Viruses are nothing to dismiss lightly, but people should not panic in regard to COVID-19.

In the U.S., each year between 9 million and 45 million are infected by an influenza and between 12,000 and 61,000 die. To put this in perspective, there are approximately 600 confirmed cases of COVID-19, and 23 people have died in the U.S.

Data shows that new viruses appear in Asia months before they show up anywhere else. The annual influenza epidemics infect between 5 percent and 15 percent of the world population each year, and cause approximately 300,000 deaths.  

Many Chinese people insist on freshly slaughtered animals rather than frozen meat. This is one of the major reasons China has been such a hot spot for new influenza viruses.

Nowhere else on Earth do so many people have such close contact to so many caged live animals in unhealthy conditions. The virus COVID-19 is a coronavirus, from the same family as the viruses that caused SARS and MERS. Much like SARS and the common cold, COVID-19 targets the respiratory system.

However, the media and the public are confusing the transmission rate (RO) and the Mortality rate (CFR). Just because something is “highly transmissible” does not mean it is fatal.

The common cold is very transmissible but millions get it and survive. The RO rate of COVID-19 is between 2 and 3. Which means one person who contracts this virus tends to spread to 2 to 3 people.

What is more important is the case fatality rate (CFR) or the percentage of people who die from this virus. The World Health Organization (WHO) has been publishing the number 3.4% as the percentage of confirmed patients who die from COVID-19. President Donald Trump believes the CFR rate is under 1%.

The reason the WHO may be high is because there are many people who have the virus, but are not confirmed cases. In South Korea, where they are testing more people, their case fatality rate is around 0.5 percent, which may be closer to the number the U.S. will experience.

Steve Johnston

Brookings

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Cities along the coast in Oregon have put bans in place to stop people from coming from other areas and staying in their cities and possibly spreading the coronavirus.

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