Coronavirus: Separating Fact from Fiction

February 11, 2020
February 11, 2020 Jonathan Nolan

Coronavirus: Separating Fact from Fiction

If you’ve been hearing the news about the coronavirus outbreak in China that has now spread around the globe, you might be feeling concerned. It doesn’t help that sensational headlines and even conspiracy theories are fanning the flames.

If you’re overly worried about coronavirus, don’t be. As we separate fact from fiction, you will hopefully feel better about the situation.

Is coronavirus a brand new pathogen we’ve never seen before? No, not really. Many different strains of coronavirus exist, and we’ve known about them for years. In fact, coronaviruses are some of the most frequent causes of the common cold.

The particular strain of coronavirus causing the outbreak is a new one, but new strains of virus are discovered all the time. So, the situation is not that unusual.

Is this new coronavirus an instant death sentence? Definitely not! The news has focused heavily on the number of deaths, but glosses over the number of people infected by this new strain of coronavirus. The fatality rate is actually about 2 percent, which admittedly is concerning, but we’re not exactly living out a science fiction movie.

In fact, some health organizations believe the actual fatality rate is even lower than 2 percent, because many cases of coronavirus are mild and are not being diagnosed at a hospital. Therefore, more people are infected than we even know. That sounds bad, until you realize we don’t know about them because they think they simply have a mild cold.

Are hundreds of thousands, or even millions, of people dying? Some pretty wild reports have circulated on social media, but there is no substantive evidence of a high death toll at this time.

Unfortunately, around 1,000 people have died in the outbreak so far. But according to reports, the deaths are due to complications from pneumonia, which mostly strikes older people and those with compromised immune systems. We know that pneumonia is a problem in this population already; the situation isn’t exactly new.

Those who are otherwise healthy and have robust immune systems typically do not suffer the more serious complications.

Will you catch coronavirus? Chances are, you’ve had a few strains of coronavirus before. As for this new strain, nearly all cases are confined to China at the moment. Public health officials are doing all they can to quarantine suspected cases and prevent spread of the virus.

Overall, the odds are low that you will catch coronavirus. Officials do recommend that you reschedule travel plans to China, just in case.

If you have any concerning symptoms, such as fever, coughing, or shortness of breath, seek medical care right away… But it’s probably just a routine illness.


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