Child's Play, The Citizen, March 2020 Relax 

Gregory K. Moffatt, Ph.D.

If I hear one more news story about the corona virus (COVID-19) I may lose my lunch.  We all need to just relax!  If there is danger of getting the COVID-19 virus, wash your hands often, don't expose yourself to those you know have it, and if you get it, treat it and get on with life.  If there is no danger of getting the COVID-19 virus, wash your hands often, don't expose yourself to those who have contagious disease, and if you get an illness, treat it and get on with life.

The daily news is 99% media hype.  Nobody wants to be sick, but we have to calm down.  Consider these risks: 

*the likelihood of being in a car accident on any given day is about .09%

*the likelihood of dying from the flu is about 2.7%

*the chance of being killed by a pet or other animal is .54%

*the chance of dying from an accident of some kind in the USA is about 1.3%

*the chance of dying from a fall from a ladder is about 2%

*the chance of dying from cancer in the USA is about .44%

*the chance of being murdered by a serial killer is about .2% depending on age, race, and region

*the chance of getting food poisoning from a restaurant in the US is about .4%

*the chance of being struck by lightning is about .0001%

*the chance of being attached by a shark is .000009%

Now a drum roll please - the chance of dying from the COVID-19 virus in the USA is .00000009 or about .000009%.  Hmmmm.  About the same as the chance of being attacked by a shark.  And if you are younger than 55, it is actually 0%.   Worldwide, the death rate for COVID-19 is at worst 2% - about 25% less than the flu that most of you weren't concerned enough about the flu to get a flu shot.

All of the media hype is not only driving me nuts, but it is hurting industry.  From airlines to schools, retail business to cruise lines and tourism, this unnecessary hype is damaging our economy. 

Fulton County closed the entire school system recently because of a single case of COVID-19.  Did they close the entire school system because of one case of the flu?  After all, a person is more than 25x more likely to die of the flu than COVID-19.

Media hype is what the media does.  They go from one "scary scenario" to another.  How many of you remember all of the focus on shark attacks in the fall of 2001?  Every day we heard about sharks until 9/11.  Suddenly there wasn't any concern about sharks anymore.  We were more worried about terrorists.  There were no more shark attacks in 2001 than there had ever been.  Hype sells air-time.

While it appears that COVID-19 is a little more contagious than the regular flu, that doesn't mean we have to panic.  Getting it doesn't mean life as you know it is over. 

So just relax.  Be sensible as you always should be.  Wash your hands often not just to prevent getting COVID-19, but to prevent getting any virus - a cold (there are about 160 known viruses that we call "colds"), the flu, or any other virus that can survive on surfaces like door knobs, computer keyboards, and in public restrooms.  Cover your mouth when you cough and if you are sick - stay home.

This exact same panic existed during SARS in 2002.  (COVID-19 is actually a similar version of the SARS virus.)  The mortality rate with SARS was almost 10% of those exposed.  With MERS, the death rate of those exposed is nearly a whopping 35% and I would guess that most of you don't even recognize the name "MERS."

In the H1N1 virus in 2009, the death rate was about .08%.  We have seen the media hype also with the swine flu, the Asian flu, and other similar viruses. 

The only people that need to be very concerned about survival are the elderly (all the deaths have been old people) and anyone with a compromised immune system.  But this is always true.  There is nothing mystical about COVID-19. 

When the AIDS virus became known to the general public in the mid-80s, we were all panicked.  Nobody was certain how it was transmitted, how it could be contained, and we were frightened to death.  Back then it was always fatal.  COVID-19 isn't AIDS.  We will be fine just like we have been with various other forms of the flu.  It isn't pleasant, but we can manage it.


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