Opinion: This illness might just surprise you


Daily Post Editor

I want to tell you about a respiratory illness that’s spreading throughout the Bay Area, the nation and the world. It causes fevers, coughs, body aches, fatigue and sometimes vomiting and diarrhea. It can be mild or severe. Scientists say it can be spread by droplets in the air from an infected person coughing, sneezing or talking. Antibiotics won’t treat it.

Researchers at Johns Hopkins University estimate that it will result in 1 billion illnesses worldwide this year, and 9.3 million to 45 million cases in the U.S. The CDC says it caused 12,000 to 61,000 deaths in the U.S. this year so far.

I’m talking about the flu, of course.

The world is in the midst of a panic over COVID-19, but I think it would be wise to take a step back and put things into perspective.

It feels like we’re about to go into hermit mode, where everybody stays home, calls in sick, stops shopping and avoids group activities. Recall the weeks after 9/11 when the streets emptied and the country seemed to shut down.

Yet this kind of hysteria never happens during flu season. Life goes on.

The difference between the two ailments is that we all have a lot of personal experience with the flu — everybody has come down with it before — but COVID-19 is unknown. That makes it scary. That makes it easy for fearmongers — the news media, politicians — to frighten people and manipulate their behavior.

I don’t think anybody ought to panic. There was a great article on the website RealClear Science that made a number of points about why we should take COVID-19 in stride.

New cases drop in China

For one thing, the number of new cases in China is already falling significantly. A few weeks ago, China was reporting more than 3,000 new cases a day. Now that number has dropped to around 400 per day. Big companies like Apple and Starbucks are reopening in China.

Also, the vast majority of cases are mild, and the death rate was lower than first predicted. The death rate originally thought to be as high as 3.8% — but it’s fallen as the quality of hospital care has improved.

For Chinese patients whose symptoms started after Feb. 1, the death rate is just 0.7%, according to the World Health Organization. The U.S. death rate from the flu last winter was between .06% and 0.1%. SARS, a virus similar to COVID-19, had a death rate of 9.6%.

Only one out of every 1,000 people in Hubei Province, where the disease was first reported, has contracted COVID-19. The province has 59.2 million people and 66,000 confirmed cases. That’s an indication that in a densely populated area, COVID-19 isn’t spreading that quickly.

Remember Swine Flu in 2009 and 2010? There were 60 million cases in the U.S. with 12,469 deaths. Today, many people scarcely remember Swine Flu. We’ve been through this before. Follow the advice experts are giving about hand-washing and other aspects of personal hygiene. But I don’t think it’s time to panic.

Editor Dave Price’s column appears on Mondays. His email address is price@padailypost.com.


  1. Thank you for writing this. This thing is BS! Not only does the flu kill people but so do cars. Are they going to ban driving next?

  2. All the Globalists and the Open Borders People are responsible for this. This disease started in China and jumped over here because of all of the trade we do with that country. It’s time to re-start manufacturing in America and take back all of our business with China. Close the door. Take our jobs back and stop diseases from spreading. This won’t be the last virus. It might even be a rehearsal for a more serious epidemic.

  3. This article ignores the important difference that there is a vaccine for the flu that limits spread, especially among healthcare workers.

    It’s not just about how severe your own symptoms may be but who you may pass it to.

    And the “experience” you mention also includes having antibodies for some strains of the flu that limit contracting it in the future; but even those strains change from year to year (there were two common strains in 2019) which is why we still need to get vaccinated every year.

  4. Under Obama, 12,000 people died from swine flu and 60,000 were infected. He did a terrible job leading the nation’s response to that outbreak, and the media gave him a pass. Guess the rules changed with Trump.

  5. @Timmy G, how do you know what the mortality rate is for COVID-19?

    You must have an accurate denominator (the number of cases) before you can come up with a mortality rate. Because of the lack of testing in the U.S., we don’t know how many cases we have and therefore don’t have a reliable denominator.

    If you’ve been following this closely, you might have seen that WHO claimed on March 3 that the mortality rate was around 3%. That was based on deaths in China where the healthcare system isn’t as advanced as ours.

    On Thursday, NIH director Dr. Anthony Fauci testified before congress that the mortality rate isn’t 3%, as WHO had claimed, but around 1%.

    I realize from your political statement that you don’t have any education in immunology and that you’re just picking up partisan talking points you heard on TV.

    Please don’t give out medical information if you don’t know what you’re talking about. You’re increasing people’s fear simply to make a political point, and that’s deadly.

    Bottom line is that it’s too early to know what the mortality rate will be.

  6. >…China…mortality rate was around 3%….
    >Dr. Anthony Fauci…the mortality rate isn’t 3%…but around 1%.
    >Bottom line is that it’s too early to know what the mortality rate will be.

    Gretchen in the lab: indeed it is too early to know the actual mortality rate. And we won’t know until we have a large enough data set and enough time elapsed to acquire that set…by when we would know the mortality rate is either indeed 1%. Or (significantly) less. Or (significantly) MORE.

    When the consequences are dire, even fatal, is it safer to assume the rate could be higher than 1%? or less or equal to 1%?

    If you believe the latter it is you and those in your camp that have drunk an orange-colored kool aid. And I’d not want to have anything to do with whatever is being done or comes out of your “lab”.

  7. Let me throw this out there. What if China created this disease, and it infected some of their people before they got it to the U.S. They don’t care how many of their own people they kill. But they want to create a crisis to get rid of Trump so they can get a Democrat in the White House who will go easy on them on trade. In other words, maybe we’re in the middle of a biological war and nobody has told us.

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