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Comparing COVID-19 with Other Common Viral Infections

In my opinion, there are many voices out there causing unnecessary fear and concern. Notice I said UNNECESSARY fear! Yes, there is a certain amount of concern and precaution that is absolutely necessary, but undue fear and anxiety can only be counter-productive. Plus, fear impairs your immune system and we don't want our main defense weakened. So to help calm fears and boost your immune system (and mood), I think it's important to know the following facts:

When the epidemic in China was finally acknowledged, it was already spreading across the population. Since around 80% of cases are very mild, the vast majority of people in China who contracted the virus but only had mild symptoms were not tested. Of the people who were tested, many (most?) already had a significantly severe illness. The same in Italy. These were countries who were REACTIVE instead of PROACTIVE. Therefore when you look at the death rates (which makes us all nervous) in these countries, it looks much more serious than the death rate for the flu. However, the South Korea data looks much different. The South Koreans began aggressive proactive testing early thereby identifying more of the 80% who only manifest very mild symptoms. In identifying more of the people who actually have the COVID-19 virus, we get a better analysis of the actual morbidity and mortality of the disease. That's why I agree with the director of WHO when he said: "Test, test, test!"

So what are these numbers? They are easily accessed through the WHO Situation Reports that are published every 24 hours. When we look at the Chinese data as of 3/16/2020, we see that the death rate is 3.96%, and when we look at Italy the death rate (as of 3/16/2020) is a whopping 7.3%. On the other hand, if you look at the data from South Korea the death rate is 0.91%. What's the difference? Better medical care in South Korea? Maybe. But more likely the reason is that more of the people with the mild form of the illness were identified early on, thereby giving us a better estimation of the ACTUAL mortality rate--more like 1 % instead of 4% or 7%. Yes, that 1% death rate is still significantly higher death rate than that of the flu in 2018-2019 which was around 0.1%, but it gives us a better and more hopeful perspective. As with the flu, the older age groups are the most vulnerable, so the older you are the more serious an infection could be.

The other set of facts that I would like you to know is the difference between COVID-19 and other common health problems this time of year such as flu, colds, and seasonal allergies. First of all, as it warms up, the incidence of the flu usually falls way off. Therefore, the closer we get to the Summer months, the less likely it is that fever, body aches, and respiratory symptoms are the flu. Experts are thinking that this current coronavirus pandemic will not necessarily subside with rising temperatures like the flu does. However, especially in the South where I live, seasonal allergies are ramping up. Allergies usually start with itchy eyes or sneezing while viral illnesses like the flu or coronavirus affect your whole body with fever, muscle aches, and dry cough. Other symptoms based on data from China show that around 30% have shortness of breath, 5% develop nausea and or vomiting, and about 4% have diarrhea. These can be symptoms of the flu also, so it can be difficult to distinguish between COVID-19 and the flu. If you develop flu symptoms, you should probably get tested for flu first then, if that is negative, undergo coronavirus testing. Statistically, the flu is more likely the culprit.

I hope these tidbits of information are helpful during this "Coronavirus Chaos." See my other articles ( about what you can do to boost your immune system!


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