Perspective is one of the five “P’s” and perhaps the most important “P” after prayer and if the world spent more time in the latter and had more of the former the world would be a much, much better place.
Over the past week, our amygdalas (the fear centers of our brain) have been in overdrive.
As Coronavirus (and anxiety) spread, I’m concerned by the level of pandemic fear circulating through our news and social media.
The goal of this blog is to give you a thoughtful alternative to fear… to contextualize what you are hearing…
Let’s talk about death rates… While this is no apples-to-apples comparison, how we react to death is primal. And when we hear about Coronavirus-induced deaths, we go on red alert. But allow me to contextualize the numbers for you.
(Disclaimer: The below compared populations are different (China vs. world), and infectious diseases do not maintain a consistent daily average. But the point still stands…)
On one of the worst days for Coronavirus in China (February 10, 2020), 108 people died. But on a given day, globally:
- 26,283 people die of cancer;
- 49,041 people die of cardiovascular diseases;
- 4,383 people die of diabetes.
Meanwhile, suicide takes on average 2,191 lives….
Mosquitoes take the lives of over 2,740 people, and….
And HUMANS kill an average of 1,287 fellow people, every single day.
In response, this blog covers two key takeaways:
(1) The hard numbers to help you decide: Should I travel? Do I overstock my pantry? And is the world coming to an end? Let’s look at the data on how Coronavirus compares to typical influenza (the “flu”). (SPOILER ALERT: we’re seeing over 1000X more deaths from the regular flu, as of early March.)
(2) A brilliant blog on the realities of Coronavirus by Dr. Paul Sax, a Harvard Medical School classmate of mine (now Professor at our mutual alma mater), who serves as clinical director of the Division of Infectious Diseases at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. His blog is brilliant. Read it. Share it.
Let’s dive in.
Part 1: The Numbers… Let’s look at the data
COVID-19 has come out of left field and left us blindsided.
But people are largely fearful because we don’t understand it.
So let’s look first at the numbers.
During the 2017-2018 flu season, CDC figures put U.S. influenza deaths at roughly 80,000. Meanwhile, global estimates indicated anywhere between 290,000 – 650,000 influenza-associated deaths from respiratory causes alone.
And in terms of deaths from influenza-induced lower respiratory tract infections, a 2019 study estimated 99,000 – 200,000 deaths for the 2017-2018 flu season.
The following year, CDC figures estimated 35.5 million Americans fell ill with influenza, resulting in 490,600 hospitalizations and 34,200 deaths.
And since this past October, the regular influenza has infected as many as 49 million and killed between 20,000 – 52,000 in the U.S. alone.
By comparison on a global scale, the Coronavirus outbreak has infected over 90,000 people as of early March, resulting in 3,462 deaths worldwide (today’s stat).
While the fatality rate of Coronavirus now appears to be slightly higher than that of typical influenza (estimates range from 1.4% to the WHO’s 3.4%), the toll of the common flu is staggeringly higher than that of COVID-19.