Are you worried you’ll pick up coronavirus (COVID-19) if you go to a crowded area of town? Are you figuring out ways to protect yourself from getting the coronavirus? The media outlets are spreading alarming news of coronavirus far and wide. I’m sure their ratings are great. Even the stock market reacted to coronavirus. But before you stock up on supplies for a coronavirus outbreak, what are the true risks of getting coronavirus?
Aside from the Hype, What are the Facts?
There have been few cases of coronavirus in the US. As of March 5th, 2020, CDC said there had been 99* cases of coronavirus. Worldometers, a real-time global statistics resource, estimated 162 cases in the US. Let’s use the higher number for our calculations. Out of 327 million people living in the United States, 162 have had coronavirus. That means 0.000049 % of Americans have had coronavirus. Of those, most were reported in California and Washington. Check how many cases of coronavirus have been reported in your state here.
There is a low risk of accidentally picking up coronavirus when you go to the mall or run errands.
*As of March 11th, CDC reported 938 cases in the US and Worldometers reported 1,109 cases. That amounts to 0.00034 % of Americans who have had coronavirus.
Ninety-four percent of people who get coronavirus will recover. As of March 5th, a total of 96,908** cases of coronavirus had been reported. Well, that is a lot. Some of those are actively sick, others have since recovered. Of the known cases, 94% of people recovered. The World Health Organization estimates 3.4% have died. The true fatality rate is probably less, but it isn’t known yet. Compare that to the flu, which usually kills far fewer than 1% who get it. The elderly, the sick, and those in poverty with limited healthcare have a higher risk of death, should they get coronavirus. For people over 80 years old, the death rate may reach 15%. These vulnerable groups need to take extra precautions, just as they would for the flu.
**As of March 11th, worldwide cases were 125,617. All other stats remain the same.
The “coronavirus outbreak”- a pandemic- is exciting. But let’s look at the truly dangerous diseases in our midst as a frame of reference. Nearly 6.7% of Americans have heart disease and it kills 647,000 (or 0.2%) of Americans every year. That’s 192 times more deaths in one year (in one country) than caused by the coronavirus so far worldwide. There will be over 1.7 million new diagnoses of cancer this year in the US. All forms of cancer together kill 599,108 Americans each year, or 0.18%. Coronavirus isn’t even a drop in the bucket compared to these real and present dangers.
Peter Diamandis, MD puts the coronavirus in context with even more surprising statistics.
“During the 2017-2018 flu season, CDC figures put U.S. influenza deaths at roughly 80,000. Meanwhile, global estimates indicated anywhere between 290,000 – 650,000 influenza-associated deaths from respiratory causes alone….
By comparison on a global scale, the Coronavirus outbreak has infected over 90,000 people as of early March, resulting in 3,462 deaths worldwide (today’s stat)…
While the fatality rate of Coronavirus now appears to be slightly higher than that of typical influenza (estimates range from 1.4% to the WHO’s 3.4%), the toll of the common flu is staggeringly higher than that of COVID-19.”
The majority of people with coronavirus have a mild case. To watch the news reports, you would never know it. Of the people who have coronavirus across the globe right now, 84% have mild symptoms.*** Still, 16% are in critical condition. Most of those will survive, but some won’t. Yes, it can kill people, but most people are going to come out of it okay. Coronavirus can cause serious symptoms for people who are over 60 years old, weak, have underlying medical problems, who are impoverished, or who can’t get high quality medical help.
***March 11 statistics suggest 89% have mild symptoms and 11% are in critical condition.
Kids are spared. This is one of the strangest pieces of good news about coronavirus. Children seem to be fine. Not many of them get the virus; very few of them become critically ill; and none of them die. Tuck your kids in at night knowing that coronavirus will probably never harm them.
It’s not all good news. This is a new virus that animal-hopped. It may have come from bats and now it’s spreading between humans. We just don’t know much about it yet. It is moving across the globe and unless it is aggressively contained, there will be more cases in the US. And yes, that’s scary.
But based on a real-time ongoing preliminary study of 97,908** people worldwide, the coronavirus doesn’t look like a highly dangerous virus. Sure, I don’t want it. I don’t want anyone I know to get it. But if you or someone you know gets it, chances are pretty good that they’ll come out okay as long as they aren’t already very sick or weak. It’s flu season. It’s a great idea to avoid all viruses with good hygienic habits. But let’s be realistic- not hysterical- about the coronavirus.
Healthy steps to minimize your risks of coronavirus- or any virus
Aside from avoiding the virus, and keeping your hands clean and out of your eyes, nose, and mouth, you can also boost your immune system. Make sure you are taking a good quality multivitamin-mineral supplement. For virus prevention, take higher levels of vitamin A (5,000 IU as natural mixed carotenoids ), vitamin D (5,000 IU/d), and vitamin C (1,000 mg/day and up to bowel tolerance). Zinc (30 mg/d) and herbs like elderberry and echinacea can reduce your risk of getting a virus and limit how long it lasts. Keep the lining of your nose moist with saline nasal spray. Continue on your healthy diet of veggies, low-sugar fruits, and meats. Get rid of sugar, which suppresses the immune system. Get your rest and keep your stress low.
These recommendations are even more important for people listed in the vulnerable populations above. For someone over 60, it makes sense to be more careful to avoid cases of coronavirus. See how many cases there are in your area by checking with your state and local public health officials, instead of depending on national news reports.
See our free, at-home coronavirus sanitation checklist for keeping commonly touched surfaces in your home free of coronavirus. It’s especially helpful for households with high risk members or members still working outside of the home.
Cass Nelson-Dooley, MS, is a researcher, author, educator, and laboratory consultant. She studied medicinal plants in the rain forests of Panama as a Fulbright Scholar and then launched a career in science and natural medicine. Early on, she studied ethnobotany, ethnopharmacology, and drug discovery at the University of Georgia and AptoTec, Inc. She joined innovators at Metametrix Clinical Laboratory as a medical education consultant helping clinicians use integrative and functional laboratory results in clinical practice. She owns Health First Consulting, LLC, a medical communications company with the mission to improve human health using the written word. Ms. Nelson-Dooley is an oral microbiome expert and author of Heal Your Oral Microbiome. She was a contributing author in Laboratory Evaluations for Integrative and Functional Medicine and Case Studies in Integrative and Functional Medicine. She has published case studies, book chapters, and journal articles about the oral microbiome, natural medicine, nutrition, laboratory testing, obesity, and osteoporosis.