Monkey Business Images / ShutterstockClose-up of a medical professional washing her hands. (Monkey Business Images / Shutterstock)
There’s an illness on the rampage in the United States. In recent months, 45 million people have contracted it and 46,000 people have died from it.
This sounds serious, you’re thinking! It must be the coronavirus!
Nope. The numbers for the coronavirus are nothing like that. There have been only 647 cases of coronavirus reported in the United States, and out of those, 25 people have died.
The disease I mentioned at the top? With the big numbers? That would be the flu. The same flu that goes around every year. The same flu you could always get from shaking hands or touching surfaces that weren’t cleaned properly. Or getting sneezed on. Or getting breathed on wrong.
In other words, all the common-sense steps that people are obsessing over today have made sense for a long time as a way of avoiding a common ailment that’s been with us forever and is much more widespread than coronavirus.
Yet the coronavirus, with its 647 cases and 25 deaths, is having a serious impact on the U.S. economy and causing panic across the globe.
How can that be?
Well, it’s obvious. The news media choose which items to cover prominently and how to treat each item. Over 600 people getting sick is a serious situation, but it’s not a national crisis. But when news gets reported in the language and with a tone of crisis, it starts to feel like a crisis even if it isn’t.
All of a sudden everyone is concerned with washing their hands and cleaning surfaces. Everyone wants to know if their disinfectant technique is the best it can be (probably not), and everyone is suddenly conscious of the way they touch things like doorknobs and light switches.
Do you think the panic regarding the coronavirus is justified?
It’s as if there were never any afflictions before coronavirus that you could contract in these ways! But there always have been, and we just didn’t have a national hysteria about any of them until now. (Actually that’s not entirely true. We had Ebola, SARS … we’ve had a lot of these panics, although this one seems several steps more intense.)
So yes, you should do all those things, and you should have been doing them for years.
That doesn’t mean we need to be canceling festivals, concerts, rallies, church services and sporting events. There is always some inherent risk to being alive, but if we stop gathering together for things such as these, how can we really claim to be a community any longer?
There are now more than a million test kits available to test anyone who thinks he or she might be symptomatic.
Doctors say most of those who test positive will have a mild case and can recover at home.
We’re told a vaccine might be available in a few months.
Anything that’s making people sick is a serious problem, and anything that’s killing people demands our focused attention. But there are things you do to address a serious problem in an effective way, and then there are things you do when you’re just in a panic.
Panic never helps anyone. So be smart, be careful and keep living. Both science and common sense suggest as much.
The views expressed in this opinion article are those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by the owners of this website.
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.