Fear and emotion are more infectious than any virus.
They spread quickly among the population through today’s high-tech communications systems as people fixate on the constant drumbeat of dire information delivered instantaneously by 24-hour news channels and social media.
Amid quarantines, school closings, canceled sporting events, shuttered restaurants and businesses, empty store shelves, travel restrictions, and a plummeting stock market, it is easy to become scared to death or feel crushed emotionally by the notion of impending doom.
But, history and perspective can offer us comfort. We have survived far worse. Both experience and statistics tell us this. So, let’s consider other lethal illnesses and their numbers. We can compare them to the current state of Covid-19, otherwise known as the coronavirus.
There are more than known 9,400 cases of the new virus in the U.S., and more than 100 deaths so far. Granted, these numbers will increase as more testing is done and until the virus is arrested.
While it might not seem so right now, the present pandemic will abate and the coronavirus will be beaten.
However, coronavirus represents just a fraction of what happens each year in America as tens of thousands die of another respiratory illness with similar symptoms called influenza. This season alone (since October), as many as 45 million Americans have been infected by the common flu, killing upwards of 46,000 –this according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Think about those numbers for a moment. Even if coronavirus deaths multiply into the thousands over the next few months, will it even reach the level of the flu fatalities each year that we have come to accept as normal? Of course, we hope it won’t, and aggressive measures are being taken to reduce that risk dramatically.
In 2009, the H1N1 “swine flu” pandemic infected 60 million globally. Over 284,000 died, including more than 12,000 Americans.
The 1957-58 “Asian flu” was more severe causing 1.1 million deaths worldwide and 116,000 in the United States.
The 1918-19 “Spanish flu” was even more devastating. It infected an estimated 500 million people or one-third of the world’s population. Some 50 million people died, including roughly 675,000 in the U.S.
Another factor to consider is the lethality of Covid-19 in people who have symptoms compared with other recent contagions that were far more deadly. For example, Ebola killed up to 50% of those infected. MERS had a mortality rate of 34%. The rate for SARS was between 10 % and 15%. We don’t yet know the true mortality rate for the coronavirus, but the most recent estimate by a team of infectious disease experts puts it at 1.4%.
Placing the landscape of history against the current pandemic should offer Americans solace amid the spiraling panic and hysteria. Maintaining a mental balance and a calm attitude is vital in a time of crisis –either perceived or real. It’s all about perspective. For the average American, the health risk remains exceedingly low.
The economic risk, however, is something to be concerned about. In the near term, it will be adverse. Some of the draconian measures taken by state and local authorities may be more harmful than the virus itself. Shutting down businesses and leaving people unemployed overlooks the real-life impact this has on millions of people who subsist paycheck to paycheck.
Nonetheless, Americans are resilient. The fundamentals of our economic system are sound and we are blessed with the best businesses in the world. Our nation and its citizens have persevered through world wars, terrorist attacks, recessions, and a great depression. It is in our nature to endure, recover and prosper.
While it might not seem so right now, the present pandemic will abate and the coronavirus will be beaten. We will regain our sense of well-being and financial strength –as long as we don’t allow fear and emotion to consume us.