COVID-19 far more contagious, deadly than flu

Published 6:12 pm Friday, March 27, 2020

In reference to a letter written by Eben Henson: As a health-care provider, I find your letter disturbing, irresponsible and potentially dangerous. While I understand your concerns about the economy, it pales in comparison to the danger posed by Covid-19. A death rate of 1.4% is 15 and a half times that of influenza at 0.09%. 

According to the CDC, approximately 35.5 million people contracted influenza last year, which means if influenza had the same death rate as Covid-19, then 497,000 Americans would have died from influenza last year. Also, Covid-19 is much more contagious than influenza which means under normal conditions even more people would contract the virus, become ill, require hospitalization, ICU care and die. 

The medical system in areas where the virus is rampant is being overwhelmed. If this was occurring nationwide the American health care system would collapse. Other patients who need ICU care would not get that care and would die contributing to the death rate. Healthcare workers would become ill and not be able to care for any of those in need, further straining the system. 

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While I share concerns about the economy, I guarantee you it would be worse without these precautions. All people have a tendency to minimize danger especially if it is not striking close to home. Please do not give people an excuse to minimize the severity of this crisis. Trust the knowledgeable people around the world and follow their advice. Stay home, practice social distancing and wait this out with the rest of us.

John Merryman, MD FACS