The epidemic of panic: why is everyone afraid of the coronavirus, although it is more contagious than measles, and the mortality rate from the flu is higher

For more than a month the attention of leading world media focused on the latest news about Chinese coronavirus. According to recent reports, within two months of the epidemic, its victims were a total of 1875 people, writes the BBC.

Эпидемия паники: почему все боятся коронавируса, хотя корь заразнее, а смертность от гриппа выше

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Of these, only 86 were killed outside of Hubei province, and only three outside China: Japan, France and the Philippines.

At the same time, from the seasonal flu just in the United States since the beginning of winter died more than 10 thousand people. In General, according to the who, each year seasonal epidemic kills from 290 to 650 thousand lives. In one of England’s annual flu kills an average of 17 thousand patients.

In 2009, when southern California started the outbreak of swine flu, only for the first year of the epidemic victims of the H1N1 virus were at least 150 thousand people, according to some estimates — more than 500 thousand.

Russian service Bi-bi-si understands how the Chinese coronavirus threat in fact — and is so afraid.

The mortality rate

Of course, to determine the risk of disease, comparing the absolute numbers of victims, rather pointless. The same swine flu in 2009-2010, had, according to various estimates, from 10 to 20% of the total population of the globe — and in this context even the half a million victims of the virus do not look very intimidating.

It makes sense to compare the mortality rate — the proportion of deaths relative to the total number infected.

According to statistics, the global epidemic like swine flu occur on average once in 25 years and killed 10-20 people for every 100 thousand infected (0.01 to 0.02%).

The mortality rate of coronavirus from the Chinese of today seem higher by two orders: the first 100 thousand confirmed cases of the infection have about 2,000 deaths, or about 2%.

In General, the various studies evaluate mortality Covid-19 level from 0.5% to 4%.

These figures are quite comparable with the usual seasonal virus. According to Professor of the Institute of epidemiology and Microbiology, Victor Zuev, “when seasonal influenza infection mortality is the same or a little higher.”

Thus, in contrast to the coronavirus, a common flu rarely diagnosed in the laboratory. And the official statistics for Covid-19 takes into account only those cases when the patient has deteriorated so much that it took laboratory diagnosis.

Most experts believe that tens of thousands more infected with the coronavirus have not experienced severe symptoms and do not go to the doctor. And some do not understand that hurt. Consequently, the “official” mortality rates may be highly inflated.

At the same time, it is possible that he may be and above. Let’s not forget that out of the 73 thousand diagnosed patients recovered only about 18%, and the remaining 82% still sick — and how many of them will eventually recover, we can only guess.

Although the massive outbreak of any disease is at first almost always seems more serious than on its results — for the simple reason that severe cases of the disease to attract more attention.

An epidemiologist from the Harvard mark Lipsitz recalls that in the first months of the epidemic swine flu H1N1, it seemed that the virus dies every tenth patient. Until it became clear that the vast majority of the infected were carrying the disease on their feet and didn’t even go to a doctor. When these cases are added to the overall statistics, the mortality rate instantly fell to 0.1%.

For comparison, during the epidemic of SARS (SARS) in 2003, the mortality rate was almost 10%; the virus middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) die on average every third. So according to this indicator, Covid-19 is inferior to its predecessors.

So should we be afraid?

Another important indicator of risk of any disease, its transmissibility, that is, how many people have time to infect every carrier of the virus. Even those who have the disease is mild and without any symptoms.

From this point of view Covid-19 is really more dangerous than seasonal flu. If 10 patients with “normal” virus infect on average another 13 people (infectious 1,3), the coronavirus, according to estimates by Chinese doctors, is spreading faster: 10 infections have time to infect another 22 healthy individuals (2,2).

This draws the attention of the chief virologist of the Institute of experimental medicine, Larisa Rudenko, according to which “the virus is very dangerous for those who are in contact.”

“Apparently, you can get sick even through the ventilation system, as on the ship in Japan. There cases no issue, they do not go anywhere, but still get sick, — said a virologist. — When was the SARS virus in Hong Kong residents of the upper floors through the ventilation system transmitted infection from the lower inhabitants. Airborne transmission is very dangerous.”

However, the level of infectiousness of SARS was slightly higher — about 3, and measles virus, he did more than 12.

That is why if you suspect any such disease, it is important to maintain the quarantine.

“The most important thing is quarantine, but people don’t understand it. When people leave quarantine at the Botkin hospital is the irresponsibility of the society”, — said Rudenko.

In the risk group, as at the outbreak of any infection, children, the elderly, pregnant women and people with weakened immune systems and chronic diseases.

However, as noted by the honorary Vice-President of the Academy of natural Sciences Victor Zuev, overall healthy people to be afraid of the coronavirus is not worth it. Especially in Russia.

“People are afraid because of you, the media, he says. — This disease, which was caused by a new virus — so sudden was the reaction. It features low lethality (2,5-3%), but the virus is very contagious.”

According to Professor Zueva, another epidemic of coronavirus is quite natural and is a “pay for those costs the benefits of civilization that we enjoy”.

“We are more likely to continue to ride, we are dealing with a huge number of people — and this means that we will be taking to the microbial baggage that we are rich. We are not sterile, neither bacteriologically nor virusological he explains. But we are with you [in Russia] don’t need no masks, no vaccine.”

How many viruses live outside the body

2019 coronavirus-NCOV

  • On surfaces in an environment with a humidity of 40% and temperature of +22, — from several hours to 5 days.
  • Resistant to disinfectants. Dies within 15 minutes when heated to 56 C.


  • In the indoor air at the temperature of +22 from 2 to 9 hours.
  • At the hands of man — 5 minutes.
  • On metal and plastic — 24-48 hours.
  • In the refrigerator (+3+4) — up to 7 days.
  • On products of fabrics (towels, handkerchiefs) — up to 11 days.
  • Completely killed at a temperature of +60 C. Sensitive to all the major groups of disinfectants.


  • In the stool of patients — from several weeks to 7 months.
  • In tap water — up to 2 months.
  • On various objects in the environment — up to 45 days.
  • On the surface of fruits and vegetables 5-30 days.
  • Resistant to ether and detergents, acidic pH values (3,0, ordinary disinfectants.
  • Withstand heating at temperatures up to 50 C, do not die in the ordinary chlorination of water.


  • In the air and on surfaces at temperatures from -15 to -20 With — in a few weeks.
  • In the air and on surfaces at room temperature from 2 hours to 2 days.
  • The causative agent sensitive to ultraviolet rays and daylight.
  • Resistant to antibiotics.


  • In the air — a few minutes.
  • In the syringes at a constant temperature from 22 to 37 With up to 2-7 days.
  • When boiling — 1 min, when heated to 56 degrees for 30 min.
  • Disinfectants cause the death within 3-5 minutes.


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