It’s a really scary time, isn’t it? A virus that originated in China and has killed thousands is spreading across the globe. Some people catch it and get better from it, some people catch it and it claims them. People have been advised to stay a metre apart in Italy and arguments have broken out over bodily functions in Australia. How do we know who has Coronavirus, and how can avoid we avoid catching it ourselves?
The Media Wants You You Worry
That’s the truth, your panic sells. The media is paid to make you aware of this potential new threat and, even if it’s unlikely to be a threat to you personally, they need to you worry and take it seriously. By telling you how many people have developed Coronavirus and how many people have died from it, you’re more likely to act on advice. This is called availability heuristic, or the availability bias.
Let’s compare two different ways of wording this. Using the data from worldmeters.info of the outbreak in China, where Coronavirus began, let’s look at two different makeshift headines using the same information – one negative, one positive.
Which prompts more people to action,
“Deadly virus sweeps China, 80,788 cases reported with more than 3,000 deaths”
“New virus sweeps China, 3 in 4 people have recovered from it”
It’s the first, of course!
Don’t believe me? Let’s do the mathematics:
80,788 cases is 100% of confirmed cases, so to calculate 1 person, we do 100 / 80,788. That’s 0.00123, to 5 decimal places.
Now let’s multiply that 0.00123 by the number of confirmed deaths, 3,158, and we have 0.00123 x 3,158 , which is 3.88344. Round that to one decimal place and we have a 3.9% death rate in China.
Now, let’s look at how many people have recovered:
We need to start of with our same percentage to calculate for one person recovering, so that’s 0.00123 . This time though, we are multiplying it by 61,578 , the number of people who have recovered from Coronavirus.
So we do 0.1123 x 61,578 , and we get 75.74094 , or rounded up, that’s 75.7% recovery rate.
More than 3 in 4 people really are recovering from Coronavirus!
Of course, that’s not me saying “hey chill. it’s nothing to worry about and everything is going to be okay”. Please do take Coronavirus seriously, it is a virus, it can make you feel pretty grotty and it could, if you pass it on to someone who is vulnerable, end up causing another fatality. It’s also not right to dismiss those who have died and their bereaved families as just another statistic, and my heart goes out to those families who have been devastated by it. Please do take Coronavirus seriously, but do also try to keep some perspective.
Fight Or Flight: The Natural Anxiety Response
We all know it, don’t we? We know fight or flight, but when it comes to a new and deadly threat, fight goes out the window and flight becomes our chosen method of coping. We’ve seen it already, people stockpiling food and essential items in bulk, preparing to hunker down on months on end. It’s understandable not to want to catch an illness, especially one that is about 30 times more deadly than the flu.
The response the government wants you to take, wherever you may be, is to help to fight this illness. The government wants you to wash your hands more thoroughly (and more often) and avoid people if you are sick (or avoid people who are sick) so that less people are infected with it, allowing healthcare systems to focus on those who are ill. By isolating those who are ill with a new virus, less people will be at risk of catching it which aids in reducing cases, fatalities and buying time for a vaccine to be developed. It all looks very scary when you hear orders telling you to keep apart from people and medical staff in paper suits and face masks appearing on the television, but all of the medical care facilities in the world can’t cope with 7.53 billion people getting sick at once. Being prepared in the event that you do catch Coronavirus is great, but you can’t spend your life in isolation in case you catch it. Nobody wants to get sick, be it a common cold or Coronavirus!
The Real Cause For Anxiety
The real reason so many government bodies are so scared of Coronavirus is because it’s new. It’s not the common cold, it’s not influenza and it’s not MERS or SARS. This is a new virus, and as yet there is no antibody, there is no treatment and no vaccine. The medical industry needs time to study it and how it responds to different treatments so that they can help people recover from it. Once again, governments have been caught off guard-and the only way to manage this new virus is to impose measures to prevent its spread, including hand-washing, quarantine and social distancing. Although it’s scary to think that there is no known cure, it’s also important to remember that most people do get better!
Who Really Needs To Worry?
Really, all of us do to some extent, but a lot of advice has been particularly geared towards the elderly and those with underlying health conditions. We’re told not to draw comparisons to colds and flu, and yet, statistically, the elderly and those with underlying health conditions are more likely to die from those infections, too. For someone like me, a 31 year old woman with disabilities but no respiratory conditions, the death rate is as low as 0.2% which means that healthy people in my age probably have little to worry about besides some minor symptoms. The bigger burden for us comes in self-isolation, but if you plan logically (rather than panic-buying), you can manage it. Plan for two weeks of groceries, enough toilet paper and hand soap for two weeks and enough pet food (if you have one) for that time. You don’t need 40 rolls of toilet paper and 9 gallons of hand sanitizer. When I did my shopping on Monday, I bought a 9 pack of toilet paper (instead of my normal 4) and one extra bottle of hand soap. Next week, I plan to buy one extra bag of pasta and one extra bag of rice, which will last the two of us about a month. Also, this is self-isolation, not prison. If you have family and friends who will want to check up on you, why not Skype call them? There are plenty of ways that we can still stay connected!
Sidenote: Please Stop Buying Hand Sanitizer (It Doesn’t Work!)
You know, I get it, I was shocked when my Mum (who works in an residential care home) told me they don’t work, but apparently they don’t! Instead, they form a film over the virus and seal it in against your skin – gross! We don’t want that, right? You know the real antidote? Good ol’ soap and water! Scrub, scrub, scrub my lovelies, but don’t go crazy and dry out your hands too much!
The Hidden Cost Of Fear
I’ve been really reserved about sharing this story because I don’t want to put my neck out on the line, but alas, I feel as though we need to discuss the ways in which people (sadly) benefit from illnesses like Coronavirus.
Who remembers back in 2009, the H1N1 swine flu pandemic? Of course you do! That caused fatalities too, right? I remember it well. At the time, I was working in the medical industry as an Administration Assistant and I was asked to fold and seal hundreds of letters inviting people for a H1NI vaccine. Most said no, one even very bluntly, but we tried. I sustained a few paper cuts, but as an admin that’s all part of the job. Imagine my surprise then, when my boss approached me just after Christmas and handed me a card with a £60 gift card*.
I later found out it was for all of my “hard work and dedication” and apparently all of the administration staff got them. Between 9 women, that’s £540! That’s crazy money that a vital service is dwindling away, simply thanking people for doing their job and it makes you wonder who might actually be profiting from Coronavirus. Nobody should be, because where I’m concerned, those who profit from it could also be those who die from it. We should always aim to remain humble in times like these, but sadly that also isn’t how the world works.
Of course, I do want you to worry, but I want you to worry logically. Please do remember to wash your hands for 20 seconds and self-isolate if you feel at all ill. It would be irresponsible of me, as a former member of medical staff, to tell you that coughs and sneezes are nothing to worry about. They are something to worry about, but perhaps, only in moderation.
Be Bold, Be Bright, Be Beautiful,
*Sorry, of course I’m not telling you where I used to work! 😉