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The panic epidemic: why everyone is afraid of the coronavirus, although measles is infectious, and the mortality from the flu is higher

For more than a month, the attention of the world's leading media has been riveted to the latest news about the Chinese coronavirus. According to the latest data, in two months of the epidemic, a total of 1875 people became its victims, writes Air force.

Фото: Depositphotos

Of these, only 86 died outside the province of Hubei, and only three outside China: in Japan, France and the Philippines.

At the same time, more than 10 thousand people have died from the usual seasonal flu in the United States alone since the beginning of winter. But in general, according to WHO, every year a seasonal epidemic takes away from 290 to 650 thousand lives. In England alone, an average of 17 patients die from influenza each year.

When the swine flu outbreak began in southern California in 2009, at least 1 people were killed by the H1N150 virus in the first year alone, and by some estimates more than 500.

The BBC's Russian service is examining how dangerous the Chinese coronavirus really is - and whether it is worth fearing so much.

Mortality rate

Of course, it makes no sense to determine the danger of a disease by comparing the absolute numbers of deaths. According to various sources, from 2009 to 2010% of the world's population fell ill with the same swine flu in 10-20 - and in this context, even half a million victims of the virus do not look very frightening.

It makes sense to compare the mortality rate - that is, the proportion of deaths relative to the total number of infected.

According to statistics, global epidemics like swine flu occur on average once every 25 years and kill 10-20 people for every 100 thousand infected (0,01-0,02%).

The death rate from the Chinese coronavirus today seems to be two orders of magnitude higher: the first 100 thousand confirmed cases of infection will account for about 2000 deaths, that is, about 2%.

In general, various studies evaluate the mortality of Covid-19 at a level of 0,5% to 4%.

These figures are quite comparable to the usual seasonal virus. According to Viktor Zuev, professor at the Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology, “with seasonal influenza infection, the mortality rate is the same or slightly higher.”

In this case, unlike coronavirus, ordinary flu is extremely rarely diagnosed in the laboratory. And the official statistics on Covid-19 takes into account only those cases of infection when the patients' condition worsened so much that they needed laboratory diagnostics.

Most experts are sure that tens of thousands more infected with the coronavirus did not experience severe symptoms and did not go to the doctor. And some did not understand at all that they were sick. Consequently, the “official” mortality rate can be greatly overestimated.

On the subject: On board Delta and Hawaiian flights there was a coronavirus-affected couple: authorities are sounding the alarm

At the same time, it is possible that it may turn out to be higher. Let's not forget that out of 73 diagnosed patients, only about 18% were cured, and the remaining 82% are still sick - and how many of them will eventually recover, we can only guess.

Although a massive outbreak of any disease at first almost always seems more serious than its results - for the simple reason that severe cases of the disease attract more attention.

Harvard epidemiologist Mark Lipsic recalls that in the first months of the H1N1 swine flu epidemic, it seemed that every tenth patient was dying from the virus. It has not yet become clear that the vast majority of those infected had the disease on their feet and did not even see a doctor. When these cases were added to the general statistics, the mortality rate instantly dropped to 0,1%.

For comparison, during the SARS (SARS) epidemic in 2003, the mortality rate was almost 10%; Middle Eastern respiratory syndrome virus (MERS) dies on average one in three. So for this indicator, Covid-19 is much inferior to its predecessors.

So is it worth it to be afraid?

Another important indicator of the danger of any disease is its infectiousness, that is, how many people have time to infect each carrier of the virus. Even someone with a mild illness and no symptoms.

From this point of view, Covid-19 is indeed more dangerous than seasonal flu. If 10 patients with the “usual” virus infect an average of 13 more people (infectiousness 1,3), then the coronavirus, according to the estimates of Chinese doctors, spreads faster: 10 carriers of the infection manage to infect another 22 healthy people (2,2).

The chief virologist of the Institute of Experimental Medicine Larisa Rudenko draws attention to this, according to whom “the virus is very dangerous for those who are in contact”.

“Apparently, you can even get sick through ventilation systems, like on a liner in Japan. There, the sick do not contact, they do not go anywhere, but they still get sick, - the virologist notes. - When there was the SARS virus, in Hong Kong, the inhabitants of the upper floors through ventilation systems transmitted the infection from the inhabitants of the lower ones. Airborne transmission is very dangerous. ”

However, the SARS infectivity level was slightly higher - about 3, and in the measles virus it even exceeds 12.

That is why with suspicion of any such disease, it is so important to maintain quarantine.

“The most important thing is quarantine, but people don't understand this. When people leave the quarantine at the Botkin hospital, it is irresponsibility to society, ”Rudenko is sure.

On the subject: Chinese coronavirus: three people escaped from quarantine in Russia

The risk group, as with the outbreak of almost any infection, includes children, the elderly, pregnant women and people with weakened immune systems and chronic diseases.

However, as the honorary vice president of the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences Viktor Zuev notes, in general, healthy people should not be afraid of the coronavirus. Especially in Russia.

“People are afraid because of you, the media,” he says. - This is a disease that was caused by a new virus - that's why such an unexpected reaction was. Its features are low mortality (2,5-3%), but the virus is very contagious. "

According to Professor Zuev, the next epidemic of coronavirus is completely natural and is "a price to pay for the costs of the benefits of civilization that we use."

“We have begun to travel more often and further, we communicate with a huge number of people - which means that we are carrying there the microbial baggage that we are rich in. We are not sterile - neither bacteriologically nor virologically, ”he explains. "But you and I [in Russia] do not need masks or vaccines."

How many viruses live outside the body

Coronavirus 2019-NCOV

  • On surfaces in an environment with a humidity of 40% and a temperature of +22 C - from several hours to 5 days.
  • It is unstable to disinfectants. Dies within 15 minutes when heated to 56 C.


  • In indoor air at a temperature of +22 C - from 2 to 9 hours.
  • On the hands of a person - 5 minutes.
  • On metal and plastic - 24-48 hours.
  • In the refrigerator (+ 3 + 4 C) - up to 7 days.
  • On fabric products (towels, handkerchiefs) - up to 11 days.
  • Completely dies at temperatures from +60 C. It is sensitive to all major groups of disinfectants.


  • In the stool of patients - from several weeks to 7 months.
  • In tap water - up to 2 months.
  • At various objects of the external environment - up to 45 days.
  • On the surface of fruits and vegetables - 5-30 days.
  • Resistant to ether and detergents, acidic pH values ​​(3,0, common disinfectants.
  • Withstand heating at temperatures up to 50 ° C, do not die during normal chlorination of water.


  • In air and on surfaces at temperatures from -15 to -20 C - several weeks.
  • In air and on surfaces at room temperature - from 2 hours to 2 days.
  • The causative agent is sensitive to ultraviolet rays and daylight.
  • Resistant to antibiotics.


  • In the air - a few minutes.
  • In syringes at a constant temperature from 22 to 37 C - up to 2-7 days.
  • When boiling - 1 min, when heated to 56 degrees - 30 minutes.
  • Disinfectants cause death within 3-5 minutes.
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