills many people, an estimated 290,000 to 650,000 per year. But the rate of death is much is much lower than for COVID-19, and there are significant differences in how the virus spreads and the severity of infection that need to be taken into consideration.
According to the WHO, COVID-19 spreads through small droplets of fluid from the nose and mouth of an infected person, just like influenza. However, COVID-19 does not transmit as efficiently as influenza, which means that we have a better chance of stopping it with the right measures.
COVID-19 produces symptoms within about 2 days, which means that we can more readily identify who has been infected. Unlike influenza, which often spreads though infected carriers who show no symptoms.
Who is the 3.4%
Since COVID-19 is a new virus, no one has any immunity to it yet. Which means that more people are susceptible, and more people will suffer from severe disease, and at the present moment, there is no vaccine yet available. So, although COVID-19 spreads less efficiently than flu, it is more dangerous, especially for anyone with compromised immunity.
People like my 71-year old mother, and her husband who is recovering from a battle with cancer.
People like my daughter, who has a transplanted kidney, and has to take immune-suppressants every day of her life.
People like my friend who is suffering from burnout, and my other friend who is battling chronic pain and depression.
I could go on and on, but I think you see my point, and I’m sure you know many people who are at risk in your own close circle.
The problem with statistics is that we fail to see the people behind them.
So, from a health and safety perspective, as well as that of a every-day person who loves my family, friends, and coworkers, I commend the WHO, our governments and our organizations for taking drastic measures to contain the spread of this virus in an attempt to save millions of lives and to save so many from the hardship and grief of losing our loved ones to something that can be stopped.
WHO has reported that we are already seeing that this virus can be stopped through surveillance and containment efforts. [iii]
I urge you to follow the containment measures. The quicker we get this virus under control, the quicker we can get back to business.
Protect Yourself and Others
The WHO recommends the following steps for stopping the spread of COVID-19:
Wash your hands frequently with alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water
Maintain social distancing of at least 1 metre (3 feet) between yourself and anyone who is coughing or sneezing
Avoid physical contract when greeting others
Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth
If you have a fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical care early. If you do have symptoms, get tested. Its the only way to know for sure. This is especially important if your immune system is compromised.
Stay informed and follow advice given by your healthcare provider
For more detailed information visit the World Health Organization website
Call for Wisdom and Caring
That brings me to my last point. We do not need to live in fear of lack - we can get this under control relatively quickly. Everyone has been talking about how the grocery shelves are bare and the fear of lack is driving the behaviour. Hording of goods increases the risk for vulnerable people.
I’m simply appealing to everyone to think of others, whose needs are more than our own. Take this time to enjoy a special moment with the people close to you. Reach out and talk to someone who may be feeling lonely. Give to those in need.
Rise above the fear, and focus on being the kind of person you really want to be.