People are more frightened of coronavirus than they need to be, but the culprit is not who you think

 

Gigantic efforts to control the outbreak convince people they are in terrible danger

By Patrick Cockburn; @indyworld

Source: INDEPENDENT CO UK

If I was sitting in a restaurant and said in a loud voice that I had probably contracted coronavirus, many other customers might get up and leave. But I would be telling the literal truth: I have had a persistent sniffle for weeks and coronaviruses cause the common cold.

What I do not have is nCoV2019, the novel coronavirus from Wuhan that has so far killed over 600 people and infected 32,000 more. “Coronavirus” has swiftly joined AIDS, polio, syphilis, scarlet fever, bubonic plague and other devastating diseases, whose very names provoke, or used to provoke, a strong jolt of fear.

People are frightened because there is a good reason for their fear, though not as much as they think. The Wuhan variant of coronavirus has a death rate of about two per cent compared to 9.6 per cent for SARS and 34.4 per cent for MERS. But it is naïve to think that potential victims – all of us – will be reassured when we know that there is only a limited chance that we will die, because we were rather hoping not to die at all.

We do not normally think of ourselves as living in a great ocean of viruses and bacteria existing inside and outside our bodies, so the appearance of any virus that threatens our existence comes as a nasty shock. How many Americans know, for instance, that the US had a particularly severe flu epidemic in 2017/18 when 900,000 people were hospitalised and more than 80,000 died. Though between ten and 50 million Americans get the flu every year, this does not fuel public alarm about “a killer” illness sweeping through the country.

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