What You Need to Know About COVID-19! Looking Beyond the Surface of the Covid-19 Corona Virus
There is no shortage of angles as it pertains to how the COVID-19 virus is impacting the world on a global scale. It has been my concern that the media’s coverage of this pandemic has led to unnecessary panic and chaos. Panic and confusion are often the results of the lack of knowledge and understanding of a particular event. It is my goal to provide information and reasoning that will help expand your knowledge surrounding this pandemic.
Allow me to begin by stating that it is not my intent to marginalize the severity of COVID-19. The truth is that there is still much we don’t know and understand about this virus. The lack of data and history associated with COVID-19 has led many experts to err on the side of caution. I have decided to look beyond the surface of Covid-19 in an attempt to add context to the chaos.
Comparing COVID-19 To the Common Flu
In an attempt to put things in perspective, many have attempted to compare COVID-19 to the common flu — suggesting that the common flu kills more people that COVID-19 has. Others have pointed back to the H1N1 virus (swine flu) of 2009-2010. While I have alluded to both these viruses, my focus has been primarily on how the media reported on each. I hold the belief that if the media had covered the H1N1 outbreak in the same manner that it is handling the COVID-19 scare, we would have had mass hysteria in 2009. If the public would get real-time coverage on the 23,000 deaths attributed to this flu season, how would they respond? Basically, the media is controlling the narrative.
Currently, COVID-19 has led to more than 454,000 illnesses, and 20,550 deaths and the number is growing. For comparison, in the U.S. alone, the flu (also known as influenza) has caused an estimated 38 million illnesses, 390,000 hospitalizations, and 23,000 deaths this flu season (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).
When immunologists are questioned about why COVID-19 has caused so much hysteria, although the flu seems to be a common and consistent threat, they respond by pointing out the fact that the flue has been studied for years. It is easier to predict how it will behave. The consensus among these experts is that the unpredictability of COVID-19 is what makes it scary. While an estimated 600,000 people will die worldwide as a result of the flu this year, it is expected and thereby not worthy of media attention. The flu as a season and scientists know when the season will peak and decline. It appears that the predictability associated with the flu eradicates the panic that seems to be fed by uncertainty. As long as deaths can be accounted for, they are deemed acceptable.
Basically, despite the mortality and morbidity associated with the seasonal flu, there is a level of certainty, according to Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Dr. Fauci says that the number of illnesses and deaths associated with the common flu can be predicted pretty accurately, whereas the complete opposite can be said for COVID-19. The limited perspicacity of how this novel virus operates is the primary cause for concern among the experts. The problem with COVID-19 is there is a lot of unknowns.
I can easily understand the importance of erring on the side of caution here; however, the irresponsible manner in which the media covers the outbreak is what concerns me most. When you add all of the people who consistently share information that they have not confirmed, it is easy to see why the panic is spreading so rapidly.
Symptoms and Severity
Both influenza A and influenza B, as well as COVID-19, are contagious viruses that cause respiratory illness.
Typical flu symptoms include cough, fever, muscle aches, sore throat, stuffy or runny nose, headaches, fatigue, and even diarrhea and vomiting. In most instances, flu symptoms come on quickly and will pass in two weeks or less. In some cases, there can be complications, including pneumonia, that exacerbate the impact of the virus. During this current flu season, an estimated one percent of people infected have developed symptoms severe enough to be hospitalized (translating to 60 hospitalizations per 100,000 people).
At this point, doctors and scientists are still attempting to gain an understanding of the complete picture of disease symptoms and severity with COVID-19. Reported symptoms have varied from patient to patient and range from mild to severe, and include fever, cough, shortness of breath. The aches and joint pain generally associated with influenza don’t appear to be shared in COVID-19 cases.
“In general, studies of hospitalized patients have found that about 83% to 98% of patients develop a fever, 76% to 82% develop a dry cough, and 11% to 44% develop fatigue or muscle aches, according to a review study on COVID-19 published February 28 in the journal JAMA. Other symptoms, including headache, sore throat, abdominal pain, and diarrhea, have been reported, but are less common. A less common symptom, loss of smell, has also been reported in some COVID-19 patients, Live Science reported.
Another recent study considered the largest on COVID-19 cases to date, researchers from the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Protection, analyzed 44,672 confirmed cases in China between December 31, 2019, and February 11, 2020. Of those cases, 80.9% (or 36,160 cases) were considered mild, 13.8% (6,168 cases) severe and 4.7% (2,087) critical. “Critical cases were those that exhibited respiratory failure, septic shock, and/or multiple organ dysfunction/failure,” the researchers wrote in the paper published in China CDC Weekly.
A recent study of COVID-19 cases in the United States found that, among 4,226 reported cases, at least 508 people, or 12%, were hospitalized. However, the study, published March 18 in the CDC journal Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) is preliminary, and the researchers note that data on hospitalizations were missing for a substantial number of patients.
The typical death rate for the flu in the U.S. is 0.1%, and the current death rate of COVID-19 in the U.S. is 1.87 percent. The death rate varies based on environment and geographical location.
“In the study published February 18 in the China CDC Weekly, researchers found a death rate from COVID-19 to be around 2.3% in mainland China. Another study of about 1,100 hospitalized patients in China, published February 28 in the New England Journal of Medicine, found that the overall death rate was slightly lower, around 1.4%.”
Transmission & Risk of Infection
The measure used by scientists to determine how easily a virus spreads is known as the “basic reproduction number” or RO (pronounced R-nought). The RO is an estimate of the average number of people who will contract the virus from a single infected person. While scientists are still working to determine the RO for the new coronavirus, the preliminary findings estimate the RO to be between two and three — meaning that one infected person will infect two to three others. It is essential to understand that the RO is not a constant number. It can be impacted by the number of people an infected person will come in contact with during the time they are contagious. A person who comes in contact with more people than average will have a higher RO. It is this potential increase in the RO that has scientists and leaders advocating for social distancing.
“As of March 19, there are 9,415 cases of COVID-19 in the U.S. Some parts of the country have higher levels of activity than others, but cases have been reported in all 50 states, according to the CDC.
The immediate risk of being exposed to COVID-19 is still low for most Americans; however, as the outbreak expands, that risk will increase, the CDC said. People who live in areas where there is ongoing community spread are at higher risk of exposure, as are healthcare workers who care for COVID-19 patients, the agency said.
The CDC expects that widespread transmission of the new coronavirus will occur, and in the coming months, most of the U.S. population will be exposed to the virus.”
What I can tell you about what I have been able to uncover about COVID-19 is that much is left to be learned. The variances in how countries are testing for the virus makes it impossible to make meaningful comparisons as to how different regions are coping with the spread of the virus. Simply put, lower numbers do not indicate fewer cases; it could be the result of fewer tests being administered.
My concern is still the way the media is covering this outbreak. To this point, the H1N1 pandemic of 2009-2010 was more prolific (in infections and deaths) than COVID-19, but the level of panic and mass hysteria did not even come close to what we are experiencing to this point with COVID-19. I am not suggesting that we not take the outbreak seriously. My family and I are taking all of the necessary precautions. What I am suggesting is that we learn as much as we can about this virus so that we can put it all in proper perspective. Fear and panic rob us of our ability to use critical thought and reasoning. It leaves us to react instead of being proactive in being strategic in our planning and responses. We place far too much trust in officials who have yet to prove they are worthy of the trust we bestow upon them.
Empowerment is achieved through awareness. The more you learn about any particular situation, the less frenetic you will be as you experience it.
Protect yourselves as much as possible. Don’t take unnecessary risks. Gather your information from multiple sources and consider all the angles. Don’t become a victim of your own biases concerning the virus. Be open to new truths, ideas, and suggestions.
will continue to conduct research and gather information to share with you. So
keep checking back in. ~ Rick Wallace, Ph.D., Psy.D.
 Rettner, R. (2020). How does the new coronavirus compare with the flu? Live Science.