The new coronavirus has officially been declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization. Should we start panicking yet?
But what does this announcement mean for ordinary people like you and me? Should we worry?
While no one can deny the serious implications of a pandemic, there are reasons not to panic.
In this article, I’ll share 10 realistic reasons why worrying and panicking won’t help. Because mass hysteria is more dangerous than the virus itself.
1. Pandemic doesn’t refer to “lethality” but “transmissibility”
Pandemic refers to the sustained and continuous transmission of a disease that can no longer be contained to a specific geographic area.
The coronavirus fits this description because it can be transmitted easily. Its outbreak is also no longer contained in epicenter Wuhan, China—as there are now major outbreaks in Italy, Iran, and South Korea.
But even though the coronavirus is easily transmissible, we can’t be certain of its mortality rate.
What we do know suggests that it is not lethal in most cases. 80% of infections recorded are mild or asymptomatic. This means that outside of those numbers, there could be more people infected whose symptoms are so mild, they didn’t need to be tested or treated.
Only 15% of cases were recorded to be severe (requiring oxygen) and 5% are critical infections. The risk of critical infections is much higher for older people and those with underlying immune-compromised health conditions.
The bottom line? Just because it’s a pandemic doesn’t mean it will be lethal to all of those infected. Warranted, it’s serious enough to require an international effort, but not enough for mass hysteria.
2. We know what it is.
Panicking makes a lot more sense when you don’t know what’s actually happening. But it’s not the case here.
In fact, information has been readily available for us since the virus’s early developments—all delivered in real-time. So it’s not like we’re going through this blind.
To compare, the first cases of AIDS were recorded in 1981. But it took more than 2 years for professionals to identify what the virus is. People thought it could be spread by touching an infected person or even being in the same room with them.
But with COVID-19, it took only 10 days for the genome to be available. Furthermore, we know it’s from the same family as SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome). We know enough about its genetic analysis to determine that its mutation rate may not even be high.
3. We know how to detect it.
China reported the first cases of the coronavirus on December 31, 2019. Immediately on January 13, 2020, a test to detect the virus had already been made available.
If it comes down to it, you can get tested and be able to receive the medical treatment you need.
4. If you’re healthy, you’ll likely survive it.
As I mentioned earlier, 80% of the cases are mild and asymptomatic. So unless you’re above 60 or have an underlying illness that compromises your immune system, you’ll likely survive the coronavirus.
The truth is, we panic because we let our cognitive biases rule out, instead of being reasonable. The coronavirus outbreak is a perfect example because people immediately go either to ways: “It’s the end of the world” or “Oh, it’s just like the flu.”
But the truth is usually in the middle. Individually, we’ll likely survive the pandemic. It’s the systematic repercussions that should worry us—how will this affect the economy? Can our healthcare system handle the onslaught of people needing care?
If we go into panic mode, we become unreasonable. And we need to be reasonable now. We should be focusing on what we can do individually—practicing good hygiene, social distancing, etc—instead of hoarding goods and wearing N95 masks when you’re otherwise healthy.
5. Your children won’t likely be affected.
Since the outbreak, only 3% of cases are recorded in people under 20. And the mortality rate is about 0.2% in those under 40.
Still, that’s not saying your children can’t pass on the virus to you or everyone else. That’s why you still need to be vigilant about preventative measures, no matter how old you are.
6. Science is on a global, united effort to handle the virus.
Science is on our side. Thankfully, it’s a modern era of scientific cooperation.
Already within a month, there were about 164 scientific articles published in PubMed on COVID19 or SARSCove 2. This information is readily open and available to anyone. They contain studies and works on vaccines, epidemiology, treatments, genetics, diagnosis, and clinical aspects.
As we speak, scientists and top experts are sprinting to outpace the coronavirus. And honestly, there’s very little we can do at this point but do our best and hopefully let science do its work.
7. We’re told to stay at home, not for the reasons you think.
Governments were quick to advise the public to stay at home and even work from home if possible. Mass gatherings are also being canceled worldwide.
And a lot of us think that it’s because it’s “too dangerous” to go outside. There’s truth to that. We’ve already established the transmissibility of the virus.
But that’s not the only reason.
We’re told to stay at home so we don’t catch the virus so as not to overload our healthcare system.
Think about it. If we go to work and live our lives as normal, our collective chance of getting the virus heightens. So all of us will need medical care. But if we slow down the progress of the virus, more people will get the care they deserve, get treated, and our hospitals and healthcare professionals won’t be overburdened.
So please, follow your government’s advice. There’s a reason for it.
8. Vaccines are already in the works.
Medicine has gone a long way. Our ability to produce vaccines is amazing now. So it’s not as hopeless as you think.
Every day, we are closer to a vaccine more than you think. Right now, there are more than a dozen pharmaceutical companies trying to develop vaccines and drugs for the COVID19.
Scientists are in so much rush to outpace the virus, that there are even clinical trials foregoing animal testing.
The science field is taking this seriously that they’re willing to do anything to get a vaccine out. Human trials are set to start in April 2019 and experts believe a fully-developed vaccine will be available as soon as next year.
9. There’s also an urgency to develop antiviral drugs.
A vaccine would be great and would be an efficient long term solution. But right now, it’s more important for infected patients to be treated. That’s why there’s also an urgency to develop an antiviral drug for COVID19.
The good news is, there are currently more than 80 clinical trials testing treatments for the coronavirus. These are antiviral drugs that have been successfully used for other infections—so they are approved and safe on humans.
One of these drugs is called remdesivir. The broad-spectrum antiviral, although still under study, has been tested against Ebola and SARS/MERS.
10. Bottom line: we’re as prepared as we’ve ever been.
Panic would be understandable if this was the 1900s when the flu pandemic killed more than 25 million people in 25 weeks.
But we have gone a long way in science and medicine, not to mention the availability of information and the ease in how we can avail it. It’s 2020 and we are as prepared for a global pandemic as we’ve ever been.
The truth is: we’re at an advantage. We have every available resource to fight this virus and come out of it.
There’s no denying that the coronavirus will create serious consequences before we can stop it from spreading.
It’s easy to focus on the negative and be scared of the worst. But we should all remember: humanity has gone through so much worse in the past but managed to survive every challenge.
The best you can do right now is to follow the correct guidelines, help each other out, and remind yourself that we’ve never been better prepared and armed for a fight.