As with any illness that takes lives, the coronavirus is scary. I get it. It is new and the media is milking it for all it’s worth. It is hard to rest easy when headlines are shouting death tolls and quarantine locations at you. Nothing anyone is saying is false, there is just so much that is being left out. The lack of reporting perspective has people cancelling trips and spending egregious amounts on hand sanitizer. Companies are making contingency plans and schools are closing for random deep cleans. As a physician, I have to admit this is all a little frustrating. I believe in common sense caution. I don’t believe in unfounded hysteria.
Imagine how many lives could have been saved in the past decades if people had taken even a fraction of this much precaution over the flu. Each year, the flu kills at least 30,000 people in the United States. These are the same people who are at risk from death by complications from the coronavirus — the elderly and those with chronic medical conditions — and they are also healthy adults and children. I can’t explain why this virus has sparked this kind of reaction. I tried to in this post (What the Coronavius Scare Says About Us). In a way, it reminds me of prenatal depression. It wasn’t real until celebrities came out and started talking about it, that people started to take notice.
During flu season, we don’t all wash our hands religiously, we cough and sneeze into the air, we shake hands, we kiss and we simply live our lives. All of that spreads germs and sometimes kills people. The worst thing we do during flu season is when we are sick, we tough it out, keep going to work, send our sick children to school and show too little respect for the contagiousness of our viruses. There are kids going to high school with fevers, because they were told by their teachers they would fail if they didn’t sit for an exam. There have been little if no concessions made for students who miss school to make up the work in a fair and reasonable way. There are too few bosses encouraging sick employees to stay home. The short-sightedness and carelessness of this has always astounded me. The message on emails may be to stay home if you are sick, but
the message received is get to school or work regardless of symptomatology.
On to a positive note, perhaps this scare, even with all the misinformation floating around, will shine a light on the importance of respecting illness as a whole. I hope the emphasis on personal hygiene and consideration for others will have enough of an impact to affect flu deaths in the future. In the meantime, be smart, be informed, but also be realistic.